- New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton made a “choking” gesture toward Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game.
- After the game, Payton said he couldn’t remember making the gesture.
- Payton later picked up a costly unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that would seal the loss for the Saints.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is under fire after making a “choking” gesture at Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman during Thursday night’s game.
The gesture came with 12 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, with the Saints holding on to a seven-point lead. Freeman took a carry for no gain and was brought down close to the Saints sideline, at which point Payton made the gesture and appeared to say the word “choke” toward Freeman several times.
The gesture appears to be a reference to the Falcons’ blown Super Bowl lead against the New England Patriots last season. It is unclear whether Payton was responding to something said to him.
You can watch the moment play out below.
In a peculiar twist, after the game Payton told reporters he couldn’t remember making the gesture, saying simply: “I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that.”
Freeman said he did remember the incident, but he was able to laugh the whole thing off after Atlanta walked away with the 20-17 win.
“That man don’t know nothing about choking,” Freeman said. “He’s a good competitor. The ‘competes’ probably came out. But we don’t let that bother me. He don’t know nothing about choking.”
— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) December 8, 2017
As it would turn out, it was Payton who would choke on Thursday night. After getting frustrated with an official in the final minute of the game with the Saints needing a stop, Payton got called for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Falcons the first down they needed to seal the game after a fourth-quarter comeback.
With the win, the Falcons (8-5) moved just a game behind the Saints (9-4) for the lead in the NFC South, with the two teams set to meet again in just two weeks in New Orleans.
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