That chance evaporated when head coach Sean Payton sprinted on the field toward an official and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty gave the Falcons the one first down they needed to run out clock and seal the 20-17 victory.
Payton said he’d had enough after 10 previous penalties were called against his team during the game.
“I called a time out and then he asked me again and I said ‘I’ve already called the time out.’ Probably said it with a little more oomph or vigor than I was supposed to [but] I had enough. I got to be smarter than that.”
The Saints had called their second timeout after a first down carry by Devonta Freeman and Payton was attempting to call the team’s final timeout after Freeman fumbled on second down with Atlanta retaining possession. He charged onto the field in the direction of an official when the flag was thrown and costing the Saints 15 yards and their last chance to win the game.
“I thought we fought a lot of things outside of just the football game,” Payton said in his opening comments before discussing the penalty.
“Just one of those games,” he said. “Listen, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never been a part of a game like that. Frustrating, but our guys, we’ll bounce back.”