In was an offensive shootout at the Georgia Dome between the Falcons and the Saints.
The Falcons took a while to get going, but once Matt Ryan got comfortable, they were able to storm back from a double-digit deficit and force overtime and win 37-34 on a 52-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
Falcons safety William Moore came up with the big strip of Saints wide receiver Marques Colston to get the ball to the offense.
The Falcons, juggling their offensive line because of an ankle injury to prized-rookie Jake Matthews, rallied to take two second-half leads, but couldn’t hold them.
They needed a 51-yard field goal by Bryant to force overtime.
The Falcons needed a a dazzling performance by quarterback Matt Ryan, who tossed three touchdowns and passed for more than 400 yards for the third time in his career. He also became the franchise’s all-time leader for touchdown passes, topping Steve Bartkowski’s mark of 154 with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo in the third quarter.
The Falcons, who are trying to rebound from a 4-12 season, open at 1-0. The Falcons are now 4-3 in regular-season openers under head coach Mike Smith. The Saints, the favorites to win the NFC South, open at 0-1.
While the Falcons offense was sputtering along, the Saints took control of the game in the first half as they raced out to a 20-10 halftime lead. The Falcons had a costly fumble by wide receiver Julio Jones inside the 5-yard line. He was stripped of the ball by Saints safety Jairus Byrd, who recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
In the third quarter, the Falcons came out strong. Ryan took them down for a touchdown to make it 20-17. After an exchange of punts, defensive back Robert McClain intercepted Drew Brees in the back of the end zone.
The Falcons, using a committee of four running backs, tossed a short pass out to Antone Smith, who split two defenders and used his blazing speed to out-run the safety on a 54-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons up 24-20.
Brees went back on the attack and running back Mark Ingram capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcons answered with running back Jacquizz Rodgers scoring on a 17-yard touchdown run. Rodgers’ run capped an eight-play, 94 yard drive to put the Falcons up 27-24.
But the defense couldn’t hold as Ingram added another touchdown.
Ryan had 1:20 left and one timeout. He droved them down to Saints’ 33 in seven plays and Matt Bryant kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired.
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