Remember all the discussion after Bill Belichick’s famous fourth-and-two call against the Colts two years ago? (Almost to the day.)
Yeah, we’re about to go through that all over again.
The Saints took charge of the NFC South with a 26-23 overtime win in Atlanta Sunday that turned on a very similar decision by Falcons coach Mike Smith.
It was a back-and-forth game that included an epic performance by Marques Colston and a terrific 10-point comeback in the final five minutes by Matt Ryan to force overtime. Years from now, however, we’re only going to remember Smith’s call.
The Falcons and Saints traded three-and-outs to start overtime before Atlanta faced a fourth-and-inches from their own 29-yard line. With the Saints offense moving the ball well most of the day, Smith decided to go for it.
Shaun Rogers and Will Smith stuffed Michael Turner well behind the first down marker. It looked like every Saint on the roster was there for the stop. John Kasay kicked the game-winner from 26 yards out three plays later.
Mike Smith will get relentlessly criticized, but we have no problem with the decision despite the result. The Falcons ran well all day, including in short yardage. They should pick up that yard and the odds favor the Saints scoring if they get the ball back.
If the Falcons can’t pick up a few inches against New Orleans, they don’t deserve to win. The Falcons play smashmouth football. On that play, New Orleans was just tougher.
There were many plays in this game that could have swung the NFC South. Both teams had missed field goals. Saints safety Roman Harper dropped a potential interception that would have won the game in the final minute of regulation. Two plays later, Roddy White had a good chance to make the game-winning touchdown.
Those plays will get overlooked because of Smith’s decision. The Falcons coach had the guts to go for the win instead of hoping not to lose.
It didn’t work, and now the Saints are in charge of the NFC South race with a rematch looming in the Superdome on the day after Christmas.