Saints Clinch NFC South Division Title, Defeat Falcons 26-18
Atlanta, GA - The New Orleans Saints (10-2) clinched their third consecutive NFC South title with a 26-18 victory inside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium against division rival Atlanta Falcons (3-8).
“I love this team, and I am so happy to come out and compete every week with these guys” said Taysom Hill postgame.
Hill’s early efforts silenced the Thanksgiving Day Falcons crowd and set the tone early for the Saints. After failing to score a touchdown in Week 10 against Atlanta inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans took advantage of the short field set up by a blocked punt from Hill. The “Swiss Army Knife” then capped off a 4 play, 30-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown reception.
Without All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons offense, led by Matt Ryan, committed more to the rushing attack. Devonta Freeman returned to the lineup after missing last week's match-up against the Tampa Buccaneers and gave the Atlanta offense balance they have been missing this season.
After the teams traded scores midway through the second quarter, the Saints took advantage of their opponents kicking woes for the second straight week. Newly signed Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, who missed an extra point after Atlanta’s opening touchdown, could not connect from 42 yards. The miss gave the Saints offense the ball with just under four minutes remaining in the half. The Saints marched into the endzone, but the Falcons answered with a Koo field goal as time expired in the first half, sending the Saints into the break leading 17-9.
While the Saints offense became stagnant throughout the second half, New Orleans didn’t miss a beat because of a big defense effort in the third and fourth periods. The Falcons offense turned the ball over three times against a tenacious Saints defense. However, the Saints did not find the endzone on any of the Falcons' turnovers.
The Falcons’ "bend but don’t break defense" kept them in the football game the second half. Their offense scored a touchdown with 3:26 remaining in the fourth quarter but Ridley fumbled the 2-point conversion out of the endzone, making it an 11-point game. After a successful onside kick, only the fourth in the NFL this season, the Falcons claimed possession of the ball. Atlanta, down two scores, on an 8-play drive into Saints territory, chose to kick a 43-yard field goal. K Younghoe Koo and the Falcons lined up again for an onside kick and were successful again after Saints WR Michael Thomas could not recover the oncoming football. The Falcons' second recovery set up the team trailing by 8 points, but had 3 timeouts to operate. Matt Ryan starts the drive at Atlanta’s own 47-yard line and the Saints defense sacked him three times on the six play drive, including on fourth and eight by Cameron Jordan. It was Jordan’s fourth sack of the game.
For the second straight week, the Saints never trailed within the matchup on the gridiron. With the loss the Falcons were eliminated from playoff contention.
“We believe in us” - Cameron Jordan
TAYSOM WANTED SECONDS
Saints third-string quarterback Taysom Hill again proved to be one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL. Hill’s deflection off of Atlanta’s punt on their opening drive set up New Orleans 30 yards from pay dirt. Later, at the 2-minute warning of the first half Hill scampered into the end zone on a 30-yard quarterback keeper his third career rushing touchdown and second touchdown of the first half.
PASS A PLATE AND EAT
“Prowl, Kill, Eat” has been a rally cry for the Saints defense this season, claiming when one eats (makes a play) the whole team eats. The defense’s effort was as good as a full course Thanksgiving Day meal with 8 sacks, 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery against Matt Ryan’s offense. It is safe to say the Saints defense “ate” Thursday night.
SAINTS FANS WIL BE THANKFUL
Wil Lutz continues to be one of the most consistent kickers in the National Football League. Coming off his second game-winning field goal of the 2019 season, Lutz follows up his heroic performance going 4-4 and accounting for 12 points against the Falcons.
The Saints control their own destiny to earn the #1 seed in the NFC with 4 games remaining in the regular season. The Saints face the 49ers, Titans, Colts and Panthers to close out the year.
New Orleans (10-2) hosts San Francisco (10-1) inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8 at 12pm CST. With a victory the Saints would hold the head-to-head advantage over the 49ers, moving the Saints to first place in the NFC heading into the final 3 games of the regular season.