Saints Sack Falcons to Win NFC South Title
The New Orleans Saints are the NFC South Champions for the third straight year.
Taysom Hill blocked a punt, caught a touchdown pass and ran for a score as the Saints used Hill and four Wil Lutz field goals to get a 26-18 win over their arch rivals Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Saints' defense sacked Matt Ryan nine times and forced three second half turnovers, but had to withstand two successful onside kicks in the final minutes before securing the win.
Hill blocked a punt after the defense forced the Falcons to a three-and-out in their first possession. giving the Saints the ball at the Atlanta 30. Four plays later, Hill caught a touch pass from Drew Brees to put the Saints up 7-0.
Atlanta scored early in the second quarter on a pass from Ryan to Jaeden Graham to get the Falcons within 7-6. New Orleans answered with a 22 yard field goal by Lutz and stretched the lead to 17-6 when Hill lined up at quarterback and scampered 30 yards for a touchdown.
Younghoe Koo, who missed an extra point and a field goal in the first half, kicked a 45 yard field goal as the first half ended to cut the lead to 17-9 at the break.
Lutz kicked a 47 yard field goal early in the third quarter, and the Saints then turned Ryan over on three straight possessions. Shy Tuttle and C. J. Garner-Johnson each had an interception, while Marcus Davenport forced a fumble recovered by Vonn Bell. But the Saints could only muster two more Lutz field goals and led 26-9.
Ryan hit Russell Gage with just over three minutes left to cut the score to 26-15. Koo then executed an onside kick recovered by Atlanta, leading to a field goal on the first play after the two minute warning. Again, Koo was perfect on the onside kick, giving the Falcons one last chance. But the Saints sacked Ryan four times in the ensuing possession to seal the win.
Brees completed 18-30 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, while Alvin Kamara led the Saints on the ground with 61 yards on eleven carries. Michael Thomas had six catches to lead Saints' receivers.
Ryan was 35-50 for 312 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Devonta Freeman carried 17 times for 51 yards. Calvin Ridley caught eight balls to lead the Falcons.