Payton, Brees not sure what futures hold with Saints

ATLANTA (AP) The New Orleans Saints could be near the end of a 10-year era with coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees working in tandem.

For the Atlanta Falcons, the future isn't exactly all that clear, either.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan might be looking for new jobs, too, after the Saints beat Atlanta 20-17 in Sunday's season finale.

The game did little to decide who will stay or will go for either team.

Though Brees is under contract through next year and Payton through 2017, both were asked about their plans after New Orleans finished 7-9 for the third time in four years.

Brees, whose deal will count $30 million against the Saints' salary cap, said he doesn't want to play elsewhere.

Payton cut his postgame news conference short when questioned about his plans.

''No, listen, we get in tomorrow,'' he said. ''We've got to evaluate the roster. We've got a lot of things we've got to do. If I feel the need to get you an itinerary, I will. That's the answer, though. That's the answer. That's the answer. You with me? I can't be more clear.''

The Saints are 87-57 under Payton, who won New Orleans' only Super Bowl title but was suspended in 2012 following a bounty scandal.

First-year Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who has the final say over Atlanta's football operations, will meet with reporters later in the week to discuss big-picture issues.

Dimitroff, the Falcons' GM since 2008, helped the team to five straight winning seasons and four playoff appearances, but largely whiffed on drafting offensive linemen and linebackers.

Shanahan, in his first year on Atlanta's staff, saw his offense struggle with ball security and quarterback Matt Ryan's regression in touchdown-interception margin.

Some notes from Sunday's game:

ELITE COMPANY: Falcons Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones caught nine passes for 149 yards to finish with one of the NFL's most prolific seasons.

His 136 catches and 1,871 yards receiving both rank second-best. Only Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison, with 143 catches in 2002, and Detroit's Calvin Johnson, with 1,964 yards receiving in 2012, had better seasons.

Jones wasn't impressed with himself, particularly after a loss that made Atlanta (8-8) the seventh team to begin a season 5-0 and miss the playoffs.

''Nothing,'' he said when asked what the numbers mean. ''I just do what my team asks of me. I just try to go out there and make plays and I'm going to try to do better next year.''

PAUSE FOR A PIC: Brees posed for a postgame picture with receiver Marques Colston and offensive linemen Zach Strief and Jahri Evans. They've been teammates since 2006, but don't know if they'll be together next season.

Colston, Strief and Evans were a big part of Brees becoming the first player in league history with seven 4,500-yard seasons. He also owns the NFL record for at least 300 yards passing in 96 games.

''With four guys on one side of the ball to maintain kind of that status, for 10 years in one place, that's really hard to do, especially in this day and age.'' Brees said. ''It's a special group.''

YOUR TURN TO BLOW IT: The Falcons took turns making costly mistakes in the fourth quarter.

Ryan threw his team's chances away with an interception at the 1:42 mark. Running back Devonta Freeman lost a fumble at the New Orleans 3-yard line. And left guard Andy Levitre's unnecessary roughness penalty on third down wiped out Justin Hardy's 6-yard catch and a chance at a field goal.

''There was no intention to cheap-shot anybody,'' Levitre said. ''I was just trying to help the receiver make a play.''

EASY TO SPOT: One problem facing Shanahan is a predictable playbook.

Saints cornerback Jamarca Sanford said secondary coach Wesley McGriff reminded him before the 2-minute warning that Atlanta tends to throw to the tailback when it motions a tight end to spread the formation in its 2-minute offense.

Sure enough, Sanford knew exactly when to jump Freeman's route and pick off Ryan to set up the winning field goal.

''I knew they were running the angle route,'' Sanford said. ''It was a good job of coach putting me in the right place.''

GOOD CALL: New Orleans tight end Benjamin Watson was surprised to know he kept both feet inside the left edge of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Payton successfully challenged to overturn the ruling.

''It was a great challenge by (Payton),'' Watson said. ''When I looked up (at the video board), I was out of bounds. I didn't realize I got my foot in.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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