After getting thumped by the Denver Broncos 34-14 a few weeks ago, any hopes that the New Orleans Saints could get back into the playoff picture seemed all but lost.
Now that the Saints have put together back-to-back wins and are sporting a 4-5 win/loss mark, there is some light at the end of the possible playoff tunnel for a team that started the season 0-4.
This past weekend it couldnít have been sweeter as the Saints upset the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons 31-27.
In the NFL sometimes it is not who you play, but when you play them. The Saints caught the Falcons at the right time and continued a trend started by exiled head coach Sean Payton back in 2006.
The Saints entered this week with a 10-2 mark against the hated "Dirty Birds," and with the win Sunday afternoon they were able to make that mark 11-2 since 2006.
What showed up big in the win over the Falcons was a commitment to the running game.
The Saints are 33-2 when they rush for 120 yards or more in a contest and against the Falcons the Saints rushed for 148 yards. They were led by the hard-charging efforts of Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram, who teamed up for 139 of those rushing yards.
But what will be remembered is the fact that with a first and goal situation late in the contest, the Saints defense bowed their backs and came up with four huge stops. The final one, a pass knockdown by cornerback Jabari Greer, kept their heartbeat for a playoff berth alive.
A huge part of the Saints resurgence on defense is the fact that they gave up only 46 yards rushing to the Falcons and limited standout running back Michael Turner to just 15 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
The game also featured the talents of two of the best tight ends in the business, and they put on a show for the 73,000-plus fans in attendance.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had a career best 7 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. His counterpart, Tony Gonzalez, caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith gave the Saints defense and rushing game full credit for the win.
"Going in we knew that we had to slow down Drew Brees and it is always a point of immense interest for us," Smith said. "But we just didnít do a good job stopping the run and Ingram, Ivory and Pierre Thomas were outstanding today. We didnít tackle well and we let them extend plays. You canít do that against a talented team like New Orleans. On defense we put too much on the shoulders of Matt Ryan to make plays throwing the ball and we need to do a better job rushing the football. It was frustrating to see that today we lost the battle in the trenches."
Call it a great matchup situation for the Saints, but the boys in Black and Gold have the Falconsí number.
There is finally some hope for the 2012 Saints, and while it is still a longshot for this team to make a playoff run, this football team has not given up. Kudos have to go to interim head coach Joe Vitt.
A win this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders would put them at 5-5 for the season with San Francisco and Atlanta next on the schedule.
It has been quite a climb to get some good footing on a season that has seemingly been on a slippery slope since this spring.
Colston ties McAllister with 55 career touchdowns
Saints wide receiver Marques Colston is now tied with former Saints standout Deuce McAllister with 55 career touchdowns. But the Jeopardy question of the day would be, since 2006 who are three top touchdown reception leaders in the NFL?
The answer is Arizona Cardinals end Larry Fitzgerald with 59, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice with 57 and yes, Marques Colston with 55.
Not many people could have guessed that Colston is in that top-three.
Along with Graham, Colston has become a size matchup nightmare for opposing teams.