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Other Week 13 Game Recaps

Week 13 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 26, Atlanta Falcons 18

What you need to know

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are the first team tow rap up their division this season. After beating the Falcons on Thanksgiving, they have only playoff seeding to play for the rest of the way. This game was the Taysom Hill show as he blocked a punt, ran for a touchdown, and caught a touchdown. The Saints even called his number on a trick play to try and throw for a touchdown, but the Falcons remained disciplined in coverage and the pass went incomplete. The defense put forth a dominating performance with 9 sacks and forcing 3 turnovers of Matt Ryan. Drew Brees was kept off his back the entire game and not sacked a single time, but he was also not asked to do as much this week with the dominant defensive performance. He failed to reach 200 yards passing and the rushing attack combined for less than 100 yards again this week. We have not seen the same explosive Saints offense in the past few weeks, but they continue to find ways to win. The Saints play host to the San Francisco 49ers next week in what could be a huge game in deciding the NFC playoff seeding.

Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones missed this short week due to injury and Ryan made multiple key mistakes in this game—including a multiple misreads of coverage that led to three of his nine sacks—four by Cameron Jordan. He also missed wide-open receivers or hesitated too long to target the men until they were no longer open. Ryan was at fault for a turnover on downs inside the Saints five as well as two interceptions and a fumble on a scramble in the fourth quarter. Kicker Yunghoe Koo also missed an extra point attempt and a 42-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half but his incredible prowess with onside kicks put Atlanta back in this game late. Left guard James Carpenter left the game and was in concussion protocol by the end of the first quarter. Calvin Ridley bailed out Ryan’s inaccuracy on a deep throw by drawing a defensive pass interference call to get into the red zone. Jaeden Graham followed up with the catch on a well-thrown seam route for the subsequent score and later in the game caught a scramble-drill target to reach the red zone. However, Ryan could not get Atlanta past midfield for most of the contest without making a mistake that cost the Falcons the football and New Orleans continued padding its lead until late in the fourth quarter. Devonta Freeman ran well when the line created a primary or secondary crease but it took three quarters for the offense to generate meaningful creases. Christian Blake repeatedly got open and when Ryan trusted him, the receiver converted targets into solid plays. Watch the injury report for Graham, who took a hit that somersaulted him late he game. He walked off on his own accord but needed assistance on the field beforehand. Justin Gage caught a slant for a garbage-time score that put Atlanta within nine points late. Koo then delivered a pair of well-placed onside kicks that Atlanta recovered to keep them in the game until the very end. Koo actually kicked a third one that Atlanta recovered but a penalty nullified the effort. Ryan took two sacks during the final drive—including a 4th-and-8 sack to seal the Saints victory.

New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 48 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 30 - 184 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0
It was a rather quiet game for Brees with the Saints utilizing Taysom Hill and a crushing defense for the win this week. He was held to under 200 yards passing for the first time this season outside of his injury shortened game against the Rams. He has struggled against the Falcons this season with 2 of his 3 lowest yardage totals coming against them and only a single touchdown in 2 games. Brees did not work the ball down field in this one and worked to get the ball out of his hands quickly to compensate for his starting right tackle being out with injury. At one point in the game they showed he was averaging 2.2 seconds from snap to ball being caught by a receiver and that is a great way to avoid taking any sacks. The lone touchdown pass for Brees went to Taysom Hill on a shovel pass that Hill took in motion and off the right side for a 3-yard touchdown on the Saints first offensive drive of the game. Brees was able to find his big tight end down the field for a 40-yard pass and the longest play of the game for either side. The Saints have a tough test next week against San Francisco that will play a big role in playoff seeding and there is no reason to try and rest Brees yet. His hand looks healthy and he is still well rested after missing several games and should be good to go for the rest of the season.

QB Taysom Hill, 13 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 33 - 1, Rec: 2 - 12 - 1 (2 targets)
Hill was the man of the hour this week and showed the whole country why coach Sean Payton speaks so highly of him. He is a true athlete and made his mark on this game on special teams as well as running, catching, and throwing the ball. Hill’s first big play came when he rushed the punter and got his hand on the ball for a big deflection. The play was not considered a blocked punt because the ball still went 8 yards down field, but it created amazing field position for the Saints offense. Hill also caught the lone touchdown pass of the game from Brees. He was called into motion across the entire formation and Brees delivered a quick shovel pass underneath a wall of blockers that allowed Hill to take it 3 yards off the right edge for a touchdown. Hill has not played as much tight end lately with how well Cook has been playing, but it was his number that was called here for the score. Later in the game he took the ball 30 yards off the left side and cut it back across the middle for a rushing touchdown out of the wild cat. Hill is still a run first option out of this set, and it continues to pay off for the Saints with big chunk yardage. This was the longest run on the ground for either team and showed just how valuable he can be. The Saints called his number on a trick play with their sites on adding a passing touchdown, but the Falcons defense kept their contain and the pass went out of bounds in front of Jared Cook. The Saints love how athletic Hill is and use him all over the field. This was his most productive game this season as he made impacts all over the place.

RB Alvin Kamara, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 61 - 0, Rec: 4 - 23 - 0 (8 targets)
We finally saw some of the speed and elusiveness from Kamara that has been missing in recent weeks. He carried the brunt of the workload on the ground this week with 11 of the 18 total carries for the Saints this week. He also added 4 catches on 8 targets this week and was the third leading receiver for the Saints. The 4 for 8 is a bit surprising as he has been sure handed for most of the season. He had 1 drop where Brees led him a but far up the seam, but Kamara had a step on Deon Jones in coverage and the ball hit him in the hands. He would have run for a very long time if he had made the catch as there were no defenders anywhere in front of him. The majority of Kamara’s rushing yards came on a single carry where he burst through the middle for 24 yards. He made one cut at the second level and ran through a poor tackle attempt from Damontae Kazee. It was still not one of the special games we have come to expect from Kamara, but he has been trending in the right direction in recent weeks. The idea of Kamara losing more carries to Latavius Murray went out the window this week after Murray struggled and did not average a yard per carry this week.

RB Latavius Murray, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 2 - 0
It was a tough week for Murray. He has fought all season to show that he is a viable back in this offense and then he has a game like this week. Murray ran the ball 4 times for just 2 yards and did not have a single target in the passing game. His longest carry of the game went for a single yard and he averaged just .5 yards per carry total. The Saints got things done in other aspects of the game this week, but the struggles of the run game are concerning heading down the stretch and into the playoffs. Murray and Kamara will have to get it going if they want to make a deep post season run.

WR Michael Thomas, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 48 - 0 (8 targets)
Thomas finally looked human this week and had a very average game. He caught 6 of his 8 targets and had his first drop in nearly 200 receptions. The Saints passing attack focused on short slants and quick hitting plays this week to try and keep Drew Brees from being sacked. They were missing their starting right tackle and did not trust the back up in pass coverage. Thomas’ longest catch was 14 yards and the Saints did not try and push the ball down the field to him at all. Thomas had under 100 yards receiving for the first time in 5 games and did not lead the team in receiving for the first time in that same time frame. It was more the offensive game plan for the Saints rather than the way Thomas played this week that accounted for the less than average stat line. The drop on an out route was very uncharacteristic for Thomas and something we are not used to seeing.

WR Ted Ginn, 27 offensive snaps (1 targets)
Another week and another poor game from Ginn. The Saints elected to go with short to intermediate routes this week as they tried to get the ball out quickly, but Ginn was not included in that. They did not try and quick screens or slants to try and let him run behind a wall of blockers at all. Ginn was targeted a single time in the offense and was unable to make the catch on a ball that was thrown just a little too far. It has been a disappointing string of games for Ginn and things do not appear to be getting better any time soon.

TE Jared Cook, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 85 - 0 (6 targets)
Cook continues to play better and become a bigger part of this offense. His targets seem to have come at the expense of Ted Ginn, and he is making the most of them right now. Cook had the longest play of the game for either team when he settled into the void in coverage down the left side line and then rumbled down the field for a 40-yard gain. He caught just 3 of his 6 targets this week, but that was enough to lead the team in receiving by almost double. The Saints are a balanced enough team that they find ways to win even when their stars do not perform in a given week. Expect Cook to play a big role down the stretch and heading into the playoffs for the Saints.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 93 offensive snaps, Pass: 35 - 50 - 312 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 21 - 0
Beginning the game in an empty set, Ryan took a sack off left tackle after Ryan held onto the ball too long in the quick game and lost seven yards. Two plays later, Ryan settled for a quick check-down to Calvin Ridley for a four-yard gain on a 3rd and 13, leading to a punt that Taysom Hill blocked and gave the Saints a short field. A cornerback blitz ended the second series when Ryan tried to bring the ball down and during the pressure and re-fire but the target arrived short of Christian Blake in the flat and forced a second punt. Ryan found Blake on a short slant to set up a third-and-short early in Atlanta’s third series and followed up with a second slant to Blake to convert. A personal foul on Marshon Lattimore after the play, the cover corner on Blake, gave Atlanta’s offense another 15 yards and put them in Saints’ territory. Ryan took another sack when he slipped trying to break the pocket from a Camo Jordan rush two plays later. Ryan and Ridley drew a pass interference call later in the drive to get Atlanta inside the red zone at with a little more than a minute left in the first quarter. Ryan targeted Blake on a fourth-and-one in the end zone but coverage blocked off the break path and the ball sailed incomplete, leading to a turnover on downs. Ryan had Calvin Ridley wide open on this two-man combination route but targeted the covered receiver, Blake. Ryan overshot Blake on a deep out while under pressure after a seven-step drop to begin the fourth series. Left guard James Carpenter left the game at the end of the third series and didn’t return. Ryan then underthrew a wide-open Ridley on a deep fade on the following drive, but Ridley drew a defensive pass interference call to save the play and get Atlanta into the red zone. Ryan found Jaeden Graham up the right seam for a touchdown with a well-played throw over the linebacker off play-action and Graham caught the ball at the two and forced his way into the end zone. The Saints faked the blitz on a drive late in the half and Ryan had to pull down the ball when he didn’t see the coverage look he expected and was forced to hold onto the ball and take his third sack of the half. Ryan took a fourth sack, the second by Marcus Davenport, to begin the third quarter on a third-down passing play where his first read—a receiver screen—didn’t come open. This forced another punt. Ryan hesitated to target a wide-open slant to Christian Blake late in the third quarter and wound up throwing the ball behind a covered Calvin Ridley. Ryan threw an interception to defensive lineman Shai Tuttle, who picked off a side-arm attempt of a check-down to Freeman late in the third quarter and Tuttle returned the ball up the sideline to the Atlanta 49. Ryan targeted Kenjon Barner on a scramble drill check-down seven-yards behind the line of scrimmage rather than checking the ball down during a fourth-quarter drive near midfield. After losing seven on the play, Ryan misread the coverage over the middle and delivered his second interception, which the Saints took up the right sideline to the Atlanta 29. The Saints extended the lead to 14 with a 42-yard field goal off that turnover. During the subsequent drive, Ryan converted a third-down with a run up the middle but had the ball punched loose and turned over the football near midfield once again. Ryan rolled away from pressure to his right and delivered a deep cross to Graham inside the 20, taking a hit that somersaulted him to the turf and he needed assistance but walked off the field on his own. Craig Robertson ran through Freeman on a blitz to sack Ryan late in the game after Atlanta recovered an onside pick.

RB Devonta Freeman, 62 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 51 - 0, Rec: 4 - 13 - 0 (5 targets)
Atlanta ran a counter play on the second play of the game but the pullers could not open a crease and Freeman was forced to push into filled creases for no gain. Freeman earned three with a spin to the backside tackle on a split-zone run to begin the second series. He bounced his way to right tackle a few plays later for a gain of four, showing decent patience to set up the guard-tackle double team. Linebacker Kiko Alonso cut down Freeman in the backfield with penetration two plays later for a loss of one. Freeman earned a yard to begin Atlanta’s third series when the right side of the line couldn’t open a crease on another split-zone call. Freeman earned the edge on another I-formation run past penetration on the right end and earned Freeman a first down but offsetting penalties nullified the play because Christian Blake’s ongoing fight with Marshon Lattimore from the play prior carried over into this one. Freeman took a shotgun draw and earned six yards two plays later. The Saints stuffed Freeman off right guard on a 1st-and-10 run in the red zone two plays after the draw play. Once again, the Saints stuffed Freeman off right guard on a split zone run for no more than three yards later in the second quarter. Freeman held up Marcus Davenport on a stunt on the next play that gave Ryan time to throw the ball but miss the receiver. He began the second half with a four-yard run off left tackle, pulling through a wrap near the line of scrimmage for the yardage. He was stuffed by Marcus Williams in the left flat on a check-down a play later. Two plays later, he earned six yards off left tackle. Freeman earned three yards up the middle early in the next series. He caught a check-down to set up a third-and-short. Backed up in their own end zone, Freeman cut back inside right tackle for eight yards on a 1st and 15 run. He earned another four to begin the fourth quarter with a patient run where he picked his way to a gap up the middle and then another five yards up the middle to set up a third and one. Freeman spun off the first hitter over the middle on a check-down during a drive late in the game.

RB Brian Hill, 24 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 13 - 0, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (3 targets)
He earned snaps in the red zone offense during the third series but didn’t earn the ball. He bent a run to the backside near midfield during the middle of the second quarter for a six-yard gain. He then made a strong stop-start move off left guard on the next play for another nine yards. On the next play, Alonso earned a free alley on a run blitz outside the Atlanta double team and dropped Hill for a three-yard loss. Hill later cut the linebacker blitzing inside and hustled back to his feet to present himself as a target for the catch and run that earned a first down across midfield. Hill earned short gains in the middle of the fourth quarter as a check-down option over the middle. Hill plucked a low throw off the turf on a check-down to earn a first down late in the game to get Atlanta across midfield.

RB Kenjon Barner, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)
He earned a receiver screen in the left flat on second-and-long and earned a first down past midfield in the middle of the second quarter. Barner took a seven-yard loss after working back to the ball in the flat on a fourth-quarter scramble drill, setting up a 3rd-and-14.

WR Calvin Ridley, 87 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 91 - 0 (10 targets)
The Saints played off the receivers on third and long to begin the game and Ridley earned a target on a fin route under the coverage for a gain of four and a punt. Ridley earned a fin route early in the second series for a six-yard gain, setting up a third-and-one. Ridley drew a third-and-six pass interference penalty on a fade route up the right sideline during the third series, getting Atlanta into the red zone. Ridley was wide-open on an end-zone switch-route combination with Christian Blake but Ryan didn’t target him and it led to a turnover on downs inside the Saints’ five. The next series, Ridley beat his coverage up the right sideline on third-and-eight, and Ryan underthrew him. Ridley managed to draw a defensive pass interference call. Ridley earned a first-down on a 2nd and-12 in-cut against man coverage for a first down midway through the second quarter. Ridley made an excellent grab on a throw high and away against tight man coverage late in the third quarter. He earned a 20-yard gain on a perimeter target thrown well over his head at the end of the third quarter to get Atlanta out of its own end zone. Ridley earned a slant for 10 yards later in the fourth quarter. Ridley dropped a comeback against tight coverage on a 3rd and 14 late in the game. The ball hit Ridley on the hands despite Ryan throwing the ball with defenders in his face and hanging off him. Ridley converted the 4th and 14 with a sliding catch against tight coverage on the next play. Ridley found a hole in the zone a play later for his eighth grab just ahead of the two-minute warning.

WR Christian Blake, 83 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 57 - 0 (9 targets)
He earned a target in the left flat during the second series on a third-and-seven, but Ryan’s target fell short of the receiver, leading to a second punt for the Falcons. Ryan found Blake on a short slant to set up a third-and-short early in Atlanta’s third series and followed up with a second slant to Blake to convert. A personal foul on Marshon Lattimore after the play, the cover corner on Blake, gave Atlanta’s offense another 15 yards and put them in Saints’ territory. Blake cost Atlanta a nice run from Freeman off right end when he continued fighting with Lattimore on the next play and earned a personal foul call. Ryan targeted Blake on a fourth-and-one in the end zone but coverage blocked off the break path and the ball sailed incomplete, leading to a turnover on downs. Blake earned a fin route and turned up-field to pull the cornerback with him for a gain of eight yards late in the half. Blake earned a first down two plays later on a 3rd and 10 out route to get Atlanta near midfield. Blake converted a third-and-one at the top of the fourth quarter as the second option on the play to reach midfield. Blake high-pointed a perimeter route with less than six minutes left to get Atlanta a first down.

WR Russell Gage, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 52 - 1 (9 targets)
He took a slant on third down in the red zone and spun off a defender to get inside the Saints’ five at the end of the first quarter, setting up a fourth-and-one. He made a sliding attempt of a throw inches from the marker on third down with three and a half minutes left but he failed to control the ball and the Saints won the challenge of the play that the officials originally ruled a completion. Gage earned atop route for a first-down against zone coverage with a little more than a minute left in the first half. Gage earned 13 yards on a 3rd-and-17 screen-pass with less than a minute remaining in the half. Gage scored on a slant late in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 9 points.

WR Justin Hardy, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (3 targets)
He earned about 15 yards over the middle with 15 seconds left in the half against a prevent-defense to put Atlanta in field goal range. He caught a crossing route with less than a minute left for a first down.

TE Jaeden Graham, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 41 - 1 (4 targets)
Ryan found Graham up the right seam for a touchdown with a well-played throw over the linebacker off play-action and Graham, who worked from an in-line position, caught the ball at the two and forced his way into the end zone. Graham caught a throw-back screen off play-action to during the second quarter but linebacker Demario Davis ran down the play and wrapped Graham for a loss of two. Graham earned two on a flat route late in the fourth quarter. Ryan rolled away from pressure to his right and delivered a deep cross to Graham inside the 20, taking a hit that somersaulted him to the turf and he needed assistance but walked off the field on his own.