ATLANTA - Suddenly, it seems Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons can't lose.
At least not at home.
Their 34-20 win over New Orleans on Sunday was the first of three straight home games for the Falcons, who are 4-0 at the Georgia Dome this season. Atlanta never trailed and led the Saints by 21 in the fourth quarter while improving to 6-3.
The Falcons have won four of their last five and are tied with Tampa Bay for second place in the NFC South, one game behind Carolina. Atlanta will play host to Denver next Sunday.
Evidence of the Falcons' rising respect around the league came Monday, when the kickoff for their Nov. 23 home game against Carolina was moved from to 4:15 p.m. to accommodate a national TV audience.
'It's confirmation that we're doing things right,' Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
Atlanta fans who have only seen the Falcons at home may start to wonder if Ryan, the rookie quarterback, will ever make a mistake.
In four home wins, Ryan has completed 59 of 84 passes for 902 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ryan has been especially impressive early in games. One week after leading the Falcons to scores in their first four possessions in a 24-0 shutout of the Oakland Raiders, Ryan completed 10 of 13 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown in the first half as the Falcons built a 17-6 lead over the Saints.
'It was big for us to get off to a good start,' Ryan said. 'The Saints' offense is so powerful and has the ability to score on any drive. It was important for us to put some points on the board and support the defense as much as possible.'
Overall, Ryan was 16-of-23 passing for 248 yards and no touchdowns against New Orleans.
The Saints couldn't believe they were watching a rookie lead the Falcons' offense.
'He's a good quarterback,' said Saints linebacker Scott Fujita. 'He's a good manager on the offense. He does a good job of working the clock as he comes to the line and he does a good job in the hurry-up mode.
'I'm not trying to compare anybody to Peyton Manning, but for somebody to do this that early in their career and have that much maturity and that much control of the offense and be able to dictate to us the things that they wanted to do, I was impressed with him - and frustrated and (ticked) off at the same time.'
The Falcons delivered the knockout in the third quarter. They settled for a 27-yard field goal by Jason Elam, but the real damage in the 13-play drive came in the way they held the ball for 8 minutes and 30 seconds - their longest drive of the season.
Michael Turner, who had 27 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown, had 10 carries for 33 yards in the third quarter.
'I thought it was a very dominant performance by our offense,' Smith said.
The Raiders were left with only eight plays and 22 yards in the quarter while holding the ball for only 3:24.
Ryan had the benefit of another strong game by his offensive line, which did not allow a sack for the fourth time this season.
By contrast, John Abraham and the Falcons' defensive front constantly harassed Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who threw a season-high three interceptions. The Falcons deflected 15 of Brees' 58 passes.
Abraham had a sack, four quarterback hurries and a pass deflection.
'We weren't able to affect the passer, certainly we weren't able to affect the passer as well as they were,' Saints coach Sean Payton said. 'I thought they did a good job of getting a push on Brees. He was awfully hurried. We weren't able to do that with (Ryan).
'If you just look at that one particular aspect of the game and said who impacted the quarterbacks most, you have to credit Atlanta. They were able to do that and we weren't.'
Ryan added a 67-yard touchdown pass to Jerious Norwood on the second play of the fourth quarter for a 27-6 lead.
The Saints, who had only 215 yards and 24 pass attempts through three quarters, had 34 passes by Brees and 306 yards in the fourth quarter, when they scored two touchdowns.
The Saints' final quarter left the Falcons with some ugly defensive statistics.
'We were on course to have a very solid game statistically,' Smith said. 'Statistics can be deceiving. Our number one goal on defense is to limit points and we did that. We gave up only six points in the first three quarters.'