At home, in prime time, against their biggest rivals, the New Orleans Saints put together their best game of the 2015 season and knocked out the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons 31-21 on Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The victory was the Saints' second consecutive home win in prime time and improved their record to 2-4 as NFC South rival Atlanta dropped to 5-1.
The victory was sparked by a first-quarter blocked punt by Mandeville grad and second-generation Saint Michael Mauti that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-0 Saints lead. The play was reminiscent of the epic block by Steve Gleason against the Falcons in the game that re-opened the Superdome in 2006.
Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, a 34-year-old playing in his 153rd game, turned in the best performance of his career with 10 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Drew Brees was Drew Brees as he completed 30 of 39 passes for 312 yards and a 2-yard TD pass to Watson on a fourth-down play. Running back Mark Ingram had two rushing touchdowns, one from 2 yards and the second from a yard as he finished with 46 yards,
But the defining play of the game was Mauti's. The linebacker and special teams ace picked up off waivers from the Vikings at the end of training camp came right up the gut of the Atlanta line to block Matt Bosher's punt. Mauti recovered and bulled his way a few yards into the end zone. He is the son of former Saints receiver and special-teamer Rich Mauti. They became the first father-and-son duo to score for the Saints.
The Falcons scored on a 7-yard Matt Ryan pass to Roddy White, a 25-yard Devonta Freeman run and a 13-yard Ryan-to-Freeman pass is garbage time.
The Saints won the turnover battle 3-0, greatly reduced their penalties and were an impressive 8 of 15 on third down. The defense sacked Ryan five times, three by star defensive end Cam Jordan.
The Saints lost starting left tackle Andrus Peat!(/team/roster/andrus-peat/a4d01972-f4a2-46d6-99a8-2d7e53e0e467/ "Andrus Peat"), the team's 2015 first-round draft pick, in the first quarter when an Atlanta player rolled up on his left leg. Veteran Tony Hills!(/team/roster/tony-hills/acb8effd-908e-4e04-8cbf-8ea319c23ab3/ "Tony Hills") replaced him. Peat was playing for starting left tackleTerron Armstead!(/team/roster/terron-armstead/6aef8a4d-8cc6-41ad-808d-132f7d3a9d2e/ "Terron Armstead"), who missed his second consecutive game with an injury.
The Saints will have a few extra days off before traveling to Indianapolis to take on the Colts on Sunday, Oct. 25.
Official team photos of the Saintsations at the New Orleans Saints game on Thursday, October 15, 2015. Photos by Michael C. Hebert and Matthew Sharpe. New Orleans Saints photos.