Falcons’ Arthur Smith was hot about late TD

Saints coach Dennis Allen apologized for his player disobeying his orders

NEW ORLEANS – If it was Arthur Smith’s last game as the Falcons head coach, he went out in style.

He was not happy with the Saints scoring a late touchdown in the victory formation. Running back Jamaal Williams, who led the league in touchdowns with 17 last season with Detroit, had not scored a touchdown this season.

The Saints players felt it was time for him to see the end zone again and against coach Dennis Allen’s instructions they hammered in it from a yard out with 1:10 to play.

“That was (expletive) BS,” Smith said.

“You can do whatever you want,” Smith said. “I just gave him my opinion about it, but it doesn’t take away the fact that they beat us. In the second half they took advantage of our turnovers and they hit some shots.”

Allen apologized after the game.

“I want to start off by apologizing to Arthur Smith and the Falcons,” Allen said. “That was not a play that we intended to run down there to finish off the game. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We should have taken a knee, so I want to apologize to them. We have a good rivalry, and it’s a heated rivalry, but there’s a way we go about doing our business.”

It was 17-17 at halftime and then things went sideways after Desmond Ridder tossed an interception in the third quarter. The Falcons were outscored 31-0 in the second half.

“It was sort of crazy,” Falcons outside linebacker Bud Dupree said. “The more you play this game, the more situations occur. To be able to bounce back from it and use it as fuel for each player, especially the young guys going into the next season.”

The Falcons finished 7-10 under Smith for the third season in a row. They were hoping for a breakthrough campaign, but inconsistent play on offense doomed their best efforts.

The decision to make Desmond Ridder the starting quarterback will be heavily scrutinized this offseason.

“You figure things out,” Dupree said. “Your needs. Your wants. It’s never the way you want it to end. At the end of the day, adversity brings out the best out in a man. Going forward each individual will grow from this experience.”

The Falcons also tipped their hats to Saints quarterback Derek Carr, who tossed four touchdown passes.

“Derek Carr is one of those guys who’s been in the league for a while and knows what to do in big moments,” Dupree said. “That was his opportunity, and he took advantage of it.”

The players want Smith back.

On behalf of Art, everyone wants Art to come back,” Dupree said. “Art is one of those guys who knows that we love him in general. He just has to get his guy (at quarterback). We’ll be able to hold him down on our side of the ball and continue to grow on that side ball. Continue to grow on that side of it…if everything lines up for him, everyone in this locker room will be hell bent on wheels when he comes back.”

Ridder found out 90 minutes before the game that he would be starting.

“We went out,” Ridder said. “(Taylor Heinicke) did a workout. Came back and he said I was going today. I had been preparing all week as if I was the starter. That time came.”

Falcons safety Jessie Bates, one of two players on the team named to the Pro Bowl, knows this was a poor showing.

“I’m sure there is bunch of question marks right now,” Bates said. “We put ourselves in that type of position. I know one thing, I’ll be here next year.”

Bates, who signed a four-year, $64 million deal in free agency, may be playing for a new coach.

“This one will sting for a little bit,” Bates said. “Every day I go to work in the offseason I’ll remind myself that I need to be a better leader, a better teammate to get us over the hump. To get us on that winning streak that Atlanta, Georgia deserves.”

Right guard Chris Linstrom, who was also named to the Pro Bowl, took the defeat hard.

“It really (expletive),” Lindstrom said. “The heart of this team. We love each other and battled to the end. We obviously fell short and made mistakes.”

The Falcons needed a win and for the Bucs to lose to the Panthers to win the NFC South title.

“It would have meant everything,” Lindstrom said. “We all knew that, understanding that going in. Just that was out of our control and all we could do was focus on trying to win this game. We knew that going in. We knew the ramifications of everything in terms of the playoffs heading into today.”

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