That was way, way too close. The New Orleans Saints got away with one in their Week 15 win over the Atlanta Falcons — making the game so much more difficult than it needed to be with some baffling decisions.
You don’t want to be negative after a victory, but moments like this are why the Saints have a 5-9 record in the first place. It was quite literally the last play the Saints ran on Sunday afternoon, facing 4th-and-1 at the Atlanta 27-yard line.
With 12 seconds left in regulation and a 3-point lead to work with, New Orleans just needed a first down to put the game away. They had just crossed midfield with a Taysom Hill run and went back to that well again, but with a fatal twist: instead of lining up in the shotgun, this time Hill took the snap from under center.
And he fumbled the exchange from Erik McCoy (who was in his first game back after returning from injured reserve this week), giving Atlanta the ball. What gives?
This was the 12th play of the afternoon for Hill at quarterback, but it was his first snap from under center. All 11 plays that preceded it were in shotgun. Of the 61 plays he’s seen at quarterback this season going into this game, 60 of them were in shotgun.
This was only his second snap under center all year (and he didn’t convert a first down on his previous try, either). His inexperience with that role led to a botched exchange and a turnover on downs. Luckily it didn’t matter.
The Saints defense kept Atlanta’s offense from crossing the field before time expired, and New Orleans escaped with a win.
But why did the Saints go this route in the first place? Andy Dalton has run plays out of both shotgun and under center all season, and he executed a quarterback dive on a short-yardage situation earlier in this exact game.
In his career, going into the matchup with Atlanta, Dalton was 15-of-18 as a rusher when needing 3 yards or fewer on fourth down. That’s something he has done really well.
Now, Hill is a better rusher than Dalton in general, there’s no doubt about that. Giving him the nod in a short-yardage look like this is a good call (and it’s something the Saints should do more often).
But it’s important the Saints keep putting him in a position to win and make a play. If they want him trying a dive play like this from under center, they need to put more time into preparing him for it.
Again: they got away with it this time. But they haven’t gotten away with poor execution often enough this season. That’s why the Saints need a ton of help from other teams to get back in the playoff picture.
So celebrate the win, maybe more than you’d otherwise plan to — New Orleans probably didn’t play well enough to win this game, but they got away with it anyway.