Skip to main content

Week 18: What happened in Falcons road loss to Saints

The Falcons finish out their regular season with a 7-10 record after their Week 18 finale in New Orleans. 

NEW ORLEANS — The Atlanta Falcons close out their 2023 season with a 48-17 loss in Week 18 to the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome.

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. The Saints started with the ball.


The Falcons were able to strike first, after their defense held the Saints offense to a four-play, 10-yard opening drive. Quarterback Desmond Ridder then led a seven-play, 79-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 15-yard completion to tight end Jonnu Smith in the end zone. Wide receiver Scotty Miller had a 56-yard catch that ate up most of the distance.

The lead didn't last long, though. The Saints answered with an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver A.T. Perry to tie things up with about five minutes remaining in the quarter.

Well, that tie was even more short-lived. On the Falcons' second play of their next drive, Ridder completed a short pass to running back Bijan Robinson, who turned it into a 71-yard touchdown.

At the end of the quarter, Ridder had a stat line of 5-of-5 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was a perfect 158.3.

Scoring plays:

Falcons: Desmond Ridder 15-yard pass to Jonnu Smith; Younghoe Koo PAT … 7-0, ATL
Saints: Derek Carr 18-yard pass to AT Perry; Blake Grupe PAT … 7-7, TIE
Falcons: Desmond Ridder 71-yard pass to Bijan Robinson; Younghoe Koo PAT … 14-7, ATL

End Q1: 14-7, ATL


The Saints held possession at the Atlanta 34-yard line when the clock was refreshed. They were able to march downfield to get close enough to the goal line for Saints running back Kendre Miller to score by foot from 2 yards out. Tied game, again.

(INJURY: Falcons linebacker Kaden Elliss has a knee injury and is questionable to return, it was announced at the 13:37 mark.)

Neither the Falcons nor the Saints could pull ahead until the end of the period. The Saints were the team to do so, taking the lead for the first time. It wasn't a touchdown, though, so just a slight lead. Kicker Blake Grupe made a 24-yard field goal after an eight-play, 32-yard drive stalled out at the Atlanta 6-yard line. The Saints were able to begin that drive already in Atlanta territory after Falcons punter Bradley Pinion shanked a punt for just 27 yards.

The Falcons had less than a minute remaining when the offense retook the field. Ridder threw his first incomplete pass to open this drive. It was intended for wide receiver Van Jefferson but fell flat. Ridder was still able to advance the offense enough to give kicker Younghoe Koo the opportunity to tie the game back up. Which he did. Koo made a 30-yard field goal as time expired.

Scoring plays:

Saints: Kendre Miller 3-yard run; Blake Grupe PAT … 14-14, TIE
Saints: Blake Grupe 24-yard field goal … 17-14, NOR
Falcons: Younghoe Koo 30-yard field goal … 17-17, TIE

Halftime: 17-17, TIE


Right out of the locker room, the Falcons had a series of unfortunate events. First, Elliss' game status was downgraded to out. Then, Ridder threw an interception. After that, Carr completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Olave. All that happened within the opening two minutes.

The touchdown catch was crazy. The football bounced off Falcons cornerback Clark Phillips' helmet and into Olave's hands.

The Falcons failed to bounce back, going three-and-out. The Saints, meanwhile, continued to roll and scored again on their next drive. Carr found wide receiver Rashid Shaheed deep in the end zone, and Shaheed managed to make the 39-yard pass completion.

Atlanta got close to cutting New Orleans' lead to one touchdown, but a fourth-down pass attempt from the 2-yard line was batted away in the end zone. The Saints took over on down with about a minute left in the quarter.

Scoring plays:

Saints: Derek Carr 26-yard pass to Chris Olave; Blake Grupe PAT … 24-17, NOR
Saints: Derek Carr 39-yard pass to Rashid Shaheed; Blake Grupe PAT … 31-17, NOR

End Q3: 31-17, NOR


(INJURY: Falcons tight end MyCole Pruitt has a knee injury and is questionable to return, it was announced at the start of the quarter.)

The same theme from the third quarter carried over into the fourth. The Saints continued to pad their lead, adding a 24-yard field goal from Grupe and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Perry. The touchdown drive was set up by a Falcons turnover. Ridder fumbled a bad snap and the Saints recovered the loose ball at the Atlanta 10-yard line.

(NOTE: As the Saints successfully executed their point-after attempt, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers and clinched the NFC South. The Falcons have no way of making the playoffs now.)

Really, there's not much more to share in this space. Logan Woodside replaced Ridder at quarterback. But that did not provide any type of spark. Woodside threw an interception of his own actually, getting picked off by Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu. It was nearly a pick-six, but Mathieu fell a yard short. Saints running back Jamaal Williams finished off the short distance to deliver the final blow to the Falcons.

And with that, the 2023 season comes to an end.

Scoring plays:

Saints: Blake Grupe 24-yard field goal … 34-17, NOR
Saints: Derek Carr 6-yard pass to AT Perry; Blake Grupe PAT … 41-17, NOR
Saints: Jamaal Williams 1-yard run; Blake Grupe PAT … 48-17, NOR

Final: 48-17, NOR

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans at Caesars Superdome during Week 18.

Related Content