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Ups and downs from Saints vs. Falcons

The Saints go out with a bang to end their season.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons 48-17 on Sunday before finding out they couldn't get the help they were seeking to make the playoffs. The Saints have now missed the playoffs in each of their last three seasons.

Up: Offense

During the previous Saints and Falcons matchup, the Saints offense went 0/5 in the red zone and failed to score a touchdown. Since then, they've implemented an extra day of practice in the red zone, making all the difference. The offense went 15/20 since implementing this extra day.

Quarterback Derek Carr has become more comfortable in the Saints offense and his play has improved drastically. Carr has thrown 15 touchdowns in his last 6 games compared to the 10 touchdowns during the team's first 11 games. A collection of improved pass blocking, improved playcalling, and better play by Carr has accelerated the offense past the weak unit they were before.

Players have also stepped up during the latter half of the season. Tight end Juwan Johnson had high expectations coming into the season but failed to make a big impact until December. Wide receiver A.T. Perry was made a healthy scratch to start the season, but since taking over has shown the ability to be the contested catch receiver the Saints have been looking for. Wide receivers Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed have been consistent targets for Carr throughout the season despite some communication issues.

The Saints offense dropped 48 points to end the season. Better late than never, but hopefully, this is an indicator of what's to come next season.

Up: Rookies

The Saints are one of the oldest teams in the league and need young players to step up for the future. The Saints rookies did exactly that against Atlanta. Running back Kendre Miller ran the ball 13 times for 73 yards and a touchdown while wide receiver A.T. Perry caught 3 passes for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns.

New Orleans has some tough decisions to make during the off-season with pending free agent Michael Thomas, who ended the season on the injured reserve. Perry, who has a similar style of play as Thomas, has looked great since taking over for the former All-Pro. The Saints’ sixth-round pick ended the season with 12 receptions for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The Saints have struggled to find fresh legs while running the ball this season. Alvin Kamara has been the primary ball carrier with little help to take the load off. Taysom Hill is a great runner, but the Saints tend to lean away from running with him. Jamaal Williams first season with New Orleans looked disappointing as he finished the season just over 300 yards. Rookie Kendre Miller didn't see the field much due to his injuries. With experience and a positive game to end the season, Miller will see an increase in workload next season and the chance to take a step up as a ball carrier.

Before the Saints' Week 18 matchup, rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee was elected to the All-Rookie team. Bresee, the Saints' first-round pick, has racked up 4.5 sacks from the interior defensive line and often takes on double teams. Along with the other rookies, Bresee shows potential in a spot where the Saints are aging and struggling.

Down: Dennis Allen

The Saints were up 41-17 at the Falcons 1-yard line after a Tyrann Mathieu interception brought them there. From here backup quarterback Jameis Winston and other players were trying to sell the idea to head coach Dennis Allen to let them run a play for running back Jamaal Williams to get his first touchdown of the year. Allen responded to the players with a simple no and called for the victory formation. Here’s where it gets tricky. Winston called for an audible before the snap and handed the ball off to Williams for the touchdown anyway.

Once the game was over, Allen started his post-game press conference apologizing to now former Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who was noticeably upset post-game, then he admitted that the play was the players going against decision.

A head coach going into the post-game press conference and admitting his players went behind his back is rare. Instead of coming up with an excuse for why they ran the play and solving the issue behind closed doors,

Multiple players would go to Twitter/X after the game to defend Winston in a way that feels like they are standing up to Allen. I’m not here to say if he has lost the locker room, but some of the player's reactions to Allen's press conference indicates they aren't happy with it.

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