Taysom Hill scored two touchdowns, and Wil Lutz kicked four field goals as the visiting New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South championship by beating the Atlanta Falcons 26-18 on Thursday night.
Hill, a backup quarterback who plays a variety of roles, deflected a punt to set up his touchdown reception from Drew Brees, and he replaced Brees on a third-down play that produced his rushing touchdown.
The Saints (10-2) won their third consecutive division title by avenging a 26-9 home loss to the Falcons 18 days earlier.
Brees had relatively modest statistics, completing 18 of 30 for 184 yards, but that was more than enough thanks to Hill’s big plays and the Saints defense, which created three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan nine times.
Ryan, playing without injured top receiver Julio Jones, completed 35 of 50 for 312 yards and two touchdowns. However, he threw interceptions to rookie defensive lineman Shy Tuttle and rookie defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
He also fumbled in the fourth quarter when hit by Marcus Davenport, and Vonn Bell recovered for New Orleans.
The victory kept New Orleans within one loss of NFC West leader San Francisco (10-1) for the top spot in the conference. The 49ers, who visit AFC North-leading Baltimore on Sunday, visit the Saints on Dec. 8.
The Saints led 17-9 at halftime and extended the advantage on Lutz’s 47-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Lutz added a 42-yarder and a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter before Ryan threw a 13-yard touchdown to Russell Gage with 3:26 left.
The Falcons (3-9) recovered an onside kick, and Youngshoe Koo kicked a 43-yard field goal before they recovered another onside kick. They finally turned the ball over on downs at the Atlanta 48.
At the end of the game’s first possession, Hill tipped a punt by Atlanta’s Ryan Allen, and the Saints gained possession as the New Orleans 30.
Four plays later, Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Hill to produce the only points in the first quarter.
Ryan threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jaeden Graham, but Koo missed the extra point, leaving New Orleans with a 7-6 lead.
Lutz kicked a 22-yard field goal, Hill ran 30 yards for a touchdown, and Koo booted a 45-yard field goal to leave the Saints with a 17-9 lead heading into halftime.
—Field Level Media