The Atlanta Falcons were unable to spoil New Orleans head coach Sean Payton’s welcome back party, as the Saints held on to beat the Falcons 23-17 in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome.
Matt Ryan drove the Falcons (0-1) down to the Saints’ three-yard line in the final three minutes, but the Falcons were unable to score.
Steven Jackson dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown, and the fourth down pass intended for Tony Gonzalez was tipped by Kenny Vaccaro and intercepted by Roman Harper to seal the game.
The Saints (1-0) were down 10-0 before rattling off 13 straight points, taking a 13-10 lead into halftime. Drew Brees led the way with 357 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on 26 of 35 passing.
The Falcons took a 17-13 lead in the third quarter after Ryan found Julio Jones for a four-yard score, but that was the last time Atlanta would score.
Aside from would likely would have been the game-winning touchdown catch, Jackson had a nice debut for the Falcons. He rushed 11 times for 77 yards including a huge 50-yard scamper. Jackson also caught five passes for 45 yards. As was said in the offseason, it’s clear the Falcons will use Jackson a lot in the passing game.
Ryan finished 25/38 for 304 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
While protection for Ryan started off nicely to begin the game, the offensive line got noticeably worse as the game went on. Ryan was constantly pressured, and the New Orleans defense sacked him three times. On the Falcons’ final offensive play of the game, Ryan was pressured immediately and had to throw up a lob to Gonzalez in the end zone.
Jones caught seven balls for 76 yards and a score. However, he had a crucial fumble in the second quarter that was scooped up by Harper.
Harry Douglas lead the Falcons receivers with four catches for 93 yards, including a big 50-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter.
Before the game, reports came out indicating it would difficult to Roddy White to play with his high ankle sprain. Throughout the week, the Falcons expressed confidence in White playing, and White himself said he wouldn’t miss the game.
White indeed started, but he was clearly limited by the ankle sprain he suffered against the Tennessee Titans in preseason. He caught only two passes for 19 yards, and Douglas often replaced him in the lineup. The star receiver was clearly a liability when he was on the field, and it’s a wonder if he should have played to begin with.
Many figured the Falcons secondary would be in trouble with Asante Samuel being ruled out before the game. However, the two rookies, Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant, held their own. Alford came up with a pass breakup and an interception, and Trufant broke up a pass as well. Neither cornerbacks allowed touchdowns.