Saints vs. Falcons 2013: Atlanta shows fight in surprisingly close game

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons showed a rare glimmer of hope on Thursday night, giving their division rival a scare in a tight 17-13 game.

Anybody expecting a blowout when the 8-2 New Orleans Saints met the struggling 2-8 Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football clearly underestimated the competitiveness of this NFC South rivalry.

The Falcons, in the middle of a nightmare season that began with Super Bowl expectations, gave the Saints all they wanted, battling until the end in a tight 17-13 contest. They led 7-0 and 10-7 at points during the first half, and were in position for the upset when they drove to the Saints' 29 down by four with less than three minutes remaining. A sack of Matt Ryan -- the last of five on the night -- ended the threat, but the Saints were fortunate to escape with the win.

Dave Cariello at Canal St. Chronicle wasn't surprised the game was so close.

Despite the fact that these two teams are heading in opposite directions this season, the game was just as close as we'd expected it. Many of the stats show a very even matchup. The one turnover wound up being the true difference maker in this game.

Dave Choate at The Falcoholic said was encouraged by the Falcons effort, and thinks it could be a positive note to build on moving into next season.

As per usual, though, this Falcons-Saints game was awfully close. The Saints may well have been worn down from just playing a rough game and traveling on the road, but the Falcons gave 'em hell despite mistakes. It was the most watchable game in a while, so I'm mildly grateful for that. Seeing genuine improvement against a quality opponent matters to me this year.

Ultimately, with the season where it is, what we want to see is growth and quality play on the way to draft picks. We wanted a win over the Saints. We got a sample. It's not enough, and in terms of things to look forward to, 2014 is truly all that's left. Watch 'em the rest of the way, root hard but know that it's all about next year.

The victory gives New Orleans a series sweep over Atlanta, who they took down in Week 1, 23-17, in a similarly competitive contest.

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