From the start of the game, the New Orleans Saints defensive pass rush made its presence felt on Thanksgiving.
On the first play from scrimmage New Orleans Saints’ defensive end Marcus Davenport beat Falcons tackle Jake Matthews and “feasted” on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for the team’s first of nine sacks on the night. Two plays later the Falcons were forced to punt.
In classic New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons fashion, just as Steve Gleason had done in the reopening of the Superdome in 2006 after Katrina Saints,” Mr. Everything” Taysom Hill broke through the Atlanta Falcons punt protection and got a hand on punter Matt Bosher’s kick.
The Saints would take possession on the Atlanta Falcons 30-yard line.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints offense went right to work, and four plays later Brees connected with “Mr. Everything” Taysom Hill on a nice shovel pass that Hill took in to score from six yards out, putting the first points on the board for the Saints.
The next few series would go back and forth with both teams struggling to establish any offense.
The Atlanta Falcons were helped with two costly pass interference calls on Saints cornerback Eli Apple. One would end a 4th and 1 goal-line stand by the Saints defense and the other would lead to Atlanta’s first score.
Matt Ryan would then find his tight end Jaeden Graham for an 18-yard touchdown. The extra points was then missed by Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo.
The Saints’ defensive line was in the Falcons backfield as much as Atlanta’s running backs were. As they continued to create pressure, wreaking havoc on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and sacking him twice in the first quarter, the defense was responsible for stifling many drives.
The Saints offense would again find it’s rhythm.
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Saints quarterback Drew Brees would then start to connect with 6-5 tight end Jared Cook and All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas who finished the game with six receptions for 48 yards. Thomas also recorded his first dropped pass out of 198 straight catches.
Cook would finish the game with three receptions for 85 yards.
The drive would later stall after Cook dropped would-be be touchdown in the backline of the endzone; the Saints would settle for 3 points.
A few series later, “Mr. Everything ” Taysom Hill would strike again; with two minutes remaining in the half Saints third-string quarterback, Taysom Hill would take a zone-read play 30 yards for a Saints touchdown.
Taysom Hill would finish the game with two carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, two receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown, one blocked punt and a partridge and a pear tree. Oh, wait, is it not Christmas time yet?
The Saints defense got to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan nine times, lead by defensive end Cam Jordan with (4) sacks giving him 13.5 on the season. Rookie defensive back CJ Gardner Johnson recorded his first interception when he stepped in front of one Ryans errant throws.
Undrafted rookie Shy Tuttle also made his presence felt by intercepting Matt Ryan and rumbling 30 yards before issuing a vicious stiff-arm to quarterback Matt Ryan.
New Orleans Saints kicker Will Lutz would again step up big for the Saints connecting on four field goals to help push the Saints lead to 26-9 and then the bottom fell out.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo would convert on two of his three onsides kicks to keep Atlanta’s chances of tying the game alive.
At the end of the day, Taysom Hill was the X-factor. He single-handedly gave the Saints the spark they needed to set the tone of the match-up offensively. Defensively hats off to the Saints defensive line; they made life miserable for Matt Ryan from the first snap of the game.
Overall, this was a great team win.
Drew Brees finished the game 18-for-30 for 184 yards and one touchdown. The 10-2 Saints clinched the division for the third straight year.
There are still some kinks in the armor but with the possible return of Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat on the banged-up offensive line, the Saints may be getting healthy offensively at the right time of the season.
Sidenote: Taysom Hill is invited to all cookouts and Saintsgiving celebrations.