Atlanta – The New Orleans Saints left Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a hollow feeling – victorious after beating the Falcons 30-20, but eliminated from playoff contention due to San Francisco's victory over the Rams.
But in the Saints victory, several players provided standout days.
OFFENSE: Alvin Kamara ran for 146 yards on 30 carries, the offensive line had one of its best games of the season, and quarterback Trevor Siemian again proved to be a godsend, coming off the bench after Taysom Hill's foot injury in the second quarter to complete nine of 15 passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. But receiver Tre'Quan Smith probably had his best game of the season, with a couple of highlight catches to contribute to a five-catch, 76-yard day. The first was an all-hands grab in the middle of the field on third-and-9 in the second quarter, which he transformed into a 34-yard catch-and-run. The next, on the same drive, was a 13-yard strike from Siemian that he plucked over the top of a well-placed defender for a touchdown, giving New Orleans a 14-6 lead. The emotional Smith even picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the touchdown because he took off his helmet, but that outburst was worth the price.
DEFENSE: There isn't much doubt that the Falcons were looking to locate Saints rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo, and they were able to zap him with a couple of chunk plays early in the game. But the continued testing produced a fail; Adebo had a one-handed interception of a deep pass intended for Russell Gage in the second quarter, which led to a field goal. He almost picked off another pass in the second half and in total, finished with five tackles along with the interception and two pass breakups. Another viable candidate was defensive end Marcus Davenport, who had 1.5 sacks (a career high nine for the season) and three quarterback hits. Davenport was such a force when he was on the field that the defense had a totally different look and feel when he lined up. But Adebo showed the kind of growth within the game that he exhibited all season. The third-round pick should be a mainstay in the future.
SPECIAL TEAMS: True, Brett Maher missed a field goal and, true, it was a fairly short attempt (34 yards). But he made three (fairly short, also, from 37, 27 and 33 yards) and finished the season with 11 made field goals in the last four games. Maher likely will be kicking in the NFL next season because of the work he did this season.
The New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season on January 9, 2022.