Taysom Hill threw for two touchdowns as the visiting New Orleans Saints became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth by posting a 21-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
Alvin Kamara added a rushing touchdown for the Saints (10-2), who won their ninth consecutive game and clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth after Chicago dropped a 34-30 decision to Detroit.
The victory gave the first-place Saints a three-game lead over idle Tampa Bay (7-5) in the NFC South. New Orleans is seeking its fourth consecutive division title.
Hill improved to 3-0 while replacing Drew Brees, who is eligible to come off of injured reserve next week.
New Orleans beat Atlanta (4-8) for the second time in three weeks after Matt Ryan’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
Kamara’s 11-yard touchdown run increased New Orleans’ halftime lead to 21-9 with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter.
The Saints were driving toward another potential score when they reached the Atlanta 5-yard line, but Hill lost a fumble.
The Falcons drove 85 yards and Ryan threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Russell Gage for the first touchdown against the Saints defense in 15 quarters. The score cut New Orleans’ lead to 21-16 with 7:43 remaining.
Atlanta reached the New Orleans’ 13-yard line in the final two minutes. Todd Gurley lost nine yards on third down and Ryan threw an incompletion on fourth down.
The Falcons got the ball back at their 15 after a New Orleans punt. Ryan drove them into Saints territory before D.J. Swearinger batted away the quarterback’s final pass attempt.
Ryan completed 19 of 39 for 273 yards with one touchdown. He was sacked three times after being sacked eight times in the first meeting.
New Orleans opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown reception by Tre’Quan Smith, with the throw serving as Hill’s first career touchdown pass. Younghoe Koo’s 53-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Koo kicked a 30-yard field goal before Hill threw a 28-yard touchdown to tight end Jared Cook to give the Saints a 14-6 lead. Koo’s 28-yard field goal cut the lead to 14-9 at halftime.