NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 13 PFF ReFocused: New Orleans Saints 21, Atlanta Falcons 16

Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) battles with Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen (37) while running with the ball during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints defense had gone 42 straight possessions without allowing a touchdown, but when the Falcons offense broke the streak midway through the fourth quarter, it set up a tense finish in Atlanta. The Saints came away with a 21-16 win after stopping a late Falcons Hail Mary attempt and a fourth down try in the red zone on the previous drive.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

New Orleans had a chance to put the game away after Matt Ryan fumbled in his own territory with the Saints up 12 in the fourth quarter, but Taysom Hill gave the ball right back to the Falcons, who drove down the field for the aforementioned touchdown. 

Still, the Saints defense continued to play at an extremely high level. They’ve allowed Hill to play with a lead for most of the time he’s been the starter. Even though the defense only sacked Matt Ryan three times — taking the total to 20 over the last three Saints-Falcons tilts — they pressured him 18 times. Ryan completed only five of his 15 under pressure dropbacks.

Dec 6, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) passes against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints defensive line continued its tremendous season with Trey Hendrickson, David Onyemata, Sheldon Rankins and Cameron Jordan all recording at least four pressures. Those big dudes, along with Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander, combined to shut down the Falcons rushing attack. Only 19% of the Falcons running plays gained either a first down or touchdown. Overall, the Saints defense only missed one tackle the whole game. 

The Falcons defense did a nice job limiting big plays by the Saints passing attack, something they had trouble with in New Orleans a couple weeks ago. Hill only threw two balls beyond 20 yards and both were incomplete. On one of them, A.J. Terrell almost picked off a throw behind Alvin Kamara. Hill did throw the ball well in the 10-19 yard range, going 9-for-12 with 138 yards and both his touchdown passes.

Michael Thomas was the Saints' leading receiver as he continues to ease his way back into the mix after the sprained ankle. He caught nine of 11 targets. Although he could not separate like he would have liked, his strong hands allowed him to catch all catchable targets. Kamara caught two of his three targets and continues to be way less involved in the passing game than he was with Drew Brees as the starter. 

Rookie Watch

Terrell had an interception, but the Saints kept picking on him and he allowed six catches on nine targets, all for first downs. Mykal Walker played 36 snaps and made three tackles but also missed one, and Marlon Davidson played 18 snaps and made one tackle. 

For the Saints, Cesar Ruiz did not play any snaps. Adam Trautman continued to get some good looks with 26 snaps — he was targeted three times and made three catches for nine yards. 

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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