NEW ORLEANS -- Falcons wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was worried about the health of the fans.
“We just like to give our fans a heart attack, here and there, just to keep them on their toes to make sure they are paying attention,” said Patterson, who set up the game-winning field goal with a 64-yard catch after the Falcons had kicked away an 18-point fourth-quarter lead Sunday.
Kicker Younghoe Koo came on to make a field goal at the buzzer to lift the Falcons to a 27-25 upset victory over the Saints at the Caesars Superdome.
“Honestly, it feels good,” said Patterson, who finished with six catches for 126 yards. “We were up 18. We wanted to put them away earlier, but it’s the Saints. They have a great team over there. They fought until the end.”
Patterson’s family members were texting him after the game.
“I’ve got a lot of text right now, saying that we always give them heart attacks,” Patterson said. “That just comes with the game. You can’t beat everybody by 40 points. It’s the National Football League. Every week is tough. We got the win, that’s all that matters.”
The Falcons were sitting pretty with an 18-point lead, but collapsed in the fourth quarter behind a rash of penalties, poor blocking and poor coverage.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Saints took the lead with 1:01 left, but couldn’t check a streaking Patterson, who hauled in Ryan’s pass and moved the Falcons immediately into field-goal range.
Ryan tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Falcons improved to 4-4. The Saints, playing with backups Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at QB, dropped to 5-3.
Ryan completed 23 of 30 passes for 343 yards and finished with a passer rating of 135.8, his highest mark of the season.
“It was a great play by CP,” Ryan said of the 64-yarder. “He ran a great route and made a really good catch. As he’s done all year, he stepped up and made a great play for us.”
Ryan knew they were in field-goal range and was elated while running down the field.
“It felt good after that one,” Ryan said. “My mind immediately goes to what’s next and the situation that’s next. So, I was excited. We needed to make a play. We needed to win that game. I’m proud of the guys for getting the job done.”
The Falcons’ defense had a major role in slowing down the Saints and outside linebacker James Vaughters helped to earn the win with a fourth-quarter strip-sack.
Outside linebacker Steven Means scooped up the fumble and rumbled 32-yards down to the Saints’ 6-yard line. On the next play, Ryan tossed his second touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus.
After the Falcons went up 24-6, the Saints stormed back to take the lead.
But Ryan to Patterson proved unstoppable and Koo, who went to the Pro Bowl last season, was clutch again.
Here are the five things we learned from the victory:
1. Defense showed up: The Falcons’ defense withstood an opening rushing onslaught by the Saints, settled down and then held them scoreless over the first half.
The Saints rushed nine times for 69 yards in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, led by Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and A.J. Terrell, the Falcons started to stiffen on defense.
The Saints didn’t score a touchdown until they were down 24-6 with under eight minutes to play.
Vaughters and Means combined on their big play, while linebackers Foye Oluokun and Jones amassed tackles.
Vaughters, who played at Tucker High, dedicated his strip-sack to his grandfathers. His maternal grandfather recently passed.
“It was a culmination of the efforts of everyone on this team,” Vaughters said. “The offense making plays, other guys on the defense making plays and us having a great pocket all day. Withstanding surges from the other team, then finding opportunities, like the strip-sack, to help get us the win.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
2. Ryan’s masterful drive: The Falcons’ offense was sputtering and was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter.
After the defense forced another punt, the Falcons received the ball back at their 8-yard line with 5:36 left in the second quarter.
Ryan completed 8 of 10 passes for 71 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Zaccheaus. The play capped a 15-play, 92-yard drive that took 5:30 off the clock.
The Falcons converted on three third downs in the drive, including Ryan escaping the pocket on third-and-1 from their 27 for a 4-yard gain.
Ryan completed passes to five players -- Russell Gage (three), Mike Davis, Kyle Pitts, Patterson and Zaccheaus – during the drive.
It was the Falcons’ fourth 15-play scoring drive of the season. They also scored a touchdown against the Giants on a 15-play drive. They made field goals at the end of 15-play drives against the Eagles and Washington.
The 92-yard drive tied the longest of the season. They also had a 92-yard drive against in a win over the Jets on Oct. 10 in London.
3. Second-half start: The Falcons’ defense held the Saints to a field goal on the opening drive of the second half.
Ryan then put together an 81-yard touchdown drive. He capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
The two touchdown-scoring drives were two of the longest four of the season. They also had an 83-yard touchdown drive against Washington on Oct. 3.
4. Fourth down: The Falcons were struggling to run the ball early, but that didn’t stop coach Arthur Smith from going for it on fourth-and-inches from the Falcons’ 45 early in the second quarter.
Davis was stuffed for a loss of a yard on the play.
The Falcons had 25 rushes for 34 yards (1.4 yards per carry).
They also received a late scare when Davis appeared to fumble the ball on the play after Patterson’s long-gainer, but the Falcons recovered.
5. Coaching debuts: Since 2006 when Sean Payton was named the Saints’ coach, Falcons coaches were 1-3 intheir debuts against New Orleans. Until Sunday.
Former coaches Jim Mora, Bobby Petrino and Dan Quinn lost. Former coach Mike Smith beat the Saints 34-20 in 2008 in his first meeting against Payton and the Saints. Now, Arthur Smith joins Mike Smith with the accomplishment.
“There are a lot of unsung heroes on this football team,” Arthur Smith said. “There has been a lot of change. We have a football staff that is really collaborative from our entire scouting (department) to our coaches. It’s a real team (effort).”
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.