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Saints Refuse to Catch Onside Kicks, Still Win the Division

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Saints beat the Falcons 26-18 and win their third consecutive NFC South crown

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints (10-2) were vying for a third consecutive NFC South crown as they faced the Atlanta Falcons (3-9) on the Dirty Bird’s home field. Atlanta had soundly defeated New Orleans in the team’s first meeting of the season, a 26-9 domination that the Saints had likely not forgotten. With a win tonight, the Saints would clinch a playoff berth and that was motivation enough to come out swinging.

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IN THE FIRST HALF, the Saints started on defense, with the Falcons taking the ball after winning the toss. On the first play of the game, Marcus Davenport would record his fifth sack of the year, decking Matt Ryan for a seven-yard loss. The Falcons would go three-and-out, and do-it-all Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill would block the Falcon’s punt, giving the Saints a short field at the Falcons’ 30-yard line. The Saints would make quick work of the Falcons’ defense on the drive, capping it with a Drew Brees swing pass to Taysom Hill for a touchdown., and a 7-0 lead for the Saints.

On the Falcons ensuing possession, Atlanta would get a good return all the way to their own 44-yard line. The Saints’ defense however would stiffen and stop the Falcons at New Orleans’ 41-yard line, forcing Atlanta to punt.

Starting at their two-yard line, the Saints would find a little bit of breathing room but eventually punt after six plays, giving the ball back to Atlanta.

The Falcons would take the ball at their 25-yard line and move the ball inside the Saints’ red zone aided once again by Saints’ penalties, something that has plagued New Orleans all season and is now a discouraging trend. As the first quarter ended, the Falcons faced a fourth-and-goal at the Saints’ two-yard line and Matt Ryan pass would fall incomplete, turning the ball on downs to the Saints inside their five-yard line.

The Saints would do nothing with their ensuing drive, gaining all of eight yards on a quick slant to Michael Thomas, but going three-and-out and punting again.

For the second time of the game, the Falcons would start with great field position, at their own 45-yard line. Facing a third-and-8, Matt Ryan goes deep to Calvin Ridley and a pass interference by Eli Apple, his second of the game puts Atlanta in the Saints’ red zone. On the very next play, Ryan would find his tight end Jaeden Graham for a touchdown. After a missed extra point, the Saints would maintain a tenuous 7-6 lead.

On their ensuing drive, the Saints, starting at their 19-yard line would go 81 yards and settle for a field goal after Jared Cook dropped a sure-fire touchdown on third-and-goal from the Falcons’ 4-yard line. Cook, on the drive, had a 40-yard catch and run.

On their ensuing drive, the Falcons would go all the way down to the Saints’ 25-yard line and stall. Kicker Younghoe Koo would then miss wide left from 42 yards out, his second miss of the game after his extra point miss in the first quarter.

The Saints would take over at their own 32-yard line, and move into Falcons’ territory on a 29-yard reception by Jared Cook, who continued his excellent play (minus the touchdown drop earlier in the second quarter). Driving all the way to the Falcons’ 30-yard line, Taysom Hill would run into the end zone on third-and-one to give the Saints a 17-6 lead.

On their ensuing drive, the Falcons would get to the Saints 49-yard line and go for it on 4th-and-3. Matt Ryan would convert using his feet and drive Atlanta to the Saints’ 27-yard line, where the Falcons would settle for another field goal attempt. Younghoe Koo this time would make a 45-yarder, bringing the Falcons within eight points of the Saints at 17-9.

The Saints would sit on the ball with only three seconds left in the half and go in the locker room ahead by eight points.

———

IN THE SECOND HALF, the Saints would receive the kickoff and get on first down, but stall after two uncharacteristic drops by Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. The drive was characterized by all passing plays.

On the Falcons’ first possession of the half, Atlanta would go three-and-out, with Marcus Davenport sacking Ryan and forcing a punt. This was Davenport’s second sack of the game, a good game to this point for the Saints’ second-year defensive end.

The Saints would take the ball at their 19-yard line on their second possession of the half and this time they would use the running game more efficiently, with Alvin Kamara shouldering the load. New Orleans would eventually stall at the Falcons’ 30-yard line and settle for a Wil Lutz’s 47-yard field goal to take a 20-9 lead midway through the third quarter.

On their ensuing drive, the Falcons drive just past midfield, when a Matt Ryan pass is intercepted by shy Tuttle, who returns it to the Falcons’ 40-yard line. Another penalty by the Saints would set New Orleans back to midfield and the Saints would proceed to go three-and-out despite starting at midfield.

The Falcons would start their next drive at their own three-yard line and have a first down at their 27-yard line as the third quarter expired. In the fourth quarter, the Falcons would use up nearly three minutes and get to midfield, but on third-and-14, rookie cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson would intercept Matt Ryan and give the Saints the ball at the Falcons’ 29-yard line.

Starting at the Falcons’ 29, the Saints once again would struggle to move the ball and Ted Ginn Jr. would drop a deep throw from Brees in the end zone, one that would have been a touchdown. On the night, the Saints have recorded a minimum of five drops. New Orleans would eventually settle for a 42-yard field goal by Wil Lutz to go up 23-9 with a little over 10 minutes left in the game.

On the next Falcons’ drive, Atlanta would get to its 26-yard line, but and third-and-5, Marcus Davenport would tackle a running Matt Ryan and force the ball out. Safety Vonn Bell would recover the fumble and return it to the Falcons’ 39-yard line. This was the Saints’ third forced turnover of the night, and another big play for Davenport.

Taking over at the Falcons’ 39-yard line, the Saints’ offense would continue its laborious day, settling for a 45-yard field goal by Wil Lutz to give the Saints a 26-9 lead. The score was Lutz’s fourth made field goal of the day.

On their next possession, the Falcons would dink-and-dunk their way down the field, until Matt Ryan found his tight end Jaeden Graham all the way down to the Saints 13-yard line. Ryan would eventually found former LSU wide receiver Russell Gage for a touchdown. Atlanta’s two-point conversion would fail however, keeping the Saints ahead 26-15.

The Falcons would then attempt and onside kick and recover, with Alvin Kamara clearly having alligator arms and being afraid to get hurt. Atlnata would be called for a dubious offside and re-kick, and recover again, with Kamara once again being timid going after the ball. The Falcons would then drive 60 yards and go for a field goal at the two-minute warning to get to 26-18.

Atlanta, miraculously, would recover their third onside kick of the night, with their strategy of going for a field goal working. Atlanta would take the ball at their own 40-yard line, looking to tie the game. The game would be ended this time by another sack of Matt Ryan, the ninth of the game. The Saints win the NFC South for the third time in a row and are in the playoffs on Thanksgiving!

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Here is a drive-by-drive recap of the game:

FIRST HALF

First Quarter

  • Falcons win the toss and take the ball as the Saints kickoff for a touchback. On the first play of the game, Marcus Davenport sacks Matt Ryan for a 7-yard loss. On 3rd-and-17, Calvin Ridley is stopped short and Falcons go three-and-out.
  • Taysom Hill blocks the punt and the Saints take over at the Falcons’ 30-yard line. Brees finds Taysom Hill for a first down inside the red zone. Alvin Kamara gets to the 4-yard line on a toss run. Tatysom Hill then gets into the end zone on a lateral pass for a touchdown.
  • NO: 7 - ATL: 0
  • Falcons return the kickoff to their own 44-yard line and get into Saints territory with a short run. Falcons eventually stall at the Saints’ 41-yard line and punt on 4th-and-7 and pin the Saints down to their one-yard line.
  • Saints take over at their two-yard line, on second down, Brees finds Michael Thomas for a first down. On third down, the Saints eventually stall and have to punt.
  • Falcons take over at their own 25-yard line. On 3rd-and-one, Falcons convert and a personal foul on Marshon Lattimore pushes the Falcons to the Saints’ 38-yard line. On third down, Eli Apple is called for a pass interference to keep the Falcons’ drive alive and puts the Falcons in the red zone. Falcons face 4th-and-goal at the Saints’ two-yard line as the quarter ends.

Second Quarter

  • On 4th-and-goal, the Falcons fail to convert and turn the ball over on downs to the Saints
  • New Orleans start at its two-yard line and gets some breathing room with a quick pass to Michael Thomas. On third down, the Saints attempt an inside run and fail to convert and punt.
  • Falcons take over at their 45-yard line. On third-and-8, Ryan goes deep for Calvin Ridley and another pass interference on Eli Apple puts the Falcons in the red zone. Matt Ryan finds Jaeden Graham for a touchdown. Younghoe Koo misses the extra point.
  • NO: 7 - ATL: 6
  • Saints start at their 19-yard line and Brees finds Jared Cook for a first down. Brees inds Tre’Quan Smith to midfield, then Jared Cook for 40 yards to the Falcons’ 10-yard line. Alvin Kamara runs to the Falcons’ 4-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, Jared Cook drops a sure touchdown. Wil Lutz makes a 22-yard field goal.
  • NO: 10 - ATL: 6
  • Falcons start at their 25-yard line and move the ball into Saints’ territory using the run game and screen plays. At the Saints’ 25-yard line, Falcons face a 3rd-and-7 and the pass is incomplete. Atlanta settles for a 42-yard field goal and Younghoe Koo misses wide left.
  • Saints take over at their 32-yard line and Brees immediately finds Jared Cook for 29 yards to the Falcons’ 39-yard line. Saints face a third-and-one at the Falcons’ 30-yard line as the two-minute warning hits. On third-and-one, Taysom Hill rushes into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.
  • NO: 17 - ATL: 6
  • Falcons take over at their 25-yard line after the touchback. On 2nd-and-10 from the Falcons’ 44-yard line, Trey Hendrickson sacks Matt Ryan for a 7-yard loss. On 4th-and-3 from the Saints’ 49-yard line, the Falcons go for it and convert with Matt Ryan running for it. Falcons stop at the Saints’ 27-yard line and go for a field goal. Younghoe Koo makes a 45-yard field goal. With three seconds left, Saints sit on the ball and go into halftime up by eight.
  • NO: 17 - ATL: 9

SECOND HALF

Third Quarter

  • A good return by Deonte Harris is negated by a penalty on Craig Robertson and Saints take the ball at their 9-yard line. Saints move to their 24-yard line, all on passing plays. Alvin Kamara drops a third down pass, forcing the Saints to punt.
  • Falcons take the ball at their 34-yard line. On third down, Marcus Davenport sacks Ryan, this was Davenport’s second sack of the game. The Falcons punt.
  • For the second consecutive return, the Saints commit a penalty and have to start from their 19-yard line. Saints start the drive with two runs in a row with Kamara, and gain a first down. Saints get to their 46-yard line on a pass to Michael Thomas on third down to keep their drive going. On the next play, Alvin Kamara runs for 24 yards into Falcons’ territory. Saints stall at the Falcons’ 30-yard line. Wil Lutz makes a 47-yard field goal.
  • NO: 20 - ATL: 9
  • Falcons take over at their 25-yard line. On the first play of the drive, cornerback Marshon Lattimore is injured and leaves the field. Matt Ryan finds Calvin Ridley for a first down at midfield and on the next play, Falcons get into Saints’ territory. Two plays later, Shy Tuttle intercepts Matt Ryan and returns the ball to the Falcons’ 40-yard line. A penalty on Cameron Jordan sets the Saints’ back to midfield.
  • On second down, Jared Cook drops another gem from Drew Brees. On third down, Brees is blitzed and throws incomplete. The Saints punt and pin the Falcons to their six-yard line.
  • Falcons are setback by a false start and begin at their 3-yard line. Ryan finds Calvin Ridley for 20 yards to the 27-yard line as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

  • Falcons run with Devonta Freeman as they start the fourth. Falcons get near midfield on a pass to Christian Blake. On third down and 14, Matt Ryan is picked off Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who returns the interception to the Falcons’ 29-yard line.
  • Saints take over at Atlanta’s 29 and on second down, Ted Ginn Jr. enters the “drop-a-pass” dance, dropping a deep throw in the end zone. On third down, the Saints run the ball and settle for a field goal. Wil Lutz makes a 42-yard field goal to put the Saints up 14.
  • NO: 23 - ATL: 9
  • Falcons take over at their 25-yard line after the touchback. On the first play, Cameron Jordan sacks Matt Ryan for a 9-yard loss, but on the next play, Eli Apple has a pass interference penalty again, his third of the game. On the next play, Marcus Davenport tackles a running Matt Ryan and forces a fumble that is recovered by Vonn Bell. and returned to the Falcons’ 39-yard line.
  • Saints take over at the Falcons’ 39 and get a first down on a pass to Michael Thomas. Saints eventually stall at the Falcons’ 27-yard line. Wil Lutz makes a 45-yard field goal.
  • NO: 26 - ATL: 9
  • Falcons return the kickoff to their 25-yard line and start moving the ball up to their own 45-yard line. Falcons get into Saints’ territory on the legs of Matt Ryan, as the Falcons dink-and-dunk their way down the field. Ryan, extending the play, finds his tight end Jaeden Graham all the way down to the Saints’ 13-yard line. Matt Ryan finds Russell Gage for a touchdown, as he beats P.J. Williams on the play. Atlanta goes for two and Calvin Ridley fumbles the ball into the end zone.
  • NO: 26 - ATL: 15
  • The Falcons’ recover the onside kick and have the ball at their 40-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Matt Ryan is sacked by Craig Robertson. Falcons go for it on 4th-and-14, the Falcons go for it and convert to keep the drive and the game alive for Atlanta. The Falcons are deep into Saints territory at the two-minute warning. The Falcons would then go a 43-yard field goal with Younghoe Koo, to get the score to 26-18.
  • NO: 26 - ATL: 18
  • The Falcons once again recover an onside kick, their third of the night. Atlanta finds itself facing a third-and-8 at their 48-yard line and Ryan is sacked by Cameron Jordan. The Falcons get a first down again on a hands-to-the-face penalty on Demario Davis. On 4th-and-8, the Falcons are stopped as Cameron Jordan sacks Matt Ryan and in fact ends the game.
  • Saints Win! Saints Win!
  • NO: 26 - ATL: 18

Poll

Who gets your game ball for the Saints tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    The Defense!!!
    (129 votes)
  • 32%
    Taysom Hill for setting the tone
    (121 votes)
  • 2%
    Not Alvin "Alligator Arm" Kamara
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    Not Jared "Alligator Arm" Cook
    (8 votes)
  • 18%
    Cam Jordan with four sacks!
    (69 votes)
  • 10%
    Marcus Davenport, 2 sacks and a forced fumble!
    (39 votes)
374 votes total Vote Now