New Orleans Saints clinch NFC South title with Thanksgiving win over Atlanta Falcons
This marks the third consecutive season that the Saints have won the NFC South, the best such streak in franchise history.
The Saints' victory over the Falcons avenged a humbling setback against Atlanta in Week 10, a 26-9 loss at home that ended a six-game winning streak for New Orleans.
The Saints improved to 10-2 on the season, while the second-place team in the NFC South — the Carolina Panthers — are 5-6 heading into Week 13. The Falcons, meanwhile, fell to 3-9.
The Falcons made the Saints sweat it out late, making a frenzied late-game comeback attempt. The Falcons were successful on consecutive onside kicks. The first successful onside kick came after a touchdown trimmed the Saints' lead to 26-15, and led to a Younghoe Koo's field goal that made it a one-possession game. However, the Falcons couldn't capitalize on the second successful onside kick. The drive was thwarted at midfield as Cameron Jordan sacked Matt Ryan on fourth down to end the comeback threat.
“We had to drop back and pass at the end of the game,” Ryan said. “When you do that and there’s really no threat of run, it’s tough sledding, particularly when you’re going against a good defense, a very good defensive line and one of the better pass rushers in the game in Cam Jordan.”
Taysom Hill had quite a game. He blocked a punt. That led to the Saints' first touchdown, which was scored by Hill. He later ran for a touchdown on a third-and-1 play late in the second quarter.
“When you have guys like Mike Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, the list goes on, it kind of creates opportunities for little old me because it creates so much attention that’s put on those guys,” Hill said.
“Coach (Sean Payton) is one of the best at being creative and putting guys in positions to be successful. I got lucky because I was that guy tonight.”
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The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers also can earn postseason berths in Week 13. With a win on Monday night against the Texans, and either a Raiders and Steelers loss (or tie), the Patriots would clinch a playoff berth for the 11th consecutive season. With a win Sunday against the Ravens, and a Rams loss (or tie), the 49ers will clinch their first playoff berth since 2013.
The 49ers also represent the Saints' next opponent, as the two teams meet at the Superdome on Dec. 8 in a showdown that could decide home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
Contributing: The Associated Press.