Falcons coach Arthur Smith heated with Saints, Dennis Allen after sneaky garbage-time TD in blowout

Hours after game, Atlanta fired Smith

The New Orleans Saints finished their season Sunday with a 48-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons punctuated by an extra dig at their biggest rival.

After the game, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was heated. He let Saints head coach Dennis Allen know it. Smith's fury was triggered by a tricky late Saints touchdown that piled on to the lopsided final score.

Adding to the indignity for Smith, he was fired late Sunday night.

Saints feign kneel-down, score garbage-time TD

With New Orleans leading 41-17 late in the fourth quarter, Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted Logan Woodside and returned the ball to the Atlanta 1-yard line. With a 24-point lead, the Saints lined up on the ensuing play for what looked like a kneel-down with 1:13 remaining. Instead of kneeling, quarterback Jameis Winston handed the ball off to Jamaal Williams, who ran it in for a touchdown.

The touchdown extended the Saints' lead to 48-17 as Williams found the end zone for the first time this season. It also left Smith furious with Allen.

There was no postgame handshake between the two coaches. Smith instead gave Allen an earful as the two met at midfield at the end of the game.

"That's f***ing bulls***," Smith said.

"I understand that," Allen responded.

We'll leave the rest of the lip reading for you.

The play and Smith's retort were the latest in one of the NFL's most bitter rivalries. It also prompted a postgame response from Allen, who told reporters that players made the decision on their own.

Arthur Smith was not happy with the Saints on Sunday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Arthur Smith was not happy with the Saints on Sunday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Dennis Allen apologizes

"We should have taken a knee right there," Allen told reporters at the top of his news conference. "They asked me about getting Jamaal a touchdown at the end. I said I wanted to take a knee, we put victory [formation] out there. The guys kind of wanted to get him a touchdown. They did that on their own. That’s unacceptable."

Allen then apologized.

"That's not who we are," Allen said. "That's not how we operate. We should have taken a knee. I want to apologize to them. We've got a good rivalry, and it's a heated rivalry. But there's a way we go about doing our business, and I wasn't happy about that."

Saints players explain decision to go for TD

Saints players including Williams and Winston confirmed that they decided in the huddle to go for the touchdown.

"It's all about team," Winston said, per Rod Walker of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "The team decided that we wanted to get Jamaal in the end zone, so we did that."

Winston described the call as "a collective decision" — one that was clearly made without Allen.

The win by the Saints eliminated the Falcons from the postseason while keeping their own slim wild-card hopes alive until the Packers eliminate them later on Sunday with a victory over the Bears. The late touchdown added spice to an already heated rivalry. Don't expect the Falcons to forget this when the two meet again next season.