The New Orleans Saints had enough good plays, and enough good players making those good plays, to pull off a 21-18 victory over Atlanta on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome. It wasn't enough salve to cover all the wrongs that have occurred this season for New Orleans (5-9), but it was enough to end a two-game losing streak and to give the Saints something to smile about, at least for a day. Among those who earned the biggest smiles:
OFFENSE: Let's just say that if opposing defenses don't yet have tight end Juwan Johnson on their radar, that's a really, really good thing for the Saints. Johnson may not have earned special attention, but it's less and less of a surprise that he can leave a significant imprint on a game. He had four catches (on six targets) for 67 yards Sunday, including touchdown catches of 19 yards in the first quarter, and 22 yards in the third. On the first score, Johnson exhibited his awareness of the goal line and his want-to to break the plane, and on the second score, he looked like the former receiver that he as he wove through traffic to the end zone. Any other day, rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed (three catches for 95 yards and a touchdown) or quarterback Andy Dalton (11 of 17 for 151 yards and two touchdowns) would have been good, safe choices. But Johnson had his hands all over this one, scoring New Orleans' first and last touchdowns.
DEFENSE: It's not a stretch to say that safety Justin Evans saved the say for the Saints' defense. The unit hadn't gotten off the field on third down nearly as effectively as it should have, and until Evans displayed a nose – or, more accurately, a hand – for the ball, it hadn't produced a game-changing turnover. But that's just what happened when, on fourth-and-5 from the 50-yard line with 2:13 remaining in the game, Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder completed a 12-yard pass to receiver Drake London, but Evans dislodged the ball while he was making the tackle. Cornerback Bradley Roby recovered the fumble in midair, the Saints took over possession and instead of Atlanta maneuvering into possible field goal range – or maybe scoring a lead-taking touchdown – Evans' forced fumble ended Atlanta's final legitimate scoring opportunity. New Orleans hasn't forced many turnovers this season; Evans' was a monumental one, given the timing. Could've gone with rookie cornerback Alontae Taylor here, too. But Taylor, who had three passes defensed, couldn't come up with an interception on either of them, one of which likely would've been a pick-six. His time is coming for his first career interception; on Sunday, Evans made the shining play.
Head inside the New Orleans Saints locker room postgame after the Saints' win against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season presented by Bud Light.