Jameis Winston's teammates, past and present, come to his defense after TD brouhaha

Everyone can get off Jameis Winston's back. For anyone who didn't like that the New Orleans Saints quarterback called an audible from a kneel down to a run play, well, that's too bad.

Teammates, both past and present, have been running — not walking — to Winston's aid since he and the Saints decided to help running back Jamaal Williams score his first and only touchdown of the season Sunday in the closing minutes of a blowout win over the Falcons.

Former Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who was officially fired Monday, doesn't have to like it. Saints head coach Dennis Allen, who called to run out the clock, doesn't have to like it.

Pundits in the media don't have to find it polite or savory. And Falcons fans certainly don't have to, either. In fact, New Orleans likes it that much more because their rival doesn't and the Saints ended Atlanta's season in one of the most embarrassing ways possible.

Longtime New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham made that especially clear on X (formerly Twitter) when he came to Winston's defense Monday afternoon.

"Get off [Winston's] back," Graham, who has played six of his 13 seasons with the Saints, said. "This man is the best teammate I’ve ever had. Loves this city, this game and embodies everything you can ask for in a leader. Was a rare situation and we all take responsibility. Nobody thought it would get blown out of proportion. Also f*** the falcons."

Defensive end Cam Jordan took to social media to sing Winston's praises as a teammate.

As did running back Alvin Kamara and former New Orleans tailback Mark Ingram.

Starting quarterback Derek Carr answered questions about the Saints' final play and also lent his support to Winston.

With 1:10 remaining in New Orleans' 48-17 win over the Falcons, Allen told Winston to run victory formation. Even though the Saints sat on the doorstep of a touchdown, with the win very much in hand, the courteous thing to do was not punch it in from a yard out.

But wait, how does the old expression go? All's fair in love and war? Well, the Saints' and Falcons' rivalry comes as close to war as any pair of teams in sports.

With that in mind, Winston and company helped Williams and ran the score up on the Falcons, a win-win if ever there were one for the Saints and their fans. After the game, Williams, the 2022 rushing-touchdown leader, told the media just how much his teammates' decision meant to him.

"I appreciate my teammates more than anything,” Williams said via "They see what I go through, what I’ve been going through this whole year. Trying to help the team in any way I can. I appreciate them for getting me a touchdown."

Smith ran to midfield to curse out Allen, who attempted to apologize to his colleague following the game. During his postgame comments, Allen didn't hold back revealing that it was the players, not him, who made the decision.

“They did that on their own,” Allen said. "That’s not acceptable."

He also said Smith "should be" upset about what took place.

Winston and his teammates made it very clear that running the score up on the Falcons wasn't their motive. The thing they cared about was doing right by their teammate.

“The score was already 41-17, so I don’t know how much worse it can get, but I got a ton of respect for Arthur Smith and the coach that he is,” Winston told the media after the game. “I didn’t want to disrespect [Smith]. That was not my intention. My intention was to lead the team that I’ve been with the entire year, and we made a collective decision that we wanted to get one of our guys that they fight with — blood, sweat and tears, every game — in the end zone. I’m going to feel good about that.

“This is the thing: It’s about the team. It’s not about regrets. It’s not about anything else. It’s about us as a team making a collective decision. But I do apologize to Dennis. I apologize to DA because that was not his call."