The New Orleans Saints shook off the hangover from a devastating loss. The Falcons are still trying to get over a much bigger setback.
After waking to news that disgraced quarterback Michael Vick would have to serve nearly two years in prison for dogfighting, his one-time teammates in Atlanta trudged through another dismal performance in a lost season.
With Reggie Bush watching from the sideline and reportedly done for the year, Drew Brees passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns and New Orleans gave its playoff hopes a boost with a 34-14 rout of the Falcons on Monday night.
The Saints (6-7) had no trouble getting over the disappointment of their last-minute loss to Tampa Bay a week earlier, taking advantage of a team that had to be distracted by the events in Richmond, Va., earlier in the day.
Vick was sentenced to 23 months behind bars, completing his stunning fall from NFL star to federal prison inmate.
"The team misses him and we really need him this season," said receiver Roddy White, one of two Falcons who showed their solidarity with Vick for all to see.
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall ran on the field during pregame introductions holding up a Vick poster and had "MV7" painted beneath his eyes. After White hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass that briefly tied the game at 7, he pulled up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the handwritten message "Free Mike Vick."
Hall and White are both likely to be fined by the NFL, and they can only hope Vick didn't have cable TV in his jail cell. This was another ugly performance by the team No. 7 put in such a bind with his off-the-field troubles.
At the management and coaching level, the Falcons (3-10) say they're moving on without Vick. The players know it's not that easy.
"I don't want to say this franchise doesn't want to acknowledge the situation, but that's kind of the way you feel," Hall said. "All his pictures are gone, no more jerseys, no more nothing. We just wanted to let him know we're still thinking about him. We care about him as a human being, not just as a football player and as a running quarterback."