It was clear early on in Falcons vs. Saints that things just weren’t going Atlanta’s way. Penalties, iffy calls and non-calls, and mistakes from the Falcons let the Saints clinch a playoff bid with the 23-13 win.
On the Falcons’ very first series, a 26-yard run by Devonta Freeman was called back for a hold on Jake Matthews. And that set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Falcons tried to go for it on fourth-and-1 on their next possession. They were on their own 40-yard line, and going for it in your own territory in the first quarter is a little questionable, anyway. Dan Quinn had to blow a timeout to get the Falcons set. Freeman converted the first down, but a false start on fullback Derrick Coleman negated the play. Atlanta had to punt, and things didn’t get easier.
Penalties killed the offense
- A false start on wide receiver Justin Hardy gave the Falcons a first-and-15 on their own 44.
- Freeman got called for a face mask, which gave the Falcons a first-and-30.
- Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was flagged for offensive pass interference, making it first-and-40 on the Falcons 19-yard line.
And then offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian dialed up a draw play on first down, with 40 yards to go. Freeman ran it for five yards. The Falcons didn’t convert and had to punt on a third straight series.
When it all was said and done, the Falcons were flagged 10 times for a total loss of 91 yards. The Saints had three penalties for 30 yards. Sloppy, undisciplined play cost the Falcons dearly.
There was a butt interception and a butt fumble
Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore intercepted a ball off of his own backside.
And Freeman gave us Butt Fumble 2.0 when he ran directly into center Alex Mack’s ass and lost control of the football.
This one, which happened at the start of the third quarter, especially hurt. The Falcons were in position to score after Deion Jones picked off Drew Brees and ran it back to the New Orleans 2-yard line. Instead, the Saints recovered, and the Falcons lost yet another chance to do something in the red zone.
That’s an awful lot of butt-related bad luck in one game.
Questionable calls made things harder for the Falcons
Lattimore had two plays on Julio Jones that could have been flagged for pass interference. On the first, he tackled Jones well before the ball got there.
On the second, he threw Jones down on the ground. This was initially flagged, but the ref picked it up.
Jones also appeared to score in the fourth quarter, but it was close. Refs ruled him down at the 1-yard line, but it looks like the ball may have broken the plane for a score.
Quinn challenged, but it is hard to tell where Jones gets control of the catch. Officials upheld the call on the field. Freeman tried to run it in on fourth-and-1, but he was stopped short of the goal.
Atlanta ended up getting in the end zone on a 14-yard pass to running back Tevin Coleman to cut the Saints’ lead to 10 with 2:40 remaining. But the Falcons didn’t have any timeouts left, and New Orleans held on for the win. The Panthers managed to narrowly pull off a 22-19 win over the Bucs which keeps the race for the NFC South title alive for another week.
If the Falcons could have pulled off a win on Sunday, they would have punched their ticket to the postseason. Instead, the Saints did.