After struggling for the first three quarters of their season-opener against their most hated rival, the New Orleans Saints offense came to life as the Saints rallied to beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-26 on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kicker Wil Lutz provided the winning points with a 51-yard field goal to give Coach Dennis Allen a win in his first game as coach of the Saints.
New Orleans trailed 26-10 as the fourth quarter started when quarterback Jameis Winston started clicking, leading the Saints on a four-play scoring drive that ended with a bullet 3-yard touchdown pass to star receiver Michael Thomas in the left corner of the end zone.
After a stop by the defense the Saints offense went to work again, getting the ball at their 13-yard line. Winson, seeing his first action since Halloween 2021, hit rookie Chris Olave for a 20-yard reception, then hit receiver Jarvis Landry for seven yards, then threw a beautiful 21-yard completion to Thomas on third-and-three. After another completion to Landry, Winston connected with Thomas for another touchdown, this one from nine yards out. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Saints down 26-24. But the Saints defense held, forcing a punt with the Saints taking over at their 20-yard line.
Winston hit receiver Landry with a 40-yard completion and then hit tight end Juwan Johnson with a 16-yard completion to set up Lutz's heroics. The Falcons tried a 63-yarder as time expired by the Saints blocked the attempt by Younghoe Koo.
"Our team is tough and gritty and that's how they played the game," Allen said.
Winston was 13 of 14 in the fourth quarter for 212 yards with two touchdowns. Thomas, who hadn't played in 602 days, had five catches for 57 yards and the two touchdowns. Four of his catches were in the pivotal fourth quarter. Winston finished 23 of 34 for 269 yards. Landry had seven receptions for 114 yards in his first game as a Saint and tight end Taysom Hill carried the ball four times for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Atlanta scored on a 54-yard field goal by Koo, a 5-yard touchdown run by Cordarrelle Patterson, a 50-yard Koo field goal with 1:06 to play and a 40-yarder as the first half ended. The Falcons added 10 points in the second half, a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Marcus Mariota and another Koo field goal.
The Saints will play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday, Sept. 18 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Bucs play the Dallas Cowboys on "Sunday Night Football."