Saints handle Falcons but miss playoffs as Niners rally past Rams

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The NFL’s Deep South rivalry resumed Sunday in Atlanta.

While Saints fans were scoreboard watching all day, the football team had to focus on doing its job, as Sean Payton is fond of saying.

They would do it.

Of course, Atlanta management chose not to put out-of-town scores on the scoreboard in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Naturally, Atlanta management chose to list the Saints on the scoreboard as “Visitors,” rather than Saints.

In the modern age of electronic scoreboards with great technology, I cannot recall another NFL game where a home team did not list its opponent by name.

Some would call that funny, poking fun at its biggest rival and I get that.

Others would call it classless and a reflection of a lack of respect for the NFL game and the opponent.

When the Falcons play in New Orleans, they are listed by name on the scoreboard.

Perhaps that will change next time around.

I, for one, hope not.

As Ron Burgundy would say, “stay classy,” in this case, New Orleans! There is no need to lower yourself to that level of pettiness.

Call the Saints what you want but you can call them winners.

New Orleans won the game 30-20 and it wasn’t that close.

The Saints finished with a winning season at 9-8, despite dealing with the most starters of any team in the league, the most starting quarterbacks and the most kickers.

Even though the season ended on this day, it is never a bad thing when the Saints beat the Falcons. That was a nice end to the season, softening the blow of missing the playoffs.

Here are my Quick Takes of the 30-20 win Sunday:

**Ryan Ramczyk was active while Terron Armstead, Mark Ingram, P.J. Williams Bradley Roby and Kenny Stills were inactive.

**The Saints started the best they have started all year, scoring a touchdown on their first possession, driving 84 yards in 10 plays, taking 6:31 off the clock. Taysom Hill hit Adam Trautman with an 18-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0 with 8:29 to play in the opening quarter.

**On the drive, Alvin Kamara ran 27 yards, the longest run play the Falcons have yielded all season. Additionally, Hill completed all four pass attempts for 38 yards and the score.

**It was the first time the Saints had scored a touchdown on their first time all season and the first time the Saints scored a first quarter touchdown since week eight.

**Atlanta responded with a 10 play, 45-yard drive, taking 5:14 off the clock with Younghoe Koo nailing a 48-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 3:15 to play in the opening quarter.

**The big play of the drive was a 26-yard dime from Matt Ryan to Russell Gage against pretty good coverage by Paulson Adebo.

**David Onyemata committed an obvious rushing the passer 15-yard penalty that helped Atlanta but Onyemata redeemed himself with a sack of Ryan to force the field goal.

**On its second possession, the Saints got it going with a 26-yard, perfect throw from Hill to Lil’Jordan Humphrey but then Humphrey got hurt three plays later and had to leave the game.

**New Orleans had 142 yards in the first quarter, one of their best offensive quarters in a long, long time.

**The Saints reached the Atlanta 14-yard-line but the drive stalled and Brett Maher, who had made 12 straight field goals, missed a 34-yard field goal attempt, pulling it left.

**The Falcons drove 40 yards in seven plays with Koo drilling a 54-yard field goal, illustrating the vast difference in kickers, to pull Atlanta within 7-6 with 10:31 to play in the half. The 54-yarder tied Koo’s career best.

**The big play of the drive was a 28-yard completion from Ryan to Olamide Zaccheus, working against Adebo.

**The Saints mounted another drive by Hill to the Atlanta 24-yard line including a 34-yard connection with Tre’Quan Smith. Hill went down injured on a 1-yard run at the 6:21 mark of the second quarter and headed to the injury tent with a foot injury.

**Trevor Siemian came in, threw a deep post to Ty Montgomery, who got his hands on it but could not pull it in as he reached the end zone. Montgomery went down injured on the play but returned quickly.

**After a pass interference call against Fabian Moreau on Smith, Siemian made a great throw on a fade route to Smith for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Saints a 14-6 lead with 5:47 to play in the half. The drive covered 73 yards in nine plays, taking 4:44 off the clock.

**Smith made an outstanding catch, perhaps his best as a Saint, but then acted like he had not been there before, taking his helmet off and incurring a 15-yard penalty.

**Ryan then try to go deep for Gage but Adebo made a terrific one-handed interception at the New Orleans 45-yard line. It was the third interception of the year for the rookie.

**New Orleans got points out of it but not the maximum result as Maher snuck a 37-yard field goal inside the right upright to make it 17-6 with 1:03 to play in the half.

**Dante Fowler Jr. kept the drive alive with a roughing the passer penalty on Siemian, hitting him in the head with his arm.

**Then, Malcolm Jenkins made a big play. Ryan completed a short pass to Mike Davis, Jenkins delivered a big hit and forced a fumble with Kwon Alexander recovering and returning it to the Atlanta 11-yard line.

**Three plays later, Siemian connected with Juwan Johnson on a 6-yard touchdown pass with two seconds to play in the half to make it 24-6 at halftime.

**The Saints finished the half with 24 points and 242 total yards, the best offensive half of the season for New Orleans. Additionally, the defense allowed just six points and forced two turnovers.

**New Orleans dominated, running 39 plays to just 17 for Atlanta and the Saints had the ball for 21:17 to just 8:43 for the Falcons.

**The New Orleans defense allowed just 69 yards and forced two turnovers.

**Calvin Throckmorton left the game early in the third quarter, replaced by Will Clapp.

**The Saints had a fourth-and-one at their own 45-yard line and Sean Payton elected to go for it.

**The decision backfired as Siemian was stuffed on a quarterback sneak by Fowler and Marlon Davidson, giving the Falcons a short field.

**Atlanta reached the New Orleans 8-yard line and on fourth-and-two, the Falcons went for it and Cam Jordan knocked down a Ryan pass to get a big stop.

**The Saints did nothing on their second possession, punted and the Falcons drove 56 yards in just four plays, scoring on a 19-yard run by Quadree Ollison to cut the deficit to 24-13 with 2:49 to play in the third quarter.

**The big play of the drive was a 33-yard completion from Ryan to Hayden Hurst over Kwon Alexander.

**New Orleans needed an answer and got it with a 13 play, 66-yard drive which stalled and Maher booted a 27-yard field goal to make it 27-13 with 10:55 to play in the game.

**Siemian had three key completions on the drive and he threw a perfect corner route to Smith in the end zone but Smith did not catch it, resulting in the field goal. It was a tough catch with a defender swiping at him but it was a catch that could have been made.

**Kwon Alexander then forced another fumble by Smith, which Shy Tuttle recovered at the Atlanta 29-yard line. That set up a 33-yard field goal by Maher to put the game away at 30-13 with 7:36 to play in the game.

**Atlanta got a final score, driving 85 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Gage to account for the final score.

**The touchdown pass was the 20th of the season for Ryan, giving him 13 straight years with 20 or more touchdown passes. Drew Brees is the all-time leader in NFL history with 17 straight seasons with 20 or more touchdown passes.

**Gage finished with nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, an outstanding day for the former LSU star.

The Saints forced three turnovers and all came on the first play of drives.

Alexander had two fumble recoveries and forced a fumble.

Kamara rushed 30 times for 146 yards for his first 100-yard game of the season. Entering this season, his fifth in the league, Kamara had just three 100-yard rushing performances in his first four seasons.

Jordan was outstanding again, finishing his 11th season in grand fashion with 12.5 sacks. He had a sack and batted down two passes by Ryan, whom he has now sacked 23 times in his illustrious career.

Hill was on his way to his best game as a Saint with 7-of-9 completions for 107 yards and a touchdown and with five carries for 18 yards before he got injured. For what it is worth, Hill is now 7-2 as a starting quarterback for the Saints.

Siemian came on and did a solid job, completing 9-of-15 passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. He is a very capable backup quarterback.

The Saints ran for 196 yards.

New Orleans did what they had to do but got no help from their wonderful friends in Los Angeles, who, at home, blew a 17-0 lead and blew a 24-17 lead with just over a minute to play, allowing the 49ers to drive 88 yards in just five plays to tie the game.

The 17-0 lead was the second biggest blown lead in the NFL this season.

Los Angeles had been 43-0 when leading at the half under Sean McVay. Make that 43-1.

The Rams went all-in with Matt Stafford. He underthrew Odell Beckham in overtime, resulting in the interception by Ambry Thomas that gave San Francisco the win.

Saints fans already hate the Rams. That negative passion will grow even more now.

Who doesn’t want to play as a visiting team at Los Angeles?

Everyone that plays the Rams either has more fans or nearly as many as the home team have at SoFi Stadium. The NFL chose to put not one but two teams in a market that simply doesn’t care about the league. Of course, they have to have that second largest television market in the country, right?

While the Rams did the Saints wrong again, the Saints had their chances.

In retrospect, losing to a terrible Giants team at home, after leading 21-10 in the fourth quarter and blowing the lead in a 27-21 loss.

Then, there was the home loss to Atlanta after the Saints had rallied in the fourth quarter to take a 25-24 lead with 1:01 to play but allowed the Falcons to score on the final play in a 27-25 loss.

Then, there was the 23-21 road loss to the Titans when Brian Johnson (remember him?) missed two extra points.

Then, there was the bad fortune of having so many players out at home against Miami.

This season will not be looked at as a success with no division title or playoff appearance but Sean Payton did a superb job keeping a banged-up team together.

It is simply unfortunate that it had to end in this fashion.

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Ken Trahan


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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