NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 18 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 30, Atlanta Falcons 20

Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (10) catches a touchdown pass behind Atlanta Falcons cornerback Fabian Moreau (22) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We had to wait until the clock hit 0:00, but the game was essentially over when a fourth-down flip screen midway through the third quarter was sniffed out every which way by the New Orleans Saints defense. Hopes were high at the final buzzer, but unfortunately it was all for naught. The New Orleans Saints would watch the San Francisco 49ers stop the Los Angeles Rams in overtime to secure an upset win and a wild-card spot only minutes later.

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New Orleans Saints

Quarterback

In a cruel twist of fate, Taysom Hill had the best start to any game he’s played in this season and left after only 11 dropbacks with a suspected Lisfranc injury. All Trevor Siemian was tasked with was not to screw it up, and he managed that admirably finishing 9-for-16 for 71 yards with two touchdowns. 

Running Backs

It was a grind it out with Alvin Kamara kind of day on Sunday for New Orleans. He ran the ball 30 times for 147 yards with 109 coming after contact. Those 30 carries were the most he’s ever had in a game in his career.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

While the possible breakout season never came to fruition, Tre’Quan Smith saved his best performance for last. He hauled in five catches on seven targets for a season-high 76 yards and a score.

Offensive Line

It was an utter manhandling up front for New Orleans. The offensive line as a whole was charged with a grand total of one pressure on 26 pass-blocking snaps all day. That’s dominance.

Defensive Line

It’s a shame Marcus Davenport’s breakout season couldn’t have come with a cleaner bill of health. He was once again a force in this one with a sack and half along with another hurry on the day.

Linebackers

Demario Davis showed up big when it mattered most. In the must-win game, Davis had all five of his tackles result in defensive stops and only allowed four yards in coverage all day.

Secondary

What a day for rookie Paulson Adebo. He’s had a very up and down rookie season, but the flashes are high-end. He had a one handed pick on the sideline and also added a pass-breakup for good measure.

Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback

It was a microcosm of Matt Ryan’s season with not much help, but no answer in his ability to create on his own. He continually attacked deep at least, going 4-of-9 on deep targets for 108 yards.

Running Backs

The Falcons fell into a hole early and abandoned the run game swiftly. Their running backs combined for only 11 carries on the day, although they went for 60 yards.

Receivers

Pitts’ bid to break the rookie receiving yardage record for a tight end came up short on Sunday. He needed only 59 yards to break Mike Ditka’s record of 1,076, but managed his worst outing of the season with two catches for 8 yards. 

Offensive Line

While the Falcons offensive line being a massive issue all season it meant that unfortunately standout guard Chris Lindstrom rarely got his due. On Sunday, he allowed only one pressure on 37 pass-blocking snaps. He took a massive step forward into the highest-graded season of his career in 2021.

Defensive Line

Grady Jarrett’s head-scratchingly quiet season headed to a close on Sunday with a whimper. He managed two pressures to bring his season total to 36 — his lowest total since his rookie season in 2015.

Linebackers

While the Falcons linebacker duo didn’t have a banner day filling gaps, at least they finished almost all of the plays they got to. Foye Oluokun didn’t miss a tackle on 13 attempts while Deion Jones missed only one on seven attempts.

Secondary

It’s official: A.J. Terrell has just completed one of the stingiest seasons PFF has ever charted. After allowing only 18 yards on Sunday, the second-year cornerback allowed only 200 yards in his coverage all 17 games. That’s 11.7 per game.

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