After the Atlanta Falcons suffered a 48–17 defeat to the New Orleans Saints in Week 18, coach Arthur Smith confronted Dennis Allen at midfield, appearing disgruntled. Smith’s displeasure stemmed from the Saints scoring a touchdown in the final minutes using a victory formation. Instead of quarterback Jameis Winston taking a knee to run out the clock, the ball was handed to Jamaal Williams, resulting in a touchdown.
Initially, Smith’s frustration seemed justified, as faking a kneel-down from victory formation contradicts the conventional understanding that the offense is conceding the down.
Postgame interviews, however, clarified the situation. Smith did not call for a fake from victory formation; Winston changed the play because the players wanted Williams to score his first touchdown of the season.
Winston explained, “I apologized to [Allen] because the play was ‘Victory.’ But I also explained to D.A. that it was a team decision. I think that when you have team morale and I asked the guys, ‘What do you want to do?’ We know how much Jamaal means to this team. And I understood from D.A.’s perspective.”
Falcons defensive end Calais Campbell corroborated Winston’s account, confirming that Allen did not endorse the decision to fake the kneel-down.
While this play may be a source of motivation when the Saints and Falcons face off next season, the explanation and Williams’ popularity across the league may alleviate any lingering issues. Winston’s unique perspective on the matter, coupled with the team’s decision-making dynamics, provides a comprehensive understanding of the incident.