New Orleans Saints have enjoyed a tremendously successful season to date but on Thursday Night Football they hit a huge roadblock.
That bump in the road came in the form of the Atlanta Falcons, who edged out the Saints late in the fourth quarter to pull off a 20-17 victory at the Georgia Dome.
The defeat dropped New Orleans down to 9-4 on the season while the Falcons are only one game back with an 8-5 record.
But it wasn’t just the result that was frustrating for Saints head coach Sean Payton, the game itself sent him towards boiling point. Eventually, he let his emotions go and completely lost it at a key moment.
Following on from a Falcons’ interception of Drew Brees in the endzone with just 1:25 left on the clock, New Orleans were still in position to get one last shot to tie or take the lead.
But just when a third-and-six was approaching for the Falcons in their own end, the chance to force a three-and-out was wasted when coach Payton was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Payton was called for what he said to an official on the sidelines after he tried and eventually got a timeout for his team.
The NFL are reportedly looking into Payton’s conduct and he could be fined, but for his part, the Saints head coach was open and honest about why he reacted the way he did.
“I called a timeout, and then he asked me again, and I said I have already called a timeout,” Payton told reporters after the game. “I probably said it with a little more vigor than I was supposed to but I had enough. I have to be smarter than that.”
But Payton’s actions weren’t really about that one play. New Orleans and Atlanta faced off in a contest that was littered with 15 penalties, with Payton blaming the officials as his side were penalized eleven times.
“It was just one of those games. I have never seen anything like it,” Payton added. “I have never been a part of a game like that and it is frustrating but our guys will bounce back.
“I thought the officiating was extremely poor. Inconsistent would be a great way to put it, and I thought that had a lot to do with the way this game ended.”
What’s important now for the Saints is moving forward and they get a chance to do that on Sunday, December 12 at home to the New York Jets. New Orleans get a rematch with Atlanta on Christmas Eve at home before travelling to Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 17 to round off the NFL regular season.
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