1 WHAT WE LEARNED

The outer ring of lights in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome roof went dark before kickoff, an eerie reminder of the power failure during Super Bowl XLVII. It turned out to be part of the pregame show, but it also foretold the way the Saints’ season is coming to an end. With Sunday’s 30-14 loss to the Falcons and Carolina’s 17-13 win over Cleveland, the Saints have been eliminated from playoff contention. It was a familiar script for the Saints, who opened with one of the season’s most exciting plays — a 99-yard kickoff return by Jalen Saunders. It was downhill after that.

2 TRENDING NOW

Was it a touchdown or was it a fumble? Jimmy Graham’s catch at the goal line and subsequent strip by Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael looked like the last straw for the Saints, who trailed 20-7 when that controversial play happened on the first snap of the fourth quarter. Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees both said they thought it was a touchdown. Graham, who has had to say the least a disappointing season after an acrimonious offseason, had the least to say, bolting from the Saints locker room before reporters arrived.

3 FINAL THOUGHTS

The Saints simply haven’t been a good enough team all season long to be worthy of a playoff berth. New Orleans had some good wins, but teams that lose five straight home games don’t go to the playoffs. The Saints’ last home victory was Oct. 26 against Green Bay, a true Super Bowl contender. The Packers rebounded from that disappointment and are still one of the NFC’s top teams. The Saints have lost five of seven since, never able to deal with or capitalize on success. Better luck next year.

-- Scott Rabalais