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For Saints coach Dennis Allen, players' decision to score late vs. Atlanta was no mutiny

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints coach Dennis Allen is taking a nuanced view of his players' decision to disobey coaches' orders and hand the ball off to Jamaal Williams for a 1-yard touchdown run in the final minute of a season-ending 48-17 victory over Atlanta.

With a night to digest what happened, Allen stuck by comments he made immediately after Sunday's game that players were wrong to overrule coaches. But he also painted his players' conduct in that moment as an isolated incident under somewhat unique circumstances — not as an act of disrespect toward Saints coaches.

“Those players went out and played their tail off in the last five games of the season — and I've been on teams where that doesn't happen," Allen said Monday, referring to the Saints' four convincing victories in their final five games to finish at 9-8 and narrowly out of the NFC playoff picture.

“So, no, I don't believe there was any fracture” between the players and staff, Allen added.

The Saints found themselves with the ball at the Atlanta 1 after Tyrann Mathieu's late 74-yard interception return. From there, New Orleans could have — and arguably should have — run out the clock, in sportsman-like fashion, by taking a knee after a couple snaps.

But Williams, who joined the team as a free agent last offseason, had not scored all season. So, reserve quarterback Jameis Winston told the offense in the huddle that he would hand off to Williams — if that's what the players on the field wanted to do.

The Saints then lined up in “victory formation," as if to take a knee, but instead handed off to Williams for the score. The Falcons reacted angrily to the play, and Allen said apologetically after the game that he did not blame them for being upset.

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who has never shied away from trash-talking about the rival Falcons, said he was “glad nobody got injured," and “glad Jamaal got a touchdown.”

"We’ll address whatever (insubordination) that is in-house," Jordan added. "I think it came from a great spot in somebody’s heart to give my guy a touchdown. If the world wants to keep bringing it up, continue. The world isn’t this locker room. ... At the same time, it’s dope that Jamaal got a touchdown.”

Saints center Erik McCoy also shot down the notion that the Williams TD run was an act of irreverence toward coaches.

“It has nothing to do with them,” McCoy said. “That's pretty much all I have to say about it.”

Tight end Foster Moreau echoed those sentiments, although he regretted certain aspects of the play.

“In no way shape or form was it a disrespect or a mutiny against any player, coach, fan or anyone" in management, Moreau asserted.

“The question was posed in the huddle about what we wanted to do on the play, and we had received our instructions and went against them,” Moreau continued. "Right or wrong or indifferent, it's just kind of what happened. Jamaal had no touchdowns on the year. He bleeds and fights just like the rest of us — awesome, awesome dude. I'm glad he got in the end zone. I wish we didn't do it out of a victory formation. It is what it is.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL