It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the New Orleans Saints made it nine straight wins on Sunday night with a 21-15 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, clinching a playoff spot in the process.
How It Happened:
After both teams started off slow offensively, the Saints started to march down the field with Taysom Hill running down the sideline for a 43-yard gain to get the team deep into enemy territory. Just one play later, Hill connected with Tre’Quan Smith in the endzone with a 15-yard pass to take a 7-0 lead. This was the first touchdown pass for the former BYU Cougar in his NFL career.
The Falcons responded with a solid drive that was highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. However the brought the pressure on third down, forcing them to settle for a 53-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo.
The Saints then responded with a lengthy drive that was aided by Hill coming up big on two third and longs to keep it going. However, a holding penalty on Andrus Peat stopped them dead in their tracks and forced them to kick a 40-yard field goal. However, Lutz sent it wide right, keeping it a 7-3 ballgame.
After a turnover on down by New Orleans, the Falcons took advantage of the short field with Ryan connecting with Julio Jones with a 35-yard pass to get them near the endzone. The Saints defense may have bent but didn’t break as Atlanta got into the redzone, forcing them to settle for another field goal to make it a 7-6 contest.
Alvin Kamara jumpstarted the offense on the next drive, going on a 37-yard run to get deep into enemy territory. Hill then got his second career touchdown pass, finding Jared Cook in the endzone from 11 yards out to go up 14-9 before halftime. Atlanta managed to make it a five-point deficit as they headed into the locker room with a chip-shot field goal from Koo.
New Orleans started off the second half with a methodical 12-play drive that ate up nearly six minutes off the clock that was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by Kamara to go up 21-9. After the early touchdown, scoring slowed down until Hill fumbled the ball away near the Atlanta redzone. Eight plays later, Ryan connected with former LSU Tiger Russell Gage for a 10-yard touchdown to make it a 19-15 ballgame.
After a punt by the Saints, the Falcons marched down the field but couldn’t punch it in with a pass intended for Julio Jones in the endzone being ruled incomplete. Atlanta’s defense forced a three-and-out, the Falcons had just 27 seconds to find the endzone. After a deep pass to Calvin Ridley got them into enemy territory, Ryan went for the hail mary that fell incomplete, giving the Saints the win and clinching a playoff spot for the fourth straight season.
Big Number: 500
Michael Thomas set an NFL record on Sunday afternoon, becoming the fastest wide receiver to have 500 receptions, doing so in 69 games.
Player of the Game: Michael Thomas
Speaking of the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Year, Thomas was the key cog of this offense, racking up nine receptions for 105 yards. There were no touchdowns, but he came up huge when the Saints needed him the most.
Next Up: Sunday vs Philadelphia Eagles; Kickoff at 3:25