42-year old kicker John Kasay booted a 23-yard field goal in overtime to give the Saints a dramatic 26-23 win over the Falcons in the Georgia Dome Sunday afternoon.
New Orleans was powered in overtime by a key fourth down stop by their defense.
QB Drew Brees finished the day completing 30 of 43 passes (70 percent) for 322 yards and two touchdowns (106.9 quarterback rating).
Brees' scoring strikes were on a 21-yard strike to a wide open TE Jimmy Graham in the second quarter and a 33-yard toss WR Robert Meachem in the third quarter.
RB Pierre Thomas led the Saints in rushing with 29 yards on six carries.
WR Marques Colston had a strong performance with team-bests of eight receptions and 113 yards.
Graham posted seven catches for 82 yards to go with his 21-yard touchdown.
S Roman Harper led the Saints defense with 13 tackles (10 solo), a sakc (eight-yard loss) and a pass deflection.
LB Scott Shanle had a big game with 9 tackles (seven solo) and an interception.
Starting at the 20, QB Matt Ryan's first pass was incomplete near the middle of the field. On second down, he handed off to RB Michael Turner, who gained 14 yards, but Falcons WR Roddy White was called for a personal foul after the play, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty.
On second and ten, Ryan completed a pass to FB Mike Cox for a gain of eight. On second and two, Turner was stopped by DT Sedrick Ellis for a gain of only one. On third-and-one, Turner took a handoff and was stopped by Shanle, but not before he got the one yard to move the chains. On first down, Turner gained four yards before he was stopped by Harper and DE Cameron Jordan.
On second down, Ryan dropped back and completed a pass to Turner for a gain of ten yards before he was pushed out of bounds by LB Jonathan Casillas. Turner then gained four yards on a rush before being stopped by Shanle and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Turner subsequently rolled into Saints territory on a gain of 14 before being tackled by Harper. Tracy Porter was subsequently called for a defensive pass interference penalty. Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers was stopped by Shanle after gaining three yards. The Falcons would then get the Saints to jump offsides, setting up second and two from the 16. On second and two, Rodgers was stopped by Casillas after gaining one yard t to the 15. Turner would convert the first down on a two-yard gain before being tackle by Casillas.
A first down pass into the end zone intended for TE Tony Gonzalez was incomplete. On second down, Turner was dropped by Harper for a two-yard loss. On third-and-11, backup RT Will Svitek, starting in place of the injured Sam Baker, was called for a false start penalty. A third down throw by Ryan was nearly picked off by Casillas, but hit the ground. Following the key red zone stop, Falcons K Matt Bryant kicked a 36-yard field goal.
RB Darren Sproles returned the kickoff out of the end zone 39 yards to the 35 before being tripped up by K/P Michael Bosher. On first down, Brees completed a pass to TE David Thomas for a gain of eight yards. A long throw was then intended for WR Lance Moore, setting up third down and two. A nine-yard completion to Colston moved the chains for the first down, followed by another throw to the 6-4 wideout to the 38 for a gain of ten yards.
Thomas then took the first handoff for the Saints following four straight pass plays for a gain of five, before being stopped by Falcons LB Curtis Lofton. RB Mark Ingram then carried but lost two yards, when he was tackled by Falcons DE John Abraham and LB Steven Nicholas.
A third down throw intended for Graham was dropped by the second-year tight end. K John Kasay came out and hit a 52-yard field goal to tie the score.
Following a touchback by P Thomas Morstead, Turner gained one yard before being stopped by Ellis. On second-and-nine, a throw by Ryan for WR Julio Jones hit the ground, three feet short of him. Ryan completed a throw to Rodgers, but it was tipped by Jordan, and even though complete was one yard short of the first down marker. Sproles fielded the punt at the 20, and was stopped at the 22 by Falcons LB Akeem Dent. A holding penalty on New Orleans would move the Saints' starting field position back to the 10.
On first down, Brees completed a screen pass to Pierre Thomas who was stopped by Atlanta LB Sean Weatherspoon after gaining three yards. On second down, Sproles took a handoff up the middle and was stopped by Falcons RB Jonathan Babineaux for no gain on the final play of the first quarter. With play resuming in the second quarter, Brees dropped back and found Graham for what would have been a first down, but the pass was dropped.
P Thomas Morstead's 29-yard punt went out of bounds, but following a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Falcons WR Eric Weems, Atlanta's starting position would be at their 44.
Ryan would put the Falcons in New Orleans territory as he completed a pass for a gain of 17 to White, where he was tackled by S Malcolm Jenkins. Turner then took a handoff, but was tackled by Casillas for no gain. On second down, Turner bowled forward for a four-yard gain and then was stopped by Ellis in a pile of New Orleans defenders. On third-and-six, Jones made an acrobatic reception for the first down at the 29-yard line. Rodgers then found a hole on the right side, and gained 13 yards before being tackled by the safety tandem of Harper and Jenkins at the last line of defense. The Falcons' 5-6, 196 pound runner then gained one yard and was stopped by Shanle. RB Jason Snelling caught a pass from Ryan for a four-yard gain. On third-and-five, CB Jabari Greer tipped away a throw intended for Jones in the end zone, forcing Bryant to hit a second field goal.
New Orleans would have starting position at their 20-yard line. After some early struggles, Graham caught an 11-yard pass from Brees. Two plays later, the chains moved again when the quarterback and Colston connected for a 12-yard gain. Sproles then took a handoff up the middle and was stopped after gaining one yard by Abraham and Falcons S Darrin Walker. Brees and Graham then connected on a throw for a four-yard gain, setting up third down and five. A pass intended for Sproles hit the ground and sent the punt unit out. Following a 34-yard punt by Morstead that was downed by WR Courtney Roby, the Falcons would have starting position at their 14.
Ryan first completed a throw to Gonzalez for an 11-yard gain before he was tackled by Harper. Turner then took a handoff out of the backfield but was tackled by Dunbar and Shanle after gaining only one yard on the play. Rodgers then took a handoff and was dropped back by several Saints defenders, finally being stopped by Jenkins for no gain, setting up third-and-nine from the 26. Ryan was dropped on third down by Harper for a loss of eight yards, creating fourth and 17.
Graham, the former University of Miami basketballer would continue to redeem himself in a big way on the next drive. Taking advantage of enviable starting position at midfield following an 18-yard runback by Sproles and a five-yard penalty on Atlanta, Brees and his tight end, connected on a 29-yard throw and then a 21-yard connection in the end zone to give the Saints their first lead of the game.
With Atlanta then starting at the 20, Snelling was stopped for no gain and then on the final play before the two-minute warning, Ryan completed a nine-yard throw to Gonzalez. On third-and-one, Greer broke up a pass intended for Jones to send the punt unit back out.
Following a penalty for Atlanta for running into Sproles as he signaled for a fair catch, New Orleans started at the 48 and immediately the Saints moved to the Atlanta 45 on a second-yard throw to Graham. Following an incomplete throw on second down, Atlanta CB Brent Grimes broke up a pass attempt intended for WR Lance Moore.
Following a timeout, New Orleans sent the punt unit out, as the ball was downed by Roby at the one-yard line for the 44-yard punt. A first down pass throw by Ryan to Jones was for only a three-yard gain before he was tackled by Ellis. However, Atlanta would advance into New Orleans territory on a 46-yard completion from Ryan to Falcons WR Harry Douglas. Ryan then scrambled to the 25, where he slid on a nine-yard gain and the Falcons took their final timeout of the half. After a handoff to Rodgers to get the Falcons to the middle of the field and a spike by Ryan with ten seconds left at the 23, the Falcons would try to steal one more play, but Ryan was forced to throw the ball past the end zone into the stands. Bryant's last second field goal attempt was missed as the Saints would go into the locker room with a 10-6 edge.
Sproles took the opening kickoff of the second half out to the 18-yard line. Pierre Thomas got the Saints to the 20 with a two-yard gain. A second down throw by Brees to Meachem was complete, advancing the Saints to the Atlanta 44 for a gain of 36 yards. Following an Atlanta challenge, the ruling on the field was confirmed. Pierre Thomas then powered deep into Saints territory for a gain of 16 yards up the middle before being tackled by Abraham.
The running back then advanced into the red zone on a nine-yard rush before he was brought down by Grimes. Taking a third straight handoff, Thomas was stopped by Abraham for a loss of four yards, setting up third and five from the 23. Brees completed a screen to Sproles, but he was tackled by Nicholas at the 22-yard line, bringing Kasay out who missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.
Atlanta would start at their 30-yard line where Turner gained two yards before being tackled by Casillas. An end around play to Douglas was then snuffed out by Porter for a two-yard loss. However, on third down, Ryan and Douglas connected on a 12-yard pass play for the first down before the wideout was tackled by Porter.
On a fresh set of downs, Turner was tackled by DE Cameron Jordan after gaining two yards. Turner then moved the ball into Saints territory though on a 21-yard rush for the first down, even though the ball was popped out at one point by Porter. Atlanta's bell cow back then took his third consecutive handoff for a six-yard gain and was tackled by Dunbar and Harper. On second-and-four, a play action fake and pressure by New Orleans forced the Atlanta signal-caller to throw the ball out of bounds.
Ryan completed a pass to Douglas, where he was tackled by Casillas, and one yard short of the first down marker. On fourth and one, Turner bowled forward for a five yard gain and the first down to the 21. The Falcons then took the lead back on a pass to Snelling that resulted in a touchdown.
Taking the ball out of the end zone, Sproles was tackled by Falcons RB Antone Smith on the kickoff return at the New Orleans 18-yard line. Brees and Colston connected on a 15-yard completion. Ingram then carried for a gain of two yards before being tackled by Lofton.
Brees rolled out and threw to Graham, but the pass was broken up by Weatherspoon. New Orleans would move past midfield on a pass to Colston for a gain of 19 yards to the 46-yard line where he was tackled by DeCoud. Abraham was then called for a neutral zone infraction to set up first and five from the 41-yard line.
Brees completed a screen pass to Sproles who was tackled by DeCoud, but not before he gained five yards to advance to the 36. Brees then completed a pass to Ingram, for a gain of three yards on the first down play to the 33. A play action throw to Meachem in the end zone resulted in a connection to give New Orleans the 17-13 lead with 1:31 remaining in the third quarter.
Starting at the 20, Ryan immediately completed a throw for a 20-yard gain to White, but Dunbar proceeded to stop Turner on a subsequent rush for only one-yard gain. White was then called for an offensive pass interference penalty that backed the Falcons up to the 31 for second-down on 19. The foul ended the third quarter. Shanle then picked off Ryan at the Atlanta 38-yard line, returning it 12 yards to the 26.
Brees first completed a pass to David Thomas, but he was stopped by Nicholas for a loss of four yards. Brees and Colston connected for a first down with a 15-yard pass play. However, after a holding penalty, New Orleans had to depend on their 42-year old kicker to boot a 48-yard field goal.
Atlanta would advance to their 47 with a third and seven situation, but Douglas dropped a throw from Ryan, sending the punt unit out for Sproles calling a fair catch at the 12-yard line.
On first down, Brees and Moore connected on a 28-yard pass play. Atlanta CB Dunta Robinson was then assessed an illegal contact play. Brees then threw to Graham for a five-yard gain. On second-and-five, a pass intended for WR Devery Henderson was incomplete. On third down, completed a throw to Colston though into Atlanta territory at the 32-yard line. The Saints could only advance further to the 26, however Kasay's 44-yard field goal put the Saints up by ten.
Starting at the 20, Ryan first completed a 18-yard pass to Gonzalez and then Turner ran for two yards before being stopped by Harper. Ryan converted the first down on a pass to Weems that resulted in a nine-yard gain before the tackle by Shanle. Turner then carried ahead but was stopped by Harper after gaining two yards. Ryan completed a pass to Weems, who was tackled by Dunbar for a gain of five, setting up third-and-three. Following an incomplete pass, Ryan completed a pair of passes to White that would eventually advance the Falcons to the New Orleans 20, followed by a scoring play to Gonzalez to put the Falcons back within three points.
Atlanta would try an onside kick, but it was successfully recovered by Moore at the Atlanta 44. Brees first completed a screen pass to Pierre Thomas for a loss of one yard after he was stopped by Lofton. A second down throw intended for Colston went through his fingertips, but the wideout redeemed himself with a fingertip catch on third and 11 for a 13-yard gain to the 32-yard line. Ingram then pushed the pile for a four-yard gain to the 28-yard line. Babineux was then called for encroachment, advancing New Orleans to the 23. Ingram was then stopped for a four-yard loss by Falcons DE Ray Edwards. Brees' third down pass attempt was incomplete. With fourth and five from the 27, on the kicking attempt, New Orleans was called for holding, sending the punt unit out. Morstead's punt went out of bounds at the Falcons six-yard line.
Atlanta quickly moved into New Orleans territory with a pair of long pass plays, but White was called for a false start penalty. On first and 15, a pass intended for Douglas was incomplete. However, Ryan completed another throw to Douglas to the New Orleans 33 for a 20-yard gain and then a pass to Gonzalez for a four-yard gain on a play where CB Leigh Torrence was shaken up. Following an incomplete pass, CB Tracy Porter was called for a pass interference penalty that set up first-and-ten at the 20. A quick throw by Ryan to the end zone hit the ground. On second and ten with 33 seconds left, the ball was almost picked off by Harper in the end zone. On third and ten with 28 seconds left, Ryan completed a short pass to Weems for gain of 12, setting up first and goal from the nine. After Ryan spiked the ball, a pass intended for Weems was incomplete and then he had to throw the ball out of the end zone and send the field goal unit in where Bryant hit a 27-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.
Atlanta would win the coin toss and elect to receive the ball. Weems took Morstead's kickoff out of the end zone and was tackled by LB Will Herring at the 20. Ryan first completed a pass to Douglas where he was tackled by Porter after a gain of two yards. On second down, the signal-caller overthrew Douglas on a long pass attempt. A third down screen attempt was dropped by Rodgers sending the Atlanta punt unit out. Sproles called a fair catch at the New Orleans 27 on a 45-yard punt.
On New Orleans' first offensive play of overtime, RB Pierre Thomas was stopped by Atlanta CB Kelvin Hayden and S James Sanders after a one-yard gain. Thomas then gained seven on a pass play from Brees, tackled by Nicholas. On third-and-two, Brees completed a screen to Sproles, but he was stopped by Weatherspoon one yard short of the first down marker. Morstead had a 64-yard punt that went into the end zone for a touchback.
A long first down throw by Ryan intended for Douglas was incomplete. On second down, a throw was completed to Gonzalez for a gain of nine. A completion to Cox under pressure resulted in a pass to the fullback, that following an officials replay review, was ruled that he had gone out of bounds just short of the first down marker. Following the Atlanta punt unit coming out, the Falcons called a timeout and send their offense back out for the fourth and inches play. This timeout was followed by a Saints timeout. Turner went into the middle of the Saints defensive line and was stopped for no gain by DE Will Smith and DT Shaun Rogers, with the offense taking over at the 29-yard line.
Ingram then took a carry for a three-yard gain and Brees completed a throw to FB Jed Collins for a gain of 12. Ingram gained six yards on a run to the eight yard line, where Kasay kicked a game-winning field goal.