Saints 26

(7-3, 3-3 away)

Falcons 23

(5-4, 2-2 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, November 13, 2011

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 OT T
NO 3 7 7 6 326
ATL 3 3 7 10 023

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 351 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 22 CAR, 96 YDS

Receiving: H. Douglas (ATL) - 8 REC, 133 YDS

FG lifts Saints after Falcons come up short on 4th down in OT

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- A disconsolate Mike Smith watched the chip-shot field goal sail through the uprights, then walked slowly across the field, his head down, to shake hands with the other coach.

Smith knew this loss was on him.

John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime after the Atlanta coach decided to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory Sunday, a decision that backfired horribly and handed the New Orleans Saints a 26-23 victory over the Falcons.

"I know it will be scrutinized all week long," Smith said. "I want everybody to understand I take full responsibility."

New Orleans (7-3) took control of the NFC South race, snapping Atlanta's three-game winning streak. But this one will be long remembered for Smith's gutsy and ill-fated call, especially if this loss comes back to cost the defending division champion Falcons a return to the playoffs.

Atlanta (5-4) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, tying it on Matt Bryant's 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.

In overtime, Atlanta appeared to pick up a first down on a pass to Mike Cox, but he was ruled just short after referee Terry McAuley looked at the replay. Then, stunningly, Smith decided to go for it on fourth down from his own 29.

Michael Turner was stuffed.

Game over.

"We were going to be aggressive in all that we did," Smith said. "Unfortunately, it did not work out."

After each offense went three-and-out on its first possession of overtime, Atlanta faced third-and-1 from the 29. Matt Ryan flipped a pass to Cox, the backup fullback, who was met short of the 30 but stretched out the ball with his right arm, appearing to get it across the line. It was initially ruled a first down, but the replay showed he was bobbling the ball as he was going down along the sideline, and the spot was moved back.

The Falcons initially sent on the punting team, then called timeout. After thinking it over, Smith decided to go for it, figuring his team could pick up the foot or so needed to keep the drive going.

Boy, did that turn out to be a mistake.

Ryan handed off to Turner, but the bruising runner never had a chance. He was swarmed by a pile of defenders and actually lost a couple of feet, and the jubilant Saints took over. Four plays later, Kasay won it with his fourth field goal of the game.

"I just saw a guy in my face as soon as I got the ball," Turner said. "I would like to have it back. I would love to be in that situation again."

New Orleans coach Sean Payton coached the game on crutches in his return to the sideline after a collision with one of his players left him with a broken left leg and severe knee injuries nearly a month ago.

"I just felt like this was an important game," Payton said. "That presence is important. I talked to the doctors this morning."

Drew Brees went 30 of 43 for 322 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. Marques Colston had eight catches for 113 yards. The Saints were certainly glad to have their coach among them, not sending down calls from the booth.

"It was great having him, just his presence," Brees said. "He couldn't wait to get back down there. He has his hands in everything."

Ryan threw a staggering 52 passes, completing 29 for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Harry Douglas became his favorite receiver after rookie Julio Jones left the game, sidelined again by an ailing hamstring. Douglas finished with eight receptions for 133 yards.

Turner rushed for 96 yards, but couldn't get the one yard that mattered most.

"We've just got to get a couple inches. Make that play and move on," center Todd McClure groaned. "I like the fact our coach has faith in us to make the play."

Brees was impressed by Smith's courage, if nothing else.

"It takes some steel and you-know-what to make that call," the quarterback said. "This one play is the game."

In regulation, Atlanta was down to its last chance, facing fourth-and-3 at the New Orleans 45 with about 4½ minutes remaining. Ryan kept the drive going by hitting Roddy White on a 6-yard completion, then struck quickly with two more passes to make a game of it. A 19-yarder to White was followed by a 20-yard touchdown to Tony Gonzalez with 4:13 to go, bringing the Falcons to 23-20.

With only one timeout remaining, the Falcons felt compelled to try an onside kick. It didn't work.

The Saints moved into position to give Kasay a 45-yard try. He drilled the kick right down the middle, but Jimmy Graham was called for holding and New Orleans decided to back up the Falcons with a punt.

After Eric Weems made a fair catch at the Atlanta 5, the Falcons put together a clutch drive that forced OT. Ryan hooked up three times with Douglas on completions totaling 66 yards, and Atlanta actually had plenty of time to take three shots at the end zone for a winning touchdown.

They caught a break on Ryan's first throw over the middle, which was right in the hands of New Orleans safety Roman Harper. He couldn't hang on. Ryan then looked for White, but Jabari Greer got a hand on the ball to knock it away. After one more incompletion, Bryant trotted on to make his third field goal.

Game notes

Brees extended his NFL record with a 30th straight game completing at least 20 passes. ... Bryant missed a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, snapping his franchise-record streak of 30 in a row over two seasons. ... The Saints rushed for just 41 yards on 16 carries.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1830
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays5985
Total Yards363481
Yards per play6.25.7
Total Drives1313
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-30-3
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

atlFG6:24Matt Bryant 36 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 16 plays, 61 yds, 8:40
noFG2:53John Kasay 52 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 30 yds, 3:32
atlFG9:29Matt Bryant 29 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 45 yds, 5:21
noTD2:40Jimmy Graham 21 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (John Kasay Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 50 yds, 1:01
atlTD5:18Jason Snelling 21 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 70 yds, 6:04
noTD1:39Robert Meachem 33 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (John Kasay Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 82 yds, 3:37
noFG12:02John Kasay 48 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, -4 yds, 2:56
noFG7:18John Kasay 44 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 62 yds, 3:35
atlTD4:18Tony Gonzalez 20 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 81 yds, 3:00
atlFG0:04Matt Bryant 27 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 85 yds, 1:55
noFG8:29John Kasay 26 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 4 plays, 21 yds, 2:21

Research Notes

The Falcons going for it on 4th-and-1 in OT is not unprecedented Since 2001, including playoffs, the Falcons were the 6th team to attempt a 4th-down conversion on 4th-and-1 in OT. With the Falcons failure, those teams have converted 50 percent of the time. The Falcons were the furthest away from the goal of the 6 teams, going for it on their own 29-yard line. The teams that went for it on 4th-and-1 in OT lost 4 of the 6 times. The Saints have been involved in a 4th-and-1 in OT situation in 4 of the 6 times since 2001 including playoffs. Twice they went for it on offense (1-for-2) and twice they were on defense (1-for-2 in stopping the team) Saints Involved in 4th-and-1 Plays in OT Including Playoffs 2003 vs Panthers Saints go for it from the Panthers 37-yard line but Deuce McAllister fumbles and the Saints lose possession. The Panthers take it right down the field and won on a 31-yard FG by John Kasay. 2004 at Rams Rams go for it from their own 41-yard line and Marshall Faulk gains 4 yards. Saints force a punt and drive down on their 1st OT possession and won. 2009 NFC Championship vs Vikings Saints go for it on the Vikings 41-yard line and Pierre Thomas gains 2 yards. The play was reviewed and the play was upheld. Just 4 plays later, Garrett Hartley kicked the winning FG sending the Saints to the Super Bowl Sunday at Falcons Falcons go for it from their own 29-yard line and Michael Turner is stopped. The Saints kick the FG on the resulting possession and win the game.
NEXT LEVEL: Drew Brees completed 17-of-19 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns after a play-action fake on Sunday. It was his most completions and tied for his most passing yards after play action since the start of 2008. Atlanta had held opponents to a 55.9 completion percentage after play action entering Sunday, but could not stop Brees and his deep passing after play action.
Marques Colston was Drew Brees' safety net Sunday, catching 4-of-4 passes for 59 yards and four first downs on third down. Brees was 3-of-9 with seven yards and no first downs when targeting other Saints receivers on third down.
Drew Brees had 322 passing yards vs the Falcons, his 51 career 300-yard passing game. That's tied with Dan Fouts for the 5th-most in NFL history.

GrahamJimmy Graham caught his career-high sixth touchdown this season Sunday. That's tied for the seconnd-most by a tight end in a single season in Saints history.


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