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New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr finishes regular season with a flourish

Defensive end Payton Turner returns after missing 15 games, recovers fumble

A.T. Perry catches for a 6-yard Touchdown vs. Atlanta Falcons

Where to begin?

Name a New Orleans Saints player, and there's a better-than-average chance that he had a good day against Atlanta in Sunday’s 48-17 victory over the Falcons in the Caesars Superdome. The Saints (9-8), who won four of their last five regular-season games, had balance across all three units en route to posting their most satisfying result of the season.

OFFENSE: It wouldn't be wrong to go with rookie receiver A.T. Perry, who caught three passes (on three targets) for 53 yards and two touchdowns, his first two-score game as a pro. Or with rookie running back Kendre Miller , who missed seven straight games with injuries and came back to run for a game-high 73 yards, and his first NFL touchdown, on 13 carries. Heck, Chris Olave's one-man tip drill on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr singularly could have made him worthy, as well as Rashid Shaheed's 39-yard touchdown catch that he wrestled from an opponent. But the guy who threw those touchdowns, Carr, completed 22 of 28 passes (78.6 percent) for 264 yards and no interceptions. Carr's efficiency ascended as the regular season neared its end; he threw 14 touchdowns, and one interception, in the last five games.

DEFENSE: Sentimentality wins here. Alontae Taylor showed the kind of fortitude that makes him who he is; he was pulled from slot corner in the first half after Atlanta hit on some big plays, came in at right corner when Isaac Yiadom suffered a concussion and left the game, and picked off a Desmond Ridder pass on the opening drive of the second half to help open the floodgates for New Orleans. It was Taylor's second interception in two weeks. But defensive end Payton Turner hadn't played since the season opener – he suffered a major turf toe injury – and had been on injured reserve 15 straight games before being activated for the regular-season finale, on his birthday. Turner had two quarterback hits in the game and was in the right place at the right time in the fourth quarter, when an errant snap found the turf. He pounced on it at the Atlanta 10-yard line with 9:09 left, Carr threw a touchdown four seconds later and no one was happier for Turner than his teammates.

SPECIAL TEAMS: With 30 made field goals, rookie Blake Grupe inished with the single season record for a Saints rookie. It definitely was more than the Saints would have preferred; the offense struggled scoring early in the season, and Grupe was called upon more frequently than he could have been. But the rook capitalized and entered the franchise record book on Sunday.

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18 of the 2023 NFL season.

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