The game was tied 17-17, and Devonta Freeman had just run the ball out of bounds on first down for no gain. And Sean Payton did this:
It sure looks like he’s yelling, “Choke!” And he’s making a choking motion in Freeman’s general direction.
Freeman said he saw it, but he wasn’t fazed:
“That man don’t know nothing about choking,” Freeman said. “He ain’t from where I’m from. He don’t know nothing about choking.
“But he’s a good competitor ... I don’t let that bother me.”
Payton had no recollection of the choking motion after the game.
“I don’t remember that,” he said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The Falcons have quite the recent history of choking. Everybody remembers Super Bowl LI, when they blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots in overtime. The Saints had quite a bit of fun with that on their road trip to Atlanta on Thursday. Wide receiver Willie Snead even posted a photo on his Snapchat story of the custom 28-3 shirt in Saints colors that he was wearing.
But the Falcons didn’t choke on Thursday night despite three Matt Ryan interceptions.
One of those came right before the half, and it gave New Orleans a shot at a field goal with four seconds on the clock to take a 13-10 lead. The Saints were flagged for an illegal formation, which took the points off the board with no time remaining.
The Saints were trailing by just three points late in the fourth quarter, and Payton called passing plays on first and second down from the Falcons’ 11-yard line. The first went to Snead for no gain. The second was a gravity-defying interception in the end zone by Falcons linebacker Deion Jones.
Payton got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for abruptly running toward a ref on the field. It gave the Falcons a first down with just over a minute left to play. The Falcons were able to knee it out for the 20-17 win.
This one caught up with Payton.