Atlanta – A season sweep of the Atlanta Falcons was what the New Orleans Saints wanted, and a season sweep is what the Saints (10-2) have, courtesy of a 21-16 victory on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It wasn't totally complete, but it was enough to enable the Saints to win their ninth straight game, to maintain the No. 1 seed in the NFC and, most importantly, to lock up a playoff berth. There were several performances of significance along the way.
OFFENSE: Taysom Hill has to learn to hang on to the football. Playing the most important position (quarterback) on offense means that he has to be the most cognizant of making sure the ball is secure. So three fumbles – he was credited with one that probably belonged to running back Alvin Kamara, who didn't cleanly field a pitch – on Sunday was three too many. And losing one, with the team second-and-goal from the Atlanta 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, is one too many lost. Even if Coach Sean Payton didn't like the play call, Hill still has to be careful with the ball and if we add in three more lost fumbles this season, that's totally unacceptable. But, saying all that, the man was a force against the Falcons for the second time in three weeks. Hill finished with career highs in completions (27) and attempts (37), for 232 yards, and threw the first two touchdowns of his career, with no interceptions. Then, he had career highs in rushing attempts (14) and yards (83), including a career-long 43-yard run. He'll clean up the ball security; otherwise, he showed that if an opponent is daring him to make plays from the pocket, he's more than capable.
DEFENSE: I'm not sure what else complimentary can be said about Demario Davis. The argument for him being the best linebacker in the league keeps gaining traction because Davis keeps producing games like Sunday's, when he finished with a team-high nine tackles (two for losses) and a quarterback hit. He's impactful, to say the least. He and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson combined to make one of the game's biggest plays in the fourth quarter: Atlanta, trailing 21-16 and facing third-and-2 from the Saints' 13 with 1:42 left, went with a Todd Gurley run to the left. CJGJ knifed through to make first contact, but after he didn't get Gurley to the turf, Davis cleaned up and took down Gurley for a 7-yard loss. Matt Ryan threw incomplete in the end zone on the next play (cornerback P.J. Williams and safety Marcus Williams on the collaborative cover) and the Saints made another end zone bat down as time expired on Atlanta's final drive. Davis is the centerpiece of New Orleans' defense, and he continues to show up big in the biggest moments.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Tommylee Lewis did what a punt returner is supposed to do Sunday: He caught the ball and didn't allow any leaky yardage (punt hits the turf and rolls an extra 10 yards). He cleanly fielded three punts, had 17 yards in returns and didn't do anything to hurt his team. His job sounds easy, but he hadn't played this season and practice reps are different than game reps.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup in Week 13 of the 2020 NFL season.