Saints Crush Falcons 30-20 But Miss Playoffs with 49ers Victory
The New Orleans Saints crushed their archrival Atlanta Falcons 30-20 in the final week of the season, but they will miss the postseason after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams.
Their season ends with a 9-8 record. After everything the team went through, it's incredible that playoff contention came down to week 18 for New Orleans. The Saints needed two things to happen to make the playoffs. They needed to win, and the 12-4 Rams needed to break a five-game losing streak to their NFC West rival 9-7 San Francisco 49ers. They took down Atlanta, but the Rams blew a 17-point lead at home to lose 27-24 in overtime to the 49ers, extending their losing streak to San Francisco.
The Saints got the ball to start the game, and their offense was excellent in the first half. Starting quarterback Taysom Hill and star running back Alvin Kamara led the team down the field on their first drive of the game. Kamara's 27-yard run got New Orleans into Atlanta territory.
Five plays later, an 18-yard touchdown completion from Hill to tight end Adam Trautman finished off a stellar 10-play, 84-yard drive to open the game. The Saints took an early 7-0 lead.
Atlanta responded with a nice drive deep into New Orleans territory, but a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on third down by defensive end Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle David Onyemata forced them into a 48-yard field goal which they hit to make it 7-3.
The Saints offense continued humming on their second possession, going 59 yards in 10 plays. However, kicker Brett Maher missed a 34-yard field goal. Atlanta tacked on another field goal to get within one point, but then the Saints went on a flurry late in the second quarter.
Hill connected with wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith for a 34-yard reception. However, he was hurt later in the drive. He did not return, and it was reported that he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian replaced him during the drive.
If you've ever seen ESPN's segment with Randy Moss replaying big catches each week and saying, "you got Mossed," Tre'Quan Smith's 13-yard touchdown reception from Siemian would most likely qualify.
On the very next play, Ryan tried a deep pass, but rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo came away with a one-handed interception. The Saints took over near midfield on the first turnover by either team in the game.
After the Saints had picked up a first down into Falcons territory, the Atlanta defense stopped New Orleans on third-and-nine. However, a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Saints offense a fresh set of downs at the two-minute warning.
Later in the drive, an incompletion on third-and-three set up a 37-yard field goal for Maher. This time, the kick was good, and New Orleans expanded the lead to two possessions at 17-6 with a minute left.
On the first play of Atlanta's next drive, safety Malcolm Jenkins came up with a huge hit on the Falcons running back, forcing a fumble to give the offense one last drive in the first half starting in the red zone at Atlanta's 11.
Three plays later, with two seconds remaining, Siemian threw his second touchdown of the game. A five-yard strike to tight end Juwan Johnson and an extra point took advantage of the second straight turnover, and the Saints lead expanded to 24-6 at halftime.
New Orleans finished the second quarter with 17 unanswered points. During that stretch, they ran 21 plays for 120 yards while Atlanta's offense had two plays and two turnovers. They crushed the Falcons in every statistical category in the first half, but one of the biggest differences was time of possession. At halftime, the Saints offense had the ball for over 21 minutes of the clock, while Atlanta controlled the ball for less than nine minutes. New Orleans had 15 first downs to the Falcons' four, and they gained 242 total yards in 39 plays while Atlanta had 69 in 17.
Atlanta started the third quarter with a three-and-out, but, on the Saints next drive, Siemian was stuffed on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one at their own 45.
The Falcons got a nice response drive going into the red zone following the turnover on downs. However, on fourth-and-two at the Saints eight, defensive end Cameron Jordan batted a pass at the line of scrimmage, and Atlanta ended their drive without any points.
After New Orleans went three-and-out, the Falcons finally got a pair of chunk plays on a quick touchdown drive to cut the lead to 24-13.
The Saints responded with a 13-play, 66-yard drive that ended in a 27-yard field, making it 27-13.
For the third time in the game, the Falcons turned the ball over on the first play of their next possession. Linebacker Kwon Alexander forced a fumble that defensive tackle Shy Tuttle recovered to give the ball back to the Saints offense at Atlanta's 29.
Seven plays later, Maher tacked on a 33-yard field goal to stretch the lead to three possessions at 30-13 with seven minutes remaining.
Davenport came up with another sack to ruin Atlanta's next drive. The Falcons went three-and-out and punted, but the Saints offense also went three-and-out.
Atlanta tacked on a garbage-time touchdown with 21 seconds remaining to make it 30-20, but the Saints ran out the rest of the clock and won to finish the season with a 9-8 record.
Because the Rams blew a 17-0 lead at home to the 49ers, the Saints won't make the playoffs. San Francisco sealed the final spot in the NFC playoffs with the victory, and New Orleans will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.