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Week 12: What happened in Falcons home win over the Saints

The Falcons moved to 5-6 on the season after their Week 12 contest with the Saints. 

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons cashed in on a much-needed 24-15 post-bye Week 12 win Sunday over the rival New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Below is how every game recap this 2023 season will be broken down by quarter for right-at-the-buzzer consumption, starting with a note that Atlanta won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. New Orleans started with the ball.


Both the Saints and Falcons went three-and-out on their first attempts on offense. The Saints, however, used nine plays to set up a 25-yard field goal made by kicker Blake Grupe to put the first points on the board.

The Saints were knocking on the Falcons' door the next time their offense took the field. A 36-yard completion from Saints quarterback Derek Carr to tight end Taysom Hill did most of the damage. But Falcons safety Jessie Bates III intercepted Carr on a third-and-3 play at the Atlanta 12-yard line and returned the pick 92 yards for a touchdown.

(NOTE: That was Bates' 18th career interception, his second pick-six. He now has four interceptions for the Falcons this season alone.)

Atlanta held a four-point lead over New Orleans at the end of the first quarter thanks to Bates. The Falcons otherwise had 48 total net yards compared to the Saints' 163 through the opening 15 minutes of work. Carr completed eight of his 12 passes for 129 yards. Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder completed one of his four passes for 25 yards.

Scoring plays:

Saints: Blake Grupe 25-yard field goal … 3-0, NOR
Falcons: Jessie Bates III 92-yard interception return; Younghoe Koo PAT … 7-3, ATL

End Q1: 7-3, ATL


The Saints maintained possession when the next period began. Their drive stalled out at the Falcons 34-yard line, brining out their special-teams unit again. This time, Grupe was good from 52 yards out.

Instead of the Falcons defense answering the Saints' added points, the offense did. Atlanta compiled a 10-play, 78-yard drive that was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Bijan Robinson. Ridder had two scrambles for a 15 and 12 yards that helped move the Falcons down the field.

(NOTE: That was Robinson's third rushing touchdown this season.)

The Saints couldn't punch it in again when they got into Falcons territory. A holding penalty, an 11-yard completion but then back-to-back incomplete passes drew up fourth-and-9 at the Atlanta 23-yard line. Grupe added a 41-yard field goal to his list.

The Falcons had the final possession of the first half, tacking on 12 plays and 65 yards. They got all the way to the Saints' 10-yard line, when Ridder was intercepted by Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu at the 1-yard line. There was then a scuffle on the field, but the unnecessary roughness penalties on Falcons tight end Jonnu Smith and Saint defensive lineman Khalen Saunders offset each other.

There was not enough time on the clock for the Saints to do anything with the turnover, though.

Scoring plays:

Saints: Blake Grupe 52-yard field goal … 7-6, ATL
Falcons: Bijan Robinson 10-yard run; Younghoe Koo PAT … 14-6, ATL
Saints: Blake Grupe 41-yard field goal … 14-9, ATL

Halftime: 14-9, ATL


It certainly took a while for any points to come into play after both teams returned from their respective locker rooms. But a big theme in the beginning of the third quarter was Saints injuries. Wide receiver Chris Olave, center Erik McCoy and tight end Juwan Johnson all went down during the New Orleans' first drive. Wide receiver Rashid Shaheed's return was already questionable.

The Saints' 14-play, 65-yard drive ultimately ended in a 45-field goal from Grupe.

The Falcons' next drive, meanwhile, ended in another interception. Mattie picked off Ridder again.

Bates came in clutch, though, and forced a fumble out of Hill that Falcons defensive lineman Albert Huggins recovered.

That set the Falcons up well for the final period.

Scoring plays:

Saints: Blake Grupe 45-yard field goal … 14-12, ATL

End Q3: 14-12, ATL


The Falcons turned the Bates-Huggins turnover into a touchdown. Their offensive drive began at their own 5-yard line. Nine plays later -- one of which was a 26-yard pass from Ridder to Robinson -- and they're back in the Saints' end zone.

(NOTE: That was Robinson's third receiving touchdown this season. He now has six overall.)

Grupe stepped up for the Saints when their offense could not, again. He made a 39-yard field goal to help New Orleans inch its way closer to Atlanta. Without a touchdown, though, that proved to be difficult. For those keeping count, that's five field goals for Grupe now, meaning the Saints were 0-for-5 in the red zone.

Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo made his first within the final two minutes. He also was successful from 39 yards out.

Grupe attempted a 54-yard field goal with 30 second remaining, but missed.

The Falcons took down the Saints to now be tied for first in the NFC South with 5-6 records. Atlanta is technically on top with a tiebreaker advantage entering Week 13.

Scoring plays:

Falcons: Desmond Ridder 26-yard pass to Bijan Robinson; Younghoe Koo PAT … 21-12, ATL
Saints: Blake Grupe 39-yard field goal … 21-15, ATL
Falcons: Younghoe Koo 39-yard field goal … 24-15, ATL

Final: 24-15, ATL

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints during Week 12.

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