Saints bungle the clock at the end of the first half

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An entertaining first half in Atlanta ended with the Saints wishing they could buy another timeout.

After the Falcons jumped out to an early 17-0 lead, the Saints’ offense began to turn things around. Drew Brees engineered an outstanding 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Mark Ingram scoring on a one-yard touchdown run, and the Saints cut the deficit to 17-7. Then New Orleans got the ball again late in the second quarter, and began marching down the field again, and had second-and-goal at the 5-yard line with a few seconds left in the half.

Unfortunately, Brees threw to Darren Sproles in the middle of the field, and Sproles was tackled inbounds, and the Saints were out of timeouts, and they couldn’t stop the clock. The half ended with the Saints desperately trying to line up to spike the ball to stop the clock. New Orleans easily could have cut the deficit to 17-14 or at least 17-10 before halftime, but instead it’s 17-7.

Part of the reason the Saints’ offense is moving so well is that the Falcons have lost cornerback Asante Samuel, who appeared to aggravate the same shoulder injury that had him listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Without Samuel, the Saints’ offense should continue to move the ball well in the second half. But if this game comes down to the final seconds, the Saints would be wise to save a timeout.