ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman brushed off a choking gesture made by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game, a gesture seemingly in reference to Atlanta blowing a 28-3 lead in last season’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
The exchange occurred with 12 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in regulation with the Saints leading 17-10. It followed Freeman’s run for no gain near the New Orleans’ sideline.
Freeman, who grew up in the Miami projects, addressed the topic after the game.
“Man, I saw it,” a chuckling Freeman told reporters after the Falcons’ 20-17 win. “That man don’t know nothing about choking. He ain’t from where I’m from. He don’t know about choking. 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.”
Asked if he thought Payton tried to get in his head for an edge, Freeman said, “He ain’t going to get it off me. I’m a different animal. He’s tripping. But, it’s all good.”
The Falcons ended up scoring on that same drive when quarterback Matt Ryan hit receiver Mohamed Sanu for an 8-yard touchdown. Later, Matt Bryant‘s 52-yard field goal allowed Atlanta to escape with the three-point win.
Freeman expressed his satisfaction over beating New Orleans in a tweet, only to delete the post.
If Payton said anything to go along with the gesture, Freeman didn’t hear it, or at least ignored it.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” Freeman said. “I don’t know what he said.”
Payton, when asked postgame about the gesture, said: “I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that.”