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Quarterback Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints production peaked running two-minute offense against Atlanta

'I like (the hurry-up offense), but I don't like being down by that much'

For Jameis Winston, the winning combination was resilience and execution.

The New Orleans Saints, trailing the Falcons 26-10 in the fourth quarter, needed those elements to the 100th power in order to pull off the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history, and to post a 27-26 victory in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Saints will play their home opener Sunday in the Caesars Superdome against Tampa Bay, but they do so with a 1-0 record because of what they were able to accomplish on the road.

"I just think you saw the resilience that we have as a whole unit," Winston said Wednesday. "Our backs were against the wall and we were like, 'We've gotta make something shake.' We just dug deep inside and we executed, that's it."

Winston, perhaps, had the most significant shake.

At halftime, he'd completed 5 of 10 passes for 24 yards and had been sacked three times for minus-26 yards, giving New Orleans minus-2 net yards passing. He added 32 yards in the third quarter, completing 5 of 8 passes. But in the fourth, the sync set in.

Over the final 15 minutes, with the Saints operating their hurry-up offense, Winston threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns, completing 13 of 16 passes.

"We got into a little bit of a two-minute type of operation and opened it up with a completion to (tight end) Juwan (Johnson), and I thought we just kind of got into a little bit of a rhythm there in terms of throwing the ball," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I thought Jameis felt real comfortable in that situation.

"I think when you get into those two-minute type of deals sometimes it can kind of calm the look down of the defense a little bit, and I felt like that was a little bit of the case there. But we got into a rhythm and I think once Jameis got into a rhythm, he felt good about what he was doing."

Winston agreed that the deficit likely made Atlanta's defense a bit more predictable.

"When you're down at the end of the game, that's typically what the defense is going to go into," he said. "You've got to pick up the tempo a little bit, and we executed it well."

The execution nearly was flawless for New Orleans: 75 yards on four plays in 1:29 for a touchdown; 86 yards on eight plays in 3:27 for a touchdown; then, finally, 47 yards on five plays in 29 seconds to set up Wil Lutz's lead-taking, 51-yard field goal.

"First, you want to start faster, first and foremost," Winston said. "It's just execution, that's all it is. Executing. When you execute, it looks like that. The fluidity of the game happens at a faster pace when you're executing that offense.

"I like (the hurry-up offense), but I don't like being down by that much. I feel like there's a balance between everything. But I think we executed that situation really good."

Winston said the protection issues the Saints had in the season opener (he was sacked four times for minus-35 yards) are issues that can be ironed out.

"Most of it is just on me, getting the ball out in terms of timing, getting the protection to the right guy," he said. "As the year goes on, we're going to continue to get better and better at that, especially with the communication from me, (center) Erik (McCoy) and the running backs."

JAMEIS AND JUSTIN: Winston won't be the only Saint facing his former team Sunday. Safety Justin Evans was a Buccaneer from 2017-20, but tore his Achilles in '19 and didn't play a down in '19, '20 or '21 before making the Saints' roster this year.

"I'm so excited for him," Winston said. "We talk every day just about not taking any opportunity for granted. We were there together, and I saw when he got injured. Now, I see how he persevered and game back. That's what it's all about – when you fall down, you get back up and try again and he's been doing a phenomenal job. I'm happy that he was blessed with this opportunity to be here in this great organization."

WELCOME BACK LAT: Running back Latavius Murray was added to the practice squad Tuesday and welcomed to the practice field Wednesday. In his previous stint with New Orleans, Murray rushed for 1,293 yards and nine touchdowns on 292 carries in 2019-20.

"Just getting another vet back in here that we are comfortable with, that we know, that knows our system," Allen said. "He was already a guy that we were kind of keeping an eye on a little bit and I think once we got through Week 1 of the season, and had a little bit better feel for exactly who all we had, we wanted to go ahead and bring him in here. I think that's a positive addition. He looked really good out there running around today."

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