It was an NFC South matchup in the Superdome as the 5-8 Atlanta Falcons and 4-9 New Orleans Saints battled it out to stay alive in the division. The Black and Gold caught fire early to take the 14-point advantage. Atlanta stormed back and cut it to within one score as they leaned on their run game. New Orleans held on late to win 21-18 and get the clean sweep over Atlanta.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
The Saints looked like the Saints of old on their opening drive. They picked up multiple first downs and all of Andy Dalton’s completions were 14 yards or more. Juwan Johnson capped off the 10-play possession with a 19-yard touchdown as he extended the ball over the plain of the goal line for the score.
Rookie Desmond Ridder made his first appearance of his career as a starter in the NFL. Ridder’s first two passes were incomplete and the Falcons had to punt.
New Orleans extended their lead not even seven minutes into the contest. On the second play, Taysom Hill lined up at quarterback and uncorked one deep to Rashid Shaheed for the 68-yard touchdown. The Saints led 14-0 with 8:17 left in the opening quarter.
Ridder got his first completions on Atlanta’s third possession with three of them going to Drake London for 33 yards. The Dirty Birds got inside the New Orleans 10-yard line and on 3rd & 7, Kentavius Street got the sack to for Younghoe Koo to kick the 28-yard field goal.
The Saints came out and threatened to score as they got down to the 15-yard line of the Falcons. On 3rd & 1, David Johnson took the carry and fumbled as he was picking up the first down. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter recovered the ball and gave the Falcons possession halfway into the second quarter.
Atlanta had one last opportunity before halftime to get some more points. The defense of the Saints however held up strong as New Orleans went into intermission with a 14-3 advantage.
Coming out of the half, the Falcons began with the ball and heavily leaned on running back Tyler Allgeier, who ran for 54 yards and a five-yard touchdown to cut it within four.
New Orleans responded with a score of its own. The drive lasted 11 plays for 75 yards and drained 7:12 off of the clock. Alvin Kamara got a bulk of the touches for 30 yards, but it was Johnson who got in from 22 yards out for his second touchdown of the day.
Following a punt by both teams, Atlanta kept it on the ground as Cordarrelle Patterson reached paydirt from three yards out. The Falcons decided to go for two and converted as Allgeier reached the pylon before going out of bounds as New Orleans now only led by 21-18 with 7:07 left in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta had a chance to either tie or take their first lead of the game as they reached midfield. On 4th & 5 from the 50, Ridder threw to London across the middle. London made the catch but popped the ball up in the air. Saints defensive back Bradley Roby came up with the ball as Justin Evans forced the fumble and that gave New Orleans possession of the football with 2:03 left to go in the game.
The Saints drained the most of the clock as the Black and Gold beat the Dirty Birds 21-18 for their fifth win of the season.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Juwan Johnson
Andy Dalton’s favorite target had himself a big game as he caught four passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints defeated the Falcons 21-18 on Sunday.
BIG NUMBER: 68
Taysom Hill showed off his arm strength on a 68-yard touchdown to speedster Rashid Shaheed early in the game as the Saints put up a quick 14 points. New Orleans would need it in a narrow three-point victory over a divisional foe.
UP NEXT: The New Orleans Saints (5-9) will travel to Cleveland to play the Browns on Christmas Eve. Kick-off is scheduled for Saturday at 12:00.