Last year before the NFC Championship, Chase gave his testimony as to why the Saints ABSOLUTELY could not win the Super Bowl. This year, I wanted to give my story about why you’ll never catch me rooting for a Falcons loss when they meet up with the Saints, no matter how high of a draft pick we might land.
With the Falcons season all but over, the only games we fans have to look forward to are matchups against hated division rivals, particularly the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons/Saints Thanksgiving night game has been circled on my calendar all season, and even though the Falcons don’t have much to play for during the rest of the season, beating your rivals is always crucial, especially when talking about these two teams.
The Falcons and Saints showdown is one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. Leaving the South to go to college in the Midwest, I was shocked to discover that most NFL fans don’t consider it one of the best rivalries in the country – in all sports. They cite the Bears/Packers, Steelers/Ravens, and Giants/Eagles rivalries, amongst others, as better rivalries with deeper hatred between the fanbases. Yes, all of those mentioned are must-watch games every year, but to me, what makes the two Falcons vs. Saints games every year so special is how personal the rivalry has become between the two cities.
Everyone knows that SEC Football is different than the rest of the country. Even though I grew up as a Georgia Tech fan, I still could see that it just meant more in the SEC. With both the Falcons and the Saints playing in the heart of SEC Country, the same passion has transferred to each team and the rivalry. Furthermore, many Saints fans were forced to move to Atlanta following Hurricane Katrina. Having an influx of New Orleans natives living within the confines of our city has raised the rivalry to new heights and a sometimes dangerous level of hate.
To fans, it is more than just a game – it’s genuine loathing. The Saints fan base literally won’t stop with the 28-3 jokes, and while at this point it doesn’t even phase me, it still makes you hate them like the little brother that won’t stop laughing at his own exhausting one-liners. As a response, however, the entire city of Atlanta isn’t shy of reminding the Saints that they have blown not one, but two consecutive playoff games in miserable (yet oddly enjoyable for me) fashion.
Beyond the fact that the fans can’t stand each other, the players seem to share a similar distaste. After the Falcons drafted two offensive linemen in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Saints DE Cameron Jordan took to Twitter to give his opinion.
Oooo a guard…. new felluh in the atl huh pic.twitter.com/B3mMk9IaNk
— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) April 26, 2019
It’s not the first time Jordan has expressed his hatred for the Falcons, and it won’t be the last. However, it is also important to note that Jordan was without a sack in the Falcons 26-9 victory on November 10th. Furthermore, CB Marshon Lattimore and WR Michael Thomas are known to talk smack with Falcons fans, as well as Falcons DE Takk McKinley and RB Devonta Freeman with Saints fans.
However, the rivalry goes beyond just Twitter fingers; the series is full of rich history. The Falcons, along with the Miami Dolphins, entered the NFL as the first teams in the South in 1966. The Saints joined the league in 1967, making for a natural rivalry. Both have a long history of finishing at the bottom of the league until the late 1990s, where the Dirty Birds finally enjoyed a breakthrough, but still, the Dan Reeves Era culminated in a 19-34 defeat in Super Bowl XXXIII at the hands of John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
The turn of the century was a precursor to consistency for both teams; however, they each faced speed bumps along the way. The Falcons had to deal with the fallout of Michael Vick after finally finding what resembled a franchise QB. And New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In the end, both teams eventually found their franchise QB, who turned their respective teams into perennial playoff contenders.
Drew Brees won the Saints a Super Bowl in 2009 but has not been back since. Matt Ryan brought his team to Super Bowl LI in 2017, but we all know the heartbreak that ensued. The future Hall of Fame quarterbacks have been with their teams through good times and bad – constantly elevating their respective cities despite the circumstances. Furthermore, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan have the most matchups of any two QBs ever – games that generally feature points, fireworks, and a close finish.
Even if you’re not a fan of either team, I highly suggest you tune in. Although Julio Jones did not practice on Wednesday, I still expect him to play. It’s always fun to see how much contact Marshon Lattimore can get away with when helplessly defending the best receiver in the league (Michael Thomas couldn’t hold his jockstrap).
Thursday night, the country is going to get a taste of what I am lucky enough to have enjoyed my whole life. It is a matchup full of hate and a battle for the capital of the South. Atlanta Culture vs. Cajun Culture.
Although the Falcons are 3-8 and already thinking about next year, there is nothing the players want more than to go 2-0 against the Saints. As for the Saints, unless their season ends with a Super Bowl, it will be remembered as another year they finished 0-2 against their hated rival.
Winning the Thanksgiving matchup won’t save the Falcons season or make missing the playoffs worth it, but it would be comforting to know the Falcons will have bragging rights for the course of what I am sure will be a long offseason.