Costly mistakes doom Saints in loss to Falcons

Costly mistakes doom Saints in loss to Falcons
Austin Hooper hauls in a 8-yard TD pass. (Source: Mark LaGrange)

NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The Saints looked out of sync coming off the bye week, making costly mistakes and failing to find the end zone, as the Falcons were able to take advantage and pull out the shocking win.

New Orleans (7-2) fell 26-9 to Atlanta (2-7). The Saints were penalized 11 times for 85 yards and the Falcons defense played lights out.

Drew Brees was 32-of-45 for 287 yards. He was sacked six times. Wide receiver Michael Thomas caught 13 passes for 152 yards. He became the fastest player in NFL history to catch 400 passes. Running back Alvin Kamara had four carries for 24 yards. He also caught seven balls for another 44 yards.

The Falcons received the opening kickoff and put together a nice drive, getting as far as the New Orleans 13-yard line. However, back-to-back penalties moved them in reverse and the Saints defense stiffened to force a 37-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo to give Atlanta the early 3-0 lead. Brees and the Saints offense then got their chance. New Orleans did a fantastic job of mixing up the run and pass to march down the field but on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the Falcons got to Brees for a 9-yard sack. New Orleans turned to the foot of Wil Lutz for a 29-yard field goal to tie it at 3-3 with 4:09 left in the first quarter.

Matt Ryan then led Atlanta on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with an 8-yard touchdown toss to tight end Austin Hooper to put the Falcons up 10-3 with 11:09 remaining in the half. The Saints offense then went three-and-out and was forced to give the ball back to the Falcons. However, the Saints defense then forced the Falcons to go three-and-out. Atlanta later settled for a 36-yard field goal with 1:35 left in the half to make it 13-3. The Saints then went 46 yards in 1:31 and got a 47-yard field goal from Lutz as time expired to make it 13-6 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Deonte Harris returned a punt 17 yards to the Atlanta 38-yard line to set them up with good field position to start a drive. On third-and-eight, Brees was able to fit the ball into a tight window to Tre'Quan Smith with four defenders in the area. Smith was able to hold on to the ball, despite taking a vicious hit that sent his helmet rolling on the turf. The completion was good for a 13-yard gain and a first down. However, the drive later stalled and New Orleans had to settle for another Lutz field goal. This one was good from 28 yards out to make it 13-9 with the Saints still trailing.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ryan connected with running back Brian Hill for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Falcons up 20-9. On the kickoff, Harris found a seam and returned it 46 yards before being run out of bounds. However, Atlanta’s defense and a penalty that negated a first down forced New Orleans into another three-and-out. The Saints defense managed to get the Falcons into a fourth-and-long to force a punt but a roughing the kicker penalty gave Atlanta a first-and-10. The Falcons were not able to reach the end zone on the drive but a 48-yard field goal made it 23-9.

Ryan tried to put the game away by firing a ball deep to Calvin Ridley but Marcus Williams was able to cover a lot of ground and come down with the interception. However, the Saints continued to struggle on offense against the Falcons defense and could not move the ball much, turning it over on downs. Atlanta kicked another field goal with 2:32 left in the game to go up 26-9.

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