Not since the 2018 NFC Championship game have New Orleans Saints fans been as interested in a Rams game as they were Sunday afternoon. Just like in 2018 when the Rams disappointed Saints fans across the world, they managed to do it one more time. The Saints path to the playoffs was simple, defeat their archenemies Atlanta Falcons and hope the Rams could defeat the 49ers and your Saints would be in the playoffs. New Orleans held up their end of the bargain with a 30-20 victory over the Dirty Birds and it seemed like the Rams would as well after they raced to a 17-0 lead. That lead quickly vanished in the second half as the 49ers rallied back to win in overtime. The Saints hopes and their season was now over. Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the game in Atlanta.
The Saints scored their first opening drive touchdown all season and the offense was dominant in the first 15 minutes of play. Taysom Hill had led the Saints to an opening drive score and was marching towards another as the Saints amassed 146 yards in the first quarter. To put that into perspective the Saints only gained 128 yards for the entire game in their Week 2 matchup versus the Carolina Panthers. Even with the strong start to the game, the Saints were only up 7-6 in the 2nd quarter when Taysom Hill went down with a foot injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the game. In comes Trevor Siemian who threw 2 touchdowns before half that broke the game open and set the tone for the defense to feast on the Falcons offense. The step-in role is not unprecedented for Siemian, especially this season. If you recall he replaced the injured Jameis Winston in the first Buccaneers game and ended up throwing a touchdown and making a few key 4th quarter throws. While he certainly had his struggles in the starter role this year, he should be commended for being ready to come in and produce in a pinch.
One of the many shames this season will not being able to watch this defense who played so well down the stretch get a shot in the postseason. Over the last month of the year this defense has been just as good as any in the league and would be one no offense would have wanted to go against in the postseason. Over the last 5 games, they only yielded 13 points a game and had gone 11 quarters without giving up a touchdown at one point. It was more of the same on Sunday as they forced 3 Falcons turnovers and sacked Falcons QB Matt Ryan 3 times and knocked him down plenty others. They only allowed 257 total yards and a lot of that was garbage time yards when the game was no longer in doubt. Defense was going to have to be the backbone of this time this season with so much uncertainty on offense especially surrounding the quarterback position. The defense saved it’s best for the latter part of the year. It’s just unfortunate it won’t be able to continue to show how dominant it’s been this season.
This may not be a direct takeaway from this game, but the overall takeaway on the team this season. Not in recent memory can I remember a team having to endure as much as this team has and still finish in a position to make the playoffs. From having to replace the franchise’s greatest player, to being displaced by a hurricane, to record number of starters in an NFL season because of Covid and injuries, to starting 4 different quarterbacks this season and many more obstacles. You name a possibly roadblock for success in the NFL and the Saints probably had to navigate through it. Still in all, this team found itself 9-8 and a Matthew Stafford interception away from making the playoffs. Kudos have to go to Sean Payton, his staff, and the players who stuck through the adversity and played their butts off this season. The whole city, state, and all Who Dat Nation worldwide applaud your mighty efforts. The Saints organization in ways mirrors the city they play in. We are all a resilient bunch, and we stand behind those who stand up for each other.
These were a few of my biggest takeaways from the game. What stuck out to you? Sound off in the comment section below and give your thoughts on this game and this season.
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