Atlanta – When a victory is lumped as full with heroics as was the New Orleans Saints' 43-37, overtime victory over Atlanta on Sunday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it's hard to narrow down the standouts because there were so many of them. Here goes:
OFFENSE: OK. Apologies, because I lied. This one isn't difficult at all. Collectively, the offensive line was magnificent, paving the way for 534 yards, five touchdowns and the kind of third-down conversion rate (7 of 14) that a team covets on the road. And Michael Thomas (10 receptions, 129 yards) now holds the NFL record for most receptions (38) in the first three games of a season. And Alvin Kamara (16 rushes for 66 yards, 15 catches for 124 yards) was no less phenomenal than he usually is, even with the increased number of touches and snaps. But on Sunday, New Orleans needed Drew Brees to be Captain Save-A-Saint. And the 39-year-old never, ever forgets where he put his cape. Brees completed 39 of 49 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns, and ran three times for seven yards and two touchdowns – his 7-yard TD run goes in the archives, and his 1-yard leap in overtime was the game-winner – as he had a hand in all five touchdowns. I'd love to say that he no longer amazes. But that, too, would be a lie.
DEFENSE: Obviously, the defense didn't have the best of days when the opponent puts up 37 points and 407 yards. You play that way, and you're fortunate to be 2-1, instead of 1-2, entering Week 4. But that said, Cam Jordan doesn't just put up numbers, he causes and effects. The All-Pro had two sacks (he's up to four this season), two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, a pass defensed (because he still has a way of batting down passes) and five tackles. True, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan (26 of 35 for 374 yards and a career-high five touchdowns) had a day for himself. But Jordan and his cohorts managed to bang Ryan around during some critical moments and produce just enough stops to help the Saints win.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Saints might have been able to win without Alex Okafor's punt block. I don't know. But I do know that when the Saints' defensive end muscled through to block Matt Bosher's punt in the third quarter, and linebacker Craig Robertson recovered and returned it 12 yards to the Falcons' 16-yard line, it was a major adrenaline rush and momentum shift for the Saints, who had surrendered the lead on Atlanta's previous possession. New Orleans scored a touchdown off the short drive to retake the lead and this is worth noting: Three times against Atlanta under Coach Sean Payton, the Saints have blocked a punt. They've won all three of those games. That's a pretty healthy percentage of success.