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New Orleans Saints finish season with strong overall performance against Atlanta | NFL Week 18 analysis

Offense scored three touchdowns, defense forced three turnovers

The New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season on January 9, 2022.

Atlanta – The New Orleans Saints didn't qualify for the 2021 playoffs. But the bow they placed on the first 17-game regular season in NFL history – a 30-20 victory over the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – was an impressive one as they finished 9-8, and skirted with a postseason berth until the very end.

In earning a series split with Atlanta (7-10), New Orleans claimed second place in the NFC South Division with one of their most thorough victories of the season.

OFFENSE: What might the offense have done if quarterback Taysom Hill hadn't left the game in the second quarter after injuring his foot? The Saints rolled up 142 yards and a touchdown (his 18-yard connection with tight end Adam Trautman) in the first quarter and Hill, who previously has had success against Atlanta, was well on his way to having more. But even with Hill suffering a reported Lisfranc injury, New Orleans went for 369 yards and scored 23 points after he left the game. The red zone efficiency was subpar (3 for 7), but New Orleans converted half of its 16 third-down attempts and got 146 rushing yards (on 30 attempts) from Alvin Kamara. Trevor Siemian completed 9 of 15 passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns in relief, and the offensive line allowed just one sack. Solid day's work all around.

DEFENSE: Not many more accolades can be attached to the Saints' defense. It produced another standout effort against the Falcons: 257 yards allowed (62 rushing), three sacks, three turnovers forced, nine quarterback hits, five passes defensed and seven stops on 10 third-down attempts. The defense, the backbone of the team all season, held up its end more often than not and did so again against the Falcons, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns in the first game against New Orleans, but only completed 20 of 33 for 216 yards and a touchdown (with the interception) on Sunday. Defensively, New Orleans was on a roll down the stretch, allowing 52 points in the final five games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Brett Maher missed a field goal. That's the bad news. But he made three, and that was the good news, to finish the season with 11 field goals made in his last four games. The kick return coverage wasn't spectacular, with a 36-yard kickoff allowed, but the punting game (44-yard net) and punt coverage (12 yards allowed on one return) were as solid as they'd been most of the season.

New Orleans Saints fans travel to Atlanta for the regular season finale against the Falcons on January 9, 2022.

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