Sean Payton praises team’s fighting spirit at end of season

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Familiar faces abounded in the New Orleans Saints’ final game of the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan Ramczyk plugged back in at right tackle.

Tre’Quan Smith scored his second touchdown of the year.

Paulson Adebo made an incredible one-handed interception.

Taysom Hill left the game early after suffering a Lisfranc injury, but Trevor Siemian managed to lead the Saints to their ninth win of the season, beating the Falcons 30-20.

It was their first 30-point game since they smashed the Jets in mid-December, but it was too little too late.

New Orleans’ fate was in the hands of other NFL teams, and things just didn’t go their way. Such is life, and such is the Saints’ 2021 season in a nutshell.

After Week 18’s win, coach Sean Payton spoke about how proud he was of the team getting this far, all things considered.

Sean Payton shows unwavering pride in this 2021 New Orleans Saints squad

New Orleans has had to duct-tape its quarterback room together ever since Drew Brees retired and has dealt with a plethora of injuries to every position group.

The Saints started their season with Jameis Winston’s injury and ended it with yet another quarterback injury, this time to Taysom Hill.

Hill went 7-of-9 for 109 yards and one touchdown before exiting the game, and his replacement, Siemian, went 9-of-15 for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

After barely eking out any offensive production over the last three games, the Saints wasted no time getting points on the scoreboard, going up 24-6 by the half.

The team took care of business against Atlanta in Week 18 despite failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. (That year, the team finished with a losing 7-9 record.)

Payton should be incredibly proud of finishing above .500 in 2021 given how much this team has gone through: weekly quarterback rotations, a depleted wide receiver room, offensive tackle injuries, and so on.

Other NFL teams will no doubt try to poach Sean Payton come offseason. There’s no chance Payton leaves this franchise, though, not on this low note.

Next. 3 takeaways from NOLA Saints’ Week 18 win vs Falcons. dark

The Saints have plenty of rebuilding to do, but they’ve got one of the best coaches in NFL history to ensure that they make it to the playoffs — and perhaps further — next season.