Saints Clinch Third Straight NFC South Title With Win Over Falcons
The New Orleans Saints clinched their third straight NFC South title Thursday night, continuing to impress moving out of Week 13. The Saints (10-2) defeated the Atlanta Falcons (3-9) by a final of 26-18 in Atlanta. New Orleans sought a must-win game in order to avenge their at-home 26-9 loss to Atlanta on November 10. With the division title claimed, the Saints set their sights on home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs for a second consecutive season.
The Saints, who carry a roster full of talent, saw some unlikely heroes emerge to produce such a solid victory. Taysom Hill stole the show with a blocked punt that set up his three yard touchdown catch, followed by a 30-yard run resulting in another score. The Saints’ defense had a great night with two interceptions in the second half by rookie defensive tackle Shy Tuttle and rookie safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and a forced fumble by defensive end Marcus Davenport. Relentless pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan played a key role as well. Defensive end Cameron Jordan had four of the Saints sacks, making it a career high, as well as tying the franchise record. Saints quarterback Drew Brees tied Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for second in NFL history with 532 touchdown passes. His impressive night saw 18 of 30 completed passes for 184 yards, with his pass to Hill putting him next to Brady. The two race to break the record of 539 currently held by Peyton Manning.
The Falcons had a tough night, partly due to a solid New Orleans defense, but also the absence of star wide receiver Julio Jones, inactive with a shoulder injury. Ryan committed three second-half turnovers as pressure of the Saints’ defense proved too much. This loss solidifies the Falcons hold on last place in the division and brings their second straight home loss.
The Saints return home on December 8 in a much anticipated game against San Francisco, while the Falcons play their NFC rival Carolina (5-6) on December 8.