Saints' head coach Sean Payton is under fire after making 'choking' gesture at an opposing player

  • Saints' head coach Sean Payton made a "choking" gesture towards Falcons running back Devonta Freeman in teh fourth quarter of Thursday night's game.
  • After the game, Payton said he couldn't remember making the gesture.
  • Payton lated picked up a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that would seal the loss for the Saints.


Saints' head coach Sean Payton is under fire after making a "choking" gesture at 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" towards Freeman several times.

The gesture appears to be a reference to the Falcons blown Super Bowl lead against the Patriots last season. It is unclear if Payton was responding to something said to him.

You can watch the moment play out below.

In a peculiar twist, Payton said he couldn't remember making the gesture while speaking with reporters after the game, saying simply, "I don't remember that. I don't remember that."

For his part, Freeman said he did remember the incident, but was able to laugh the whole thing off after Atlanta walked away with the 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.''

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Dec 7, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons nose tackle Dontari Poe (92) in the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Marcus Williams #43 of the New Orleans Saints is upended by Tevin Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons after an interception at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Ted Ginn Jr. #19 of the New Orleans Saints breaks a tackle by Keanu Neal #22 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Dontari Poe #92 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Dontari Poe #92 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 7: Mohamed Sanu #12 of the Atlanta Falcons is upended by P. J. Williams #26 of the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Adrian Clayborn #99 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints dives for a touchdown as he is tackled by De'Vondre Campbell #59 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Dec 7, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams (43) intercepts a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) in the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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As it would turn out, it was Payton who would be the one to 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.

With the win, the Falcons move just a game behind the Saints 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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