In the final game of the 2023 NFL regular season, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons 48-17 in a lopsided affair. However, it was a controversial touchdown by the Saints with just over a minute left that made headlines, as Saints players went against their coaches’ orders and scored to pile on the Falcons.
This move outraged Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who got into a heated verbal altercation with Saints coach Dennis Allen after the game. The controversial touchdown and subsequent spat between the coaches have sparked debate around proper sportsmanship and respect between rivals.
Saints March Downfield on Kneel Down Play
Leading 41-17 with just over a minute remaining, it seemed the Saints would follow traditional protocol and have quarterback Jameis Winston take a knee to run out the clock. However, the Saints had other plans.
On first down from the Falcons’ 1-yard line, Saints running back Jamaal Williams took a handoff and crashed into the end zone for a touchdown. The play clearly caught the Falcons by surprise:
“You’re taking a knee right there if you’re the Saints… the Falcons defense just stopped, they thought the play was over,” said one announcer during the play.
Saints coach Dennis Allen confirmed after the game that scoring the touchdown was not his call: “It was not my decision to go for it on that last touchdown. That was something the players wanted to do and I allowed them to do it.”
Jubilant Saints Players Claim “Team Decision”
In postgame interviews, Saints players were adamant that scoring the late touchdown was a collective team decision against the coaches’ orders.
“It was straight a team thing, coaches had nothing to do with it,” said QB Jameis Winston. “We felt like we wanted to get seven points on the board, get Jamaal his touchdown…It was a team effort, man.”
Running back Mark Ingram claimed “everybody was in on it – the whole team…We wanted to cap it off for the team.”
|Saints Scoring Drives
|Mark Ingram: 2
|Alvin Kamara: 2
|Chris Olave: 1
|Taysom Hill: 1
|Jamaal Williams: 1
While the Saints players presented a united front on wanting to score, their defiance of the coaches and piling on the struggling Falcons did not sit well with many.
Arthur Smith Furious in NSFW Outburst
The controversial touchdown led to a heated verbal altercation between Saints coach Dennis Allen and Falcons coach Arthur Smith.
Clear audio caught Smith yelling at Allen in an explicit outburst:
“What the f*** are you doing? You won the f****** game, Arthur Smith screamed at Saints head coach Dennis Allen.”
Smith was visibly distraught and had to be held back by staff as he continued shouting expletives towards the Saints sideline. Allen later apologized to Smith, but it did little to quell the fiery Falcons coach.
In his postgame press conference, Smith blasted the Saints’ move as “some bulls***”, while Falcons players voiced their frustration over the perceived lack of sportsmanship:
“It was very unprofessional,” said Falcons DT Grady Jarrett. “I think it was tasteless…in a way that lacks class.”
Fallout and Reactions
The incident between the NFC South rivals sparked divided reaction around the NFL.
Many analysts and former players condemned the Saints’ late touchdown as an unnecessary breach of decorum:
“It’s a dagger to the heart of Arthur Smith,” said former NFL quarterback Danny Kanell. “The Saints really showed their ass there at the end.”
However, some defended the Saints’ players seizing the moment:
“Would I prefer sportsmanship in that scenario? Yes,” said ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky. “But I’m never going to get mad at guys making plays when they can.”
There has also been debate whether Dennis Allen losing control of his team reflects poorly on him as he finishes his first year replacing longtime coach Sean Payton.
What Next for Falcons and Arthur Smith?
The lopsided defeat drops the Falcons to a 7-10 final record in Smith’s third year as head coach. Missing the playoffs again immediately raised speculation about Smith’s job security.
Sure enough, within hours of Sunday’s game the Falcons announced they were firing Smith after three seasons. The controversial touchdown clearly seemed to play into the franchise’s decision to move on from their embattled coach.
For the Saints, attention will now turn to the playoffs as they ride momentum from a 7-0 record over the last half of the season. Dennis Allen will surely aim to reassert his authority in the locker room to prevent another defiance of team hierarchy.
But for now, the Saints appear ready to make noise with their first playoff appearance since 2020. Their dominant victory over the Falcons punctuated their remarkable in-season turnaround, even if the ending exposed tensions between New Orleans players and coaches.
This breaking news story will be updated as more details and reactions emerge from the dramatic conclusion of Saints-Falcons and firing of Arthur Smith. The controversial touchdown and heated coaches exchange will remain the subject of lively debate around the NFL.
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