New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has praised the contribution of defensive end Keyunta Dawson during his team's 17-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Friday.
The Saints came through a tough test to improve their regular season record to 9-2, but things could have been very different were it not for Dawson's effort to strip wide receiver Darius Johnson of the ball with the Falcons on their 20-yard line with four points separating the teams.
Cornerback Corey White recovered the fumble after Dawson's good work, and Payton was full of praise for his man's efforts afterwards.
“It was a great rally play,” he said. “There were some instincts involved there and yet it was a good hustle and effort play.”
Dawson has been bringing his A-game in recent weeks having made a big-play to help the Saints hold off a late charge to beat the San Francisco 49ers the week before.
Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said Dawson's effort was indicative of the team's positive attitude at the moment.
“One thing we’ve had this year kind of is the ‘next man up’ mentality where somebody gets injured or somebody is out, whoever we put on the field makes plays,” he told reporters.
“To see him come in and make a play wasn’t necessarily surprising because we have seen him play well on special teams. And when guys do that and work hard and fight and work hard on special teams, (defensive coordinator) Rob Ryan likes to put them in specific packages just so they can get their chance to contribute.
“He contributed one of the big plays of the game that we really needed at that point as far as change of momentum and not giving up a score. It kind of ended up being the turning point of the game.”
Dawson signed as a free agent for the Saints in October after being released by the Tennessee Titans.