The New Orleans Saints kicked off their 2022 regular season in Atlanta as they took on NFC South divisional rival Falcons. The Dirty Birds took the early lead and were up by as much as 16 in the fourth quarter, but Jameis Winston and the Black and Gold made the comeback late to win 27-26.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Atlanta began with the ball as Marcus Mariota started the game with an 11-yard carry. They picked multiple first downs and got down to the New Orleans 35-yard line before settling for a 54-yard Younghoe Koo field goal to take the early three-point lead.
Following a punt by each team, Taysom Hill took it himself for 57 yards on a QB power on 3rd & 1. Two plays later, Hill ran it the final 11 yards for the Black and Gold’s first touchdown of the season with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
Olamide Zaccheaus caught the Mariota pass on the first play of the next Falcons possession, but linebacker Pete Werner punched the ball out and cornerback Bradley Roby recovered the fumble and returned it four yards to the Atlanta 43. New Orleans managed to pick up the first down and would settle for a field goal. Wil Lutz would miss wide left from 44-yards out.
The next Falcons would take advantage of the missed opportunity and would reclaim the lead with a five-yard touchdown run by Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson ran it eight out of the nine plays in the drive for 58 yards.
At the 1:06 point of the second quarter, Koo extended his team’s lead to six with his second 50+ yard attempt. Then, the Falcons got another shot to score right before halftime. Drake London got them back into range with a 31-yard catch and Koo would make it a 16-7 ballgame at the half with a 40-yard made field goal.
Coming out of the second half, the Saints started with the ball and was able to move down the field. The drive took 5:45 off the clock on 11 plays and New Orleans would settle for a 49-yard field goal by Lutz to make it a six-point deficit for the Black and Gold.
The Falcons didn’t skip a beat with their first second-half drive. Four plays into the possession, Atlanta’s offense into Saints territory. New Orleans safety Marcus Maye made it 1st & GOAL for the Dirty Birds as he was called for pass interference. Mariota would take it himself to make 23-10 in favor of the Falcons.
In the next possession for the Saints, Jameis Winston got it out to Mark Ingram before he could get sacked, but Ingram would lose the ball and it was recovered by the defense. Mariota on 3rd & 5 fumbled himself the following drive near the goalline and Tyrann Mathieu picked the ball. The New Orleans offense couldn’t get anything going and would punt back after a three-and-out.
Koo made the difference in points by 16 with a chip-shot 27-yard field goal. Mariota couldn’t connect with Bryan Edwards on 3rd & GOAL.
The Saints responded with a quick four-play drive that resulted in a three-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. Winston completed all of his passes, including a 26 and 31-yarder to Juwan Johnson and Jarvis Landry. Chris Olave capped it off with a two-point conversion to pull it to within eight.
After a Falcons punt, Winston led another touchdown drive. He connected with Thomas three more times with the third being for a nine-yard score to make it a two-point game. Ingram had the ball direct snapped to him on the two-point conversion and he was tackled short of the endzone.
With another punt by Atlanta, Winston connected with Landry for 40 yards down the left sideline. He spiked the ball while the clock was stopped, which was called intentional grounding, and pushed them back to midfield. Juwan Johnson’s 17-yard catch set up one more Lutz field goal. The 51-yard attempt was good and gave New Orleans the one-point lead with 19 seconds left in the game.
Due to a personal foul by Marshon Lattimore, the Falcons gave Koo a shot to win the game from 63-yards out to win the game. The kick ended up being blocked by Payton Turner and the Saints completed the comeback with no time left.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jameis Winston
Winston and the Saints’ offense struggled throughout most of the game but led the epic comeback to beat the Dirty Birds late. The New Orleans quarterback threw for 269 yards and a couple of touchdowns in the win.
BIG NUMBER: 16
The New Orleans Saints completed the comeback late to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 27-26 after being down by 16 points in the fourth quarter.
UP NEXT: The Saints (1-0) will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) in their home opener on Sunday, September 18th. The kick-off is set for 12:00.