Short takes: Falcons stun Saints, and it’s thanks to defense

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Jeff Schultz blog

Kemal Ishmael strips Jimmy Graham at goal-line in big fourth-quarter play. (AP photo) Kemal Ishmael strips Jimmy Graham at goal-line in big fourth-quarter play. (AP photo)

They’re still alive. The Falcons stunned the New Orleans Saints 30-14 Sunday to stay alive in the NFC South Division race. With the win, the Falcons are 6-9 and will face the Carolina Panthers for the division title next week. I’ll return shortly with a column on game. Until then, here are my three “Short Takes”:

1. Defense. Yes, that’s right, defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been publicly flogged in some corners for the dreadful performance of his defensive unit for most of this season. The Falcons were ranked 32nd in total defense entering the week, largely because of weak personnel and the absence of pass rush. But the defense forced four turnovers and sacked Drew Brees four times. The Falcons also pitched a relative shut out against the Saints in the first three quarters —…

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