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John DeShazier's turning point in Falcons game: fumbled punt

Losing possession took away early momentum

Check out the action on the field between the Saints and Falcons.

For the second consecutive game, the New Orleans Saints committed a stunning error in the kicking game. For the second consecutive game, it appeared to be the play that flipped momentum and helped put New Orleans on the ropes in what eventually became the team's third loss in as many games to open the 2016 season.

Against New York, it was a blocked field-goal attempt that was returned 65 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the Saints' undoing in a 16-13 loss to the Giants. Against Atlanta on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it was a botched punt return that gave the Falcons a second chance, one they took advantage of en route to scoring touchdowns on five consecutive possessions, and to scoring points on six straight possessions, in a 45-32 victory over New Orleans.

The game had a promising start for New Orleans, on the 10-year anniversary of the Superdome re-opening following Hurricane Katrina.

The Saints opened with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Drew Breesto tight end Coby Fleener, then produced a three-and-out on defense.

Falcons punter Matt Bosherbooted a 42-yarder toward a waiting Tommylee Lewis, who was the Saints' punt returner against the Giants. But cornerback De'Vante Harris, while attempting to block for Lewis, instead crashed into him.

The ball bounced on the turf but Harris, rather than clearing space and backing away, scrambled to his feet and plucked the ball off the bounce. Harris fumbled the punt return and Atlanta linebacker LaRoy Reynoldsrecovered at the Saints' 11-yard line with 6:13 left in the first quarter.

Three plays later, Falcons running back Tevin Colemanscored the first of his three rushing touchdowns to tie the score at 7-7, which silenced the early juice the Saints had supplied the home crowd, and vice versa.

"It's a terrible play," Saints Coach Sean Paytonsaid. "Fair catch, the hammer is going down, (Harris) has to avoid the contact. It's two mistakes – runs into the returner and tries to pick the ball up. It was bad. That is two weeks in a row now that we got a play in special teams that resulted in seven points. Obviously, you are getting the ball back up seven (if not for the turnover), so it was a significant play. Not real smart."

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