Winners and Losers from the Atlanta Falcons hosting the New Orleans Saints in week 12

Jessie Bates III is the MVP of this hard-fought battle for the NFC South lead.
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

The Atlanta Falcons scratched, clawed and fought their way to a lead in the NFC South after beating the Saints 24-15. Desmond Ridder and the offense were moving the ball well, but they had some miscues that led to turnovers. The defense played its best game of the season forcing six field goal attempts and not allowing a single touchdown all game. The special teams was consistent, which is all it needed to be. The Falcons really built a total team win coming out of the bye.

It was needed. If the Falcons had lost, their likelihood of making the playoffs would have dropped to around 10 percent. Their poor performances in the last two games before this one really put a damper on the season and was having a lot of fans call for Arthur Smith's head. This win will only bring some goodwill, but may not bring trust. The Falcons will have to beat a lot of bad teams that are left on their schedule to earn any semblance of trust from the fan base moving forward.

Winner: LBs Kaden Elliss and Nate Landman

Nate Landman only got credited for four tackles and didn't have any tackles for loss, but his solid play stacking blockers to help Kaden Elliss and Jessie Bates get free lanes to the runner really helped out a ton. Elliss had a fantastic game with two tackles for loss and a key pass deflection. The Falcons did miss some tackles out there and these two had a couple as well. But when it came to stuffing the run and not allowing the Saints to get a rhythm on regular carries, they held their gaps and played fantastic in their run fits to force Carr and the Saints to pass.

Loser: EDGE Bud Dupree

Bud Dupree missed a sack on Derek Carr in a clutch moment that was forgiven because Carr's pass was deflected by Dee Alford. He set the edge against the run well. But outside of that, he wasn't creating any pressure and was having trouble with getting around the Saints banged up offensive line. He should have been dominating Andrus Peat and wasn't able to create much pressure at all during the game. The Falcons should be looking for a long-term solution at his position after this season.

Winner: Offensive Line

If there was ever a unit that could claim a get-right game, it's the offensive line. They only allowed four noticeable pressures on Desmond Ridder throughout the game. Luckily, Ridder was able to scramble away from three of them and had a touchdown pass to Bijan Robinson on the fourth. The Falcons had 5.29 yards per carry on designed runs during this one, though. That's a fantastic way to get the offensive line back on the same page. Pass protection was solid. The Falcons punished the Saints on the ground to win this one, and their offensive line did their job.

Loser: WR Van Jefferson

Van Jefferson was targeted twice for one catch of 13 yards and an interception. He wasn't open enough to target outside of the two in the first place. He's been a net negative in the passing offense and at a certain point, the Falcons will have to cut their losses. Jefferson could be a solid wide receiver in the NFL. However, at this point, it's not worth the snaps. The Falcons would be better served playing KhaDarel Hodge in his No. 2 wide receiver role the rest of the season.

Winner: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie

Arnold Ebiketie hasn't been getting a ton of snaps in the defense, but when he's on the field, he makes an impact. He's leading the Falcons with 4.5 sacks on the season and deserves to see more snaps. With Grady Jarrett out for the season, the Falcons need to run more sets with Calais Campbell slotted inside and Ebiketie as the end on that side. They would have a better pass rush and Ebiketie is developing against the run.

Winner: RB Bijan Robinson

Bijan Robinson had a fantastic game. He had 16 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown showing that he should carry the load like this every week. He also had three catches for 32 yards including the game sealing touchdown on a wheel route. The Falcons were finally starting to use more spacing in the offense on the passing side of the ball, but the one mistake Robinson made was cutting his route short on a red zone route that led to an interception. Atlanta needs to continue feeding Robinson moving forward, but the offense needs to continue improving the red zone play-calling.

Loser: S Richie Grant

The Falcons decided to give DeMarcco Hellams a lot more snaps at strong safety and the defense played better because of it. Richie Grant lost his starting role, and while he played well in this one, the Falcons have basically decided that it's a better defense with Hellams enforcing. Grant will still see snaps in the big nickel and big dime sets that the Falcons have been employing, but he's likely not the starting strong safety anymore. Tough break for the former second round pick.

Winner: QB Desmond Ridder

The Falcons had four scoring drives, but they had a total of nine offensive drives on the day. Desmond Ridder threw a clutch touchdown and led a touchdown drive with his arm and legs early in the game as well. The Falcons needed him to make some improvements in feeling pressure, and he turned three potential sacks into 33 rushing yards with his scrambles. That's a huge change and helped the offense keep pushing forward. He's slowly improving, but will it be enough to keep his job long-term?

Loser: QB Desmond Ridder

Ridder did make some great passes throughout this game, but the two interceptions could have been game breaking. The bigger issue is that he wasn't able to close out that final drive of the first half with a touchdown. The Falcons biggest issues with scoring this season are in the middle eight minutes of the game. If they can improve during that time period of the game, they will end up winning a lot more games by much bigger margins. Getting scores before the half and right after the half completely changes momentum. Missing a touchdown right before the half killed the momentum Atlanta had.

Winner: HC Arthur Smith

There were some moments where Arthur Smith looked like a total schmuck out there with his offensive play-calling. However, he did call a solid game for the most part and protected his young quarterback with a lot of run calls and tried to break the will of the Saints by running the ball all game. By wearing down the opposition, they wound up controlling the ball when they needed to at the end of the game. Switching to a punishing running script at the end of the game to wear out the clock before the final field goal was ingenious and was what won the game in the end.

Game MVP: S Jessie Bates

The Falcons needed someone on defense to step up and help them make stops in the red zone. Defensive captain Jessie Bates had a 92-yard pick-six, a forced fumble and 14 total tackles on the day to help the Falcons finish up allowing zero touchdowns. The Falcons held the Saints to 0-for-5 in the red zone and that was what made the biggest difference all game. If the Saints score a touchdown on just one of those red zone opportunities, the Falcons potentially lose this one. Bates has shown this season that he's underpaid.

All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.