The New Orleans Saints firmly defeated the Atlanta Falcons 48-17 on Sunday, but the blowout victory was overshadowed by a tense confrontation between the coaches after the Saints scored a controversial touchdown in the final minutes.
Saints Build Insurmountable Lead
The Saints dominated the Falcons from the very start, jumping out to a 21-0 lead at halftime thanks to three touchdown passes from Jameis Winston . Winston finished with a stellar line, completing 21 of 29 passes for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns.
New Orleans continued to pour it on in the second half. Running back Alvin Kamara padded the lead with a 12-yard touchdown run, his first of two scores on the day . The Falcons offense had no answers, as the Saints defense intercepted rookie QB Desmond Ridder twice.
By late in the fourth quarter, the Saints had built an insurmountable 41-17 advantage. With the win securely in hand, coach Dennis Allen opted to pull his offensive starters and inserted backup QB Andy Dalton.
Saints Players Defy Coaching Staff to Score Touchdown
What transpired next ignited a firestorm of controversy. With under two minutes remaining and the Saints set to kneel out the clock, the Atlanta defense forced and recovered a Dalton fumble, giving possession back to the Falcons trailing 41-17 . After the turnover, Allen again sent Dalton and the backups onto the field, reportedly instructing them to kneel three times to run out the clock.
However, in an act of defiance, Dalton and the reserve offense instead ran a play toward the end zone, resulting in a 1-yard touchdown by running back Jordan Howard. The “Meaningless Touchdown,” as some are calling it, gave New Orleans a 48-17 lead with just over a minute remaining .
Allen denied there was any “mutiny” among the players and downplayed the incident, but others did not take such a benign view . Former NFL quarterback David Carr called it a “loser mentality” and suggested Winston should be cut for the defiance shown by the reserve players . Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe also ripped Winston, saying he would release the QB immediately for presiding over a perceived “lack of class” .
Falcons Coach Furious in Heated Confrontation
The controversial touchdown ignited intense anger from the Falcons sideline. Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith was shown on video unleashing an expletive-filled tirade directed at Allen and the Saints, furious over what he deemed an unnecessary score .
Smith could be seen yelling angrily and gesturing at Allen, reportedly shouting “What the f*** are you doing?” at the New Orleans sideline .
The Atlanta coach had to be restrained by team personnel as he continued his profanity-laced outburst. After the game, Allen approached Smith on the field and issued an apology for the touchdown, but tensions remained high .
Fallout Continues Amid Questions Over Future
The aftermath from the incident has dominated headlines in the 24 hours since the game concluded. Allen addressed the media and affirmed his expectation that he will return as Saints head coach next season . But the future is not as clear for Smith, as reports emerge that the fiery coach has likely coached his last game for Atlanta .
As late as Monday evening, nearly a full day removed from the game itself, Smith’s blowup continued generating discussion throughout the league . The Falcons controversy adds fuel to existing narratives about the Saints under Allen, with some analysts questioning whether Allen maintains control over the locker room .
Meanwhile, Saints players have come to the defense of Winston, who said after the game he takes “full responsibility” as the team’s leader . But not all pundits seem willing to let Winston off the hook. The contentious touchdown capped off a turbulent season in New Orleans, and uncertainty hangs over the organization heading into a long offseason.
| 2023 Saints Season Results |
| Final Record | 8-9 |
| Division Finish | 3rd in NFC South |
| Points Scored | 349 |
| Points Allowed | 369 |
For the 7-10 Falcons, the search begins for a new head coach after three seasons of the Arthur Smith era. Already eliminated from playoff contention, Sunday’s blowout loss served as the disappointing end to a largely underwhelming 2023 campaign.
The controversy surrounding the “Meaningless Touchdown” seems far from over. But one certainty remains – the rivalry between Atlanta and New Orleans, once again, burns hot.
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