- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones missed only a portion of the game with a leg injury, but his absence was significant in a 31-27 victory by New Orleans. The Falcons jumped out to 10-0 lead and Matt Ryan had completed all nine of his passes for 114 yards and a touchdown before Jones left the game with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter. Jones returned in the middle of the third quarter, but the Saints built an 11-point lead while he was out. Overall, Ryan was 26 of 37 with two touchdowns and an average of 9.1 yards per attempt while Jones was in the lineup. When Jones wasn’t in the game, Ryan was eight of 15 with one touchdown and one interception and averaged 5.1 yards per attempt.
The Falcons passed on nine of their 13 goal-to-go plays, including a fourth-and-2 with 1:46 left in the game. But you can’t blame the Falcons for passing in those situations. Michael Turner got stuffed on the play immediately before the fourth down. Turner finished with -2 yards on four goal-to-go rushes against the Saints. For the season, Turner has only three touchdowns on 17 goal-to-go rushes.
With outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon out with an ankle injury, the Falcons had no answer for New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, who finished with a season-high 146 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Graham also made big things happen after the catch. He had 58 yards after the catch, after entering the game with only 56 yards after the catch all season.