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Falcons vs. Saints: Hat tips & head-scratchers

New Orleans joins Atlanta at the offseason fishing hole.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Falcons went out with a messy performance against the Saints. We chart the good and bad in Hat tips & head-scratchers.

Hat tips

Russell Gage does more circus stuff

Wide receiver Russell Gage may drop a routine pass here and there, but he clearly has a penchant for the highlight reel snags. He put one of those on tape on Atlanta’s opening drive against the Saints, snaring a 26-yard Matt Ryan pass in over-the-shoulder, one-handed fashion.

The other arm? Well that was of no use because a Saints defender had it wrapped up.

Gage added to that highlight moment by hurdling a Saints defender in the third quarter. He looked like he was galloping mid-air, and it was a thing of beauty.

For a guy drafted as presumptively a gadget player, Russell Gage has certainly had his moments on his rookie deal. For that reason, he’ll likely receive strong offers from other teams — we’ll see if the Falcons want to keep him around.

Younghoe Koo

Another unrestricted free-agent-to-be, Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo showed why he is one of the best kickers in the NFL on Sunday. He drilled two field goals in the first half — one from 48 yards, and the second from 54 yards.

Koo followed up the latter by making the tackle on the ensuing kickoff, a la Matt Bosher.

Younghoe Koo is absolutely deserving of a strong new contract — let’s just hope the Falcons are the ones to give it to him.

Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers stage the comeback, make the playoffs

Hey: Thanks, bud!

Head-scratchers

Saints’ opening drive

The way New Orleans carved up Atlanta’s defense on their opening offensive drive portended disaster for the game ahead. Alvin Kamara snapped off a 27-yard run on the ground, and the Saints moved at-will, with little resistance from the Falcons’ defense.

The 84-yard drive drained nearly seven minutes off the clock, and put a spotlight on a Falcons team that seemed flat and woefully unprepared to face their archrival in the final game of the season.

Fourth-down shovel pass

Matt Ryan was under duress for the entirety of this one — he was sacked four times, and pressured 20 — and the offensive line’s inability to even give him a moment of breathing room was enigmatic in the 4th-&-2 sequence.

Inexplicably, the play call here was a shovel pass to reserve running back Qadree Ollison. The pocket collapsed before Ryan could even somehow make this play work, and Atlanta would turn the ball over on downs.

Still confused on why this was the call in the situation given the O-line’s atrocious performance up to that point, but the larger narrative here is that, once again, that unit will be a primary offseason focus.

Aside from left tackle Jake Matthews and right guard Chris Lindstrom, it’s possible you see a wholesale revamp of the entire offensive line.