ATLANTA - The much-maligned Saints defense made a huge stop on 4th and inches in overtime and John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime to defeat the Falcons 26-23 in Atlanta Sunday.
The Falcons went out in punt formation on 4th and inches, but Falcons coach Mike Smith called a timeout and decided to go for it. A run attempt was stuffed for a yard loss and the Saints took over on the Falcons 28.
A run, a pass for a first down and another tough run by Mark Ingram pushed the Saints to the nine-yard line, setting up Kasay's winning kick.
The Saints lost the coin toss for the 10th consecutive week and then didn't see the ball until nearly two-thirds of the first quarter had gone by. Atlanta converted two third downs and, after 8 minutes, 40 seconds were gone, went up 3-0 on Matt Bryant's 36-yard field goal.
New Orleans tied it on their ensuing possession in less than half the time and with half the plays than Atlanta used on its opening possession. John Kasay nailed a 52-yard field goal with 2:48 to go in the first quarter, making it 3-3.
After trading punts, the Falcons drove once again on the Saints, who once again bowed up in the red zone to force another Bryant field goal, this time from 29 yards for a 6-3 Atlanta lead.
The first touchdown came following a big 18-yard punt return by Darren Sproles. Quarterback Drew Brees hit a wide open tight end Jimmy Graham for 29 yards, was incomplete to Sproles on a screen and then found Graham, wide open once more, for a 21-yard touchdown pass. And just like that, the Saints owned their first lead of the day 10-6 with 2:34 to go in the first half.
The Falcons nearly cut New Orleans' halftime lead to one point, but Bryant's 41-yard attempt sailed wide left.
On the opening possession of the second half, Kasay and New Orleans returned the favor given by Bryant. Kasay missed a 40-yard field goal wide left.
That set up a 70-yard touchdown drive by Atlanta, one in which it converted one third down and a fourth-and-one. The drive was capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to fullback Jason Snelling, who broke more than six tackles to get into the end zone.
Suddenly, the Saints trailed once more, this time 13-10 with 5:08 to go in the third quarter.
Undaunted, New Orleans used a big 19-yard catch by Marques Colston on third-and-eight to keep the following drive going and re-took the lead when Robert Meachem caught a 33-yard touchdown pass over Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud. New Orleans was up 17-13 again.
Saints linebacker Scott Shanle picked off Ryan on the first play of the fourth quarter and Kasay converted the turnover into three points with a 48-yard field goal
New Orleans forced an Atlanta punt and eight plays later, Kasay's third field goal of the game gave the Saints a 23-13 lead with only half the final quarter left to go.
The Falcons responded with a deliberate, but efficient nine-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez to cut the lead to 10.
The Falcons tried an onsides kick with just over four minutes to go with the Saints recovering in Atlanta territory, but the Falcons held and a Saints field goal by John Kasay was negated by a holding penalty on Jimmy Graham.
The Saints then opted to punt and downed the Falcons on the five.
But without timeouts, the Falcons used the middle of the field to carve up the Saints secondary, driving to inside the Saints ten-yard line where two passes in the end zone were incomplete before a Matt Bryant field goal sent it into overtime.