Taysom Hill blocked a punt to set up his 3-yard touchdown catch, later scored on a 30-yard run and the New Orleans Saints clinched their third straight NFC South title by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 26-18 on Thursday night.
With Julio Jones out due to a shoulder injury, the Falcons had too little offence to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints. Atlanta recovered two onside kicks in the closing minutes, including one with 1:54 remaining, to make things interesting.
Matt Ryan was sacked by Cameron Jordan on a fourth-down play from the New Orleans 44 with 38 seconds remaining. Ryan was sacked nine times, including four by Jordan.
The Saints (10-2) atoned for their 26-9 home loss to the Falcons on Nov. 10. It was the Saints’ only defeat in their last 10 games. The versatile Hill blocked Ryan Allen’s punt to end Atlanta’s first possession.
The Saints took over at the Falcons 30, and four plays later Hill scored his first touchdown on the short pass from Brees.
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Hill took a direct snap and ran 30 yards for his first rushing touchdown of the season to give New Orleans a 17-6 lead late in the first half.
The disappointing Falcons (3-9) solidified their hold on last place in the division with their second straight home defeat.
With Jones missing a game for the first time since 2016, and Atlanta tight ends Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker held out with injuries, Ryan had to look for new targets.
Ryan threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Russell Gage with less than four minutes remaining. Christian Blake had six catches for 57 yards.
The Saints return home to play San Francisco on Dec. 8. The Falcons play their fifth straight game against an NFC South rival when they face Carolina on Dec. 8. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 29-3 on Nov. 17.
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