LOOK: Sean Payton kills Saints' chances of winning with controversial late penalty

It's not often that an NFL coach gets called for a pivotal penalty, but that's exactly what happened to Sean Payton on Thursday. 

With just 65 seconds left in Atlanta's wild 20-17 win over New Orleans, Payton got called for a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave the Falcons a first down and killed any chance the Saints had of winning the game. 

The craziness started after Drew Brees threw an interception with 1:25 left in the game. The turnover allowed the Falcons to take over, but they couldn't run the clock out because the Saints had two timeouts. On first-and-10, Devonta Freeman ran for 3 yards and then the Saints quickly called a timeout with 1:21 showing on the clock. 

The drama started on the next play when Freeman fumbled the ball, which set off total chaos on the field. As the officials tried to determine who had possession -- the Falcons had recovered -- Payton was trying in vain to call a timeout. 

When he didn't get a response from the officials, Payton ran out on to the field to another official and that's when the flag was thrown. In the screengrab below, you can see the penalty flag next to the NBC logo. 

Sean Payton got flagged for running on the field late in the game.  NBC/NFL Network

On the play, Payton was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, which gave the Falcons a first down and allowed them to end the game by kneeling twice. 

If the officials had given the timeout to Payton, the Falcons would have faced a third-and-6 with 1:05 left to play. At that point, if the Saints had held them on third down, New Orleans would've likely gotten the ball back with roughly 20 seconds left, having no timeouts and needing a field goal to tie. 

Of course, they never got that shot because of Payton's penalty. 

The penalty might not have ever happened if not for a big mistake from Brees a few plays earlier. With the Saints trailing 20-17, Brees drove New Orleans all the way down to the Falcons' 11-yard line. 

For any veteran quarterback, the situation is pretty simple at this point in the game: Play it safe because even if you don't get the touchdown, you can easily tie the game with a short field goal. 

Unfortunately for the Saints, Brees decided to make a high-risk throw, and that's when this happened. 

That interception by Deion Jones is what gave Atlanta the ball with 1:25 left to play. Two plays after that pick is when the officials threw the penalty flag on Payton, effectively ending the game.

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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