NEW ORLEANS — Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees, 73, was carted off the field after a collision with a Saints player during warmups about 40 minutes before the scheduled kickoff Sunday against New Orleans.
During the third quarter, the Falcons said Pees was treated and released from University Medical Center New Orleans. He rejoined the Falcons for the flight back to Atlanta after the game.
“Thankfully, Dean is back with us,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s all right. Obviously, that was a scary moment in pregame and seeing him get on the board and carted off. Certainly, the defensive staff, Frank Bush and those guys rallied. Thankfully, Dean is all right.”
Bush, the team’s linebackers coach, called the game for the Falcons.
“We called them up at the end of warmups; we said our prayers for him,” Smith said. “Tried to update them and be honest about the situation. Everybody in the stadium saw it. It was a scary moment for him. Thankfully, the Saints doctors and our doctors did a helluva job. Got him evaluated and will continue to monitor him.”
Atlanta’s defense gave up touchdowns on the Saints’ first two possessions before settling into the game.
“I don’t know (we were) unsettled,” Smith said. “We were pretty sure that he was OK. ... We were doing a decent job of stopping the run. They made a few plays against some of the zones.”
Bush had help from the defensive staff.
“I think Frank and the staff did a good job of adjusting,” Smith said. “They hit the shot play. They were driving, and the defense bowed up and got the ball out. We were able to stay in it.”
Cornerback A.J. Terrell said the unit was ready to play.
“We were just trying to hold it down for Coach P, do what he expects us to do, what we’re supposed to do,” Terrell said. “Coach Bush was confident in what he was calling, making sure he had us in the right position. We just had to make more plays than we did.”
Atlanta’s defense played better after a rocky start.
“With Coach Bush coming in, you could hardly tell any drop-off,” Terrell said. “Throughout the game he made good calls; we just got to execute them.”
Linebacker Rashaan Evans works with Bush every day, so he was able to work through the calls.
“It’s always a big blow whenever your defensive coordinator goes down,” Evans said. “My prayers go out to him as well. He’s a guy that we depend on as a defense to make the calls and put us in position. I think Frank Bush did a heck of a job as far as moving into his place.”
The players are hoping for a quick recovery for Pees.
“I think, just overall, Dean is (of) the age now, to be able to do the things he’s doing at a high level,” Evans said. “It always hurts to have a guy like that go down.”
Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and others prayed for Pees, who came out of retirement to coach the Falcons in 2021.
“It was unfortunate,” Carter said of Pees, whose family was notified immediately. “We said our prayers for him. I think the coaches did a good job of making sure things were on the same page.”
After the incident occurred, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Smith, general manager Terry Fontenot, president Rich McKay and co-owner Warrick Dunn watched intently from the 40-yard line on the field. Pees was receiving attention at the 35-yard line.
Carter believes the key for the defense settling down came from within.
“Just being ourselves,” Carter said. “We had to settle in and play our brand of football. Just tighten up the little things. That’s what we did. That’s all you can ask.”
In the end, the Falcons lost another one-score game. They are 4-7 in one-score game this season.
“It’s tough, but it’s our job,” Carter said. “We have to do what we have to do to put ourselves in position to win. Accept the results and getting ready to go back and start next week.”
Evans led the Falcons with 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack.
“It’s still unfortunate that you lose a game, another tight game again,” Evans said. “All you can do right now is look forward to these next couple of games and try to finish as best as you can.”
The Falcons play the Ravens on Saturday.
“It’s a short week, so we have to get back moving immediately and give ourselves and hopefully place ourselves in a good position at the end of the season,” Evans said.
The Falcons gave up 150 yards on the first two possessions, including a 68-yard touchdown pass by gadget player Taysom Hill.
“Once we figured out how they were going and how they were moving, I think we started to get on the roll,” Evans said. “You always want to start fast and not give them an opportunity to be able to win games. Any time that we can hold offenses to at least 21 or lower or even 14 or lower, we at least give the offense a chance to win the game.”
The defenders don’t know if Pees will be back to coach against the Ravens, one of his former teams.
“As a defense, we just have got to continue to move forward and in the direction that we are moving,” Evans said. “Continue to keep getting turnovers and doing the little things like that to keep offenses off the field.”
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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule
Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26
Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27
Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23
Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20
Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15
Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14
Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17
Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT
Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17
Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15
Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24
Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13
Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16
Dec. 18 Saints 21, Falcons 18
Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD
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