In the Pyrrhic Victory to end all Pyrrhic Victories, the Saints beat their archrivals the Atlanta Falcons 30-20 to give themselves a 9-8 season record in a game in which quarterback Taysom Hill went out in the second quarter with what appeared to be a lisfranc injury. It was yet another dominant defensive performance, with six of the Falcons’ points coming on field goals and another seven coming in garbage time on a touchdown to Russell Gage. However, minutes later the Saints’ season ended when the Rams lost to the 49ers in overtime, allowing the 49ers to clinch the final NFC playoff spot.
Trevor Siemian played well in his return to the field, going 9 of 15 passing for 71 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a gorgeous fade route to Tre’Quan Smith, who caught the ball on his helmet to put the Saints up 14-6. The game wasn’t close from there, with the Falcons offense being stifled for the rest of the game.
Marcus Davenport picked up 1.5 sacks, splitting one with David Onyemata, while Cameron Jordan sacked Matt Ryan as well. Two Mike Davis fumbles were the difference in the game, while Ryan went 20 of 33 passing for 216 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
After the game, all eyes were on Rams vs. 49ers, as the Saints needed the Rams to win to progress to the postseason. The Rams, however, couldn’t pull off a win over San Francisco. It puts the Saints into an offseason full of questions, including who will be quarterback next year. But it also ends the season on a high note for Sean Payton, who coached an utterly unbelievable season in the face of numerous injuries and illnesses throughout.
Below is a live quarter-by-quarter description of how the game unfolded:
The Saints start with the ball and stick to the script on the opening drive. Alvin Kamara gets things going for the Saints with a 27-yard run on his second carry of the game. From there, it’s just chunk play after chunk play for the Saints, eventually culminating in an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Adam Trautman off of play action. Saints offense looks extremely dangerous when it stays ahead of the sticks, as was the case on this drive. It’s the first opening drive touchdown for the Saints this year.
NO - 7 ATL - 0
Atlanta responds with a 10-play drive that goes 45 yards, helped along by a David Onyemata roughing the passer penalty on the opening series. The drive stalls on 3rd & 9 with a sack by David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport, resulting in a 48-yard Younghoe Koo field goal. Falcons pull within four.
NO - 7 ATL - 3
At the end of the first quarter, the Saints are driving with chunk plays once again. The drive started with a 26-yard pass from Taysom Hill to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and the Saints haven’t had a play under five yards since with the exception of an incompletion to Deonte Harty. Humphrey was injured on the play. Saints end the quarter on the Falcons’ 27.
NO - 7 ATL - 3
Saints stall in the red zone coming out of the first quarter, as a Kamara run on 2nd & 6 was stifled. An incomplete pass to Marquez Callaway on third down leads to a Brett Maher field goal attempt, who misses left from 34 yards out. Score remains 7-3 Saints.
Younghoe Koo continues to be the best player on the Falcons’ roster. On a drive that featured a 28-yard completion to Olamide Zacchaeus, the Falcons stall on the ensuing three downs. Koo hits a 54-yard field goal, tied for his career long, bringing the Falcons within one.
NO - 7 ATL - 6
Tre’Quan Smith with a 34-yard catch and run from Hill on third down. Smith gets the Saints into Falcons territory on their 38. On the ensuing series, Taysom Hill has a few bruising runs. He looks confident in his decision-making so far today. Injuries continue to hinder the Saints, with Hill going down and Ty Montgomery getting hurt on the ensuing play off a throw from Trevor Siemian. Siemian puts a perfect throw on Smith for a 14-6 lead after a Falcons pass interference on third down keeps the Saints alive.
NO - 14 ATL - 6
Matt Ryan gets picked off by Paulson Adebo to give the Saints the ball back, on a ridiculous one-handed catch. Saints get it back near Falcons territory.
Saints pick up points on the ensuing with the help of a touchy roughing the passer call on third down. Maher hits a 37-yard field goal to give the Saints an 11-point lead with about a minute left in the half.
NO - 17 ATL - 6
The Falcons turn the ball over again on the next possession as Malcolm Jenkins lays out Mike Davis in the flat, resulting in a fumble. Kwon Alexander recovers the ball to put the Saints in Falcons territory. The Saints immediately capitalize with a touchdown to Juwan Johnson, giving the Saints a big cushion heading into the half.
Visitors - 24 ATL - 6
Falcons get the ball to open the second half. After a solid return, the Falcons go 3-and-out and have to punt. The punt is Thomas Morstead’s first punt of the day against his former team. Saints will get it at their own 14 after a fair catch by Harty.
After turning the ball over on downs, the Saints return the favor by stopping the Falcons on 4th down in the red zone. The offense will get the back still up 24-6.
Falcons finally kick in the door after a Saints punt, as Qadree Ollison scores to cap off a four-play drive for the Falcons. Ollison scores from 19 yards out, bringing the Falcons within two possessions. Offense will have to get it going again to keep this game feelings secure.
NO - 24 ATL - 13
Saints kick a field goal to answer the Falcons’ touchdown, but equally importantly, they take nearly seven minutes off the clock in a 13-play drive. Maher converts a 27-yard field goal to put the Saints up two touchdowns.
NO - 27 ATL - 13
On the next possession, Davis fumbles again to give the Saints possession at the Falcons’ 25. Alexander forces the fumble, while Shy Tuttle recovers. Saints’ ball with 10:42 left.
Saints kill another three minutes and Maher converts a 33-yard field goal. Alvin Kamara is having a very strong game, up over 130 yards on the day.
NO - 30 ATL - 13
Falcons score a garbage-time touchdown with the clock running down. Russell Gage finishes the job after coming up just short at the 1-yard line the play before. After a penalty erases a successful 2-point conversion, Koo makes the extra point for Atlanta to get the Falcons to 20 points.
NO - 30 ATL-20
Saints kneel it out after the Falcons kick it deep, clinching the Saints a 9-8 regular season.
FINAL: NO - 30 ATL - 20
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