Saints defeat Falcons 26-23 in overtime

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) makes the catch as Atlanta Falcons free safety James Sanders (36) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) makes the catch as Atlanta Falcons free safety James Sanders (36) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Falcons coach Mike Smith made a gutsy fourth-down call that backfired, allowing the New Orleans Saints to post a 26-23 victory on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.Smith planned all week to be aggressive against the arch rival Saints.

So, in overtime, with just a few inches to go, Smith could not go against what he had been preaching all week. 

He rolled the dice.

The Saints, with their behemoth defensive tackle Shaun Rogers leading the way, stuffed the Falcons for no gain. Running back Michael Turner was tackled by Rogers and defensive end Will Smith.

With the win the Saints remained in first place in the NFC South and improved to 7-3. The Falcons dropped to 5-4.

Smith repeatedly took “full responsibility” for the decision go for it at the Falcons’ 29-yard line.

 “At first, we were going to punt the football. I had a change of heart and I wanted us to go for it,” Smith said.

Four plays later, New Orleans’ John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal for the victory.

The Falcons’ frenetic rally from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, a 133-yard receiving game from wide receiver Harry Douglas, and a powerful 21-yard touchdown run by Jason Snelling will become lost in the cloud surrounding the fourth-down decision.

On third down, it appeared that fullback Mike Cox had picked up the first down. The replay assistant upstairs challenged the spot of the ball and the play was reversed.

The Falcons called a timeout.

The Saints called a timeout.

The Falcons unsuccessfully tried to power behind the left side of the line with a lead block from Cox.

Mike Smith was counting on a close game and had planned to make some unconventional calls. He wanted to attempt to keep the ball away from Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Now, the past four games in the series have been decided by a field goal. The past six have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Mike Smith bristled at the notion that he did not trust the defense.

“That’s a very good quarterback,” Smith said of Brees, who completed 30 of 43 passes for 322 yards.. “By no means is there a lack of faith in the defense.”

Quarterback Matt Ryan, who completed 29 of 52 passes for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, supported the decision.

“As a player, you have to love the confidence that he has in the offense in that situation,” Ryan said. “We just needed to execute better. I think that play is kind of a summary of the game. We just didn’t execute as well as we would have liked.”

In the past, the Falcons have called a quarterback sneak in short yardage situations.

“I thought it was a good call,” Ryan said. “Mike had that call in. It’s a play that we’ve run in the past with some success. We just didn’t execute. Regardless of what the play call is in that situation we just didn’t execute.”

Even some of the defensive players were on the sidelines yelling for the offense to “go for it.”

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said, “I liked it. That’s aggressive. It’s was just one of those plays where you can go out there and be tough. Coach made the decision and we are all backing him.”

The Saints took advantage of a blown coverage by the Falcons and held a 10-6 halftime lead. When three players did not know who was supposed the cover the deep third in the end zone, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham was left alone to grab a 21-yard touchdown.

“Three different guys thought the other guy was supposed to be in the back in the end zone,”  said cornerback Dunta Robinson.

In the third quarter, the Falcons took the lead, 13-10, on a 21-yard touchdown reception by Snelling, who ran through several tackles and carried three Saints into the end zone.

The Saints opened a 23-13 lead after a 33-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem and two field goals from Kasay.

The Falcons stormed back with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez and a 27-yard field goal from Matt Bryant at the end of regulation to force overtime. Bryant had missed a 41-yard attempt to the left at the end of the half to end his team-record streak of 30 consecutive made field goals.

The Falcons were already pointing to the rematch.

“When we see them again, we’ll try to be better prepared,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s on Dec. 26. My birthday is Dec. 29. I won’t forget this.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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214 comments Add your comment

[...] to 7-3 and remain in first place in the NFC South while the Falcons dropped to 5-4. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

5150 UOAD

November 13th, 2011
4:47 pm

Worst play call on 4 and inches

5150 UOAD

November 13th, 2011
4:49 pm

Why do you hand the ball off 3 yards deep in the backfield to get 5 inches? If you pull away from the line then fake the full back in the middle and pitch it to the outside.

Brickhead Nelson

November 13th, 2011
4:50 pm

The 4th down play took too long to develop. The Falcons are taking 2 seconds too long to get the ball in Turner’s gut. This is old news, yet they risked running it the same way. Offense needs to stop clock that play and fix that for the future. Stupid call

Devon

November 13th, 2011
4:53 pm

This one os on the coaching staff… Bad challenge, Bad play calling in OT, HORRIFIC play calling on the 2nd drive in OT… Mularkey, WTF Man?

JT

November 13th, 2011
4:55 pm

Fairplay

November 13th, 2011
4:56 pm

Smitty doesn’t trust his defense and they played a helluva game!

SteveO

November 13th, 2011
4:57 pm

If you can’t get 6 inches on 4th down , then you deserve to lose….terrible play call…

Tom

November 13th, 2011
4:58 pm

That call was crazy on 4th and inches. Pitch to Rodgers or sneak it with Ryan. By the time Turner got the ball the Saints were in the backfield. Glad Smith went for it, but the play calling in OT was disappointing. Long passes arent going to work without Julio. The game tying drive was great so why not more of the same. Tough loss today.

Worm

November 13th, 2011
5:00 pm

Bunch of Mularkey-He’s gonna’ get Smith fired…We have a NEW fourth and Dumb!

Bishop Eddie L Long

November 13th, 2011
5:02 pm

Bless our falcons… I love our ball club. We must stand behind them. Rise up. Mr blanks… Thanks for the suite too.

Rod

November 13th, 2011
5:06 pm

WOW!!! WOW!!! WOW!!!

monty

November 13th, 2011
5:07 pm

I agree with Fairplay, Smitty didn’t trust his defense today.Guys on the radio didn’t get the replay call, they all said he got the 1st down, looking at the replay. A few dumb moments by White and Weems, a decent game just no offense till the end of the game. Go figure.

Bobby

November 13th, 2011
5:08 pm

Should have tried to draw them offside or QB sneak

falconsrus

November 13th, 2011
5:08 pm

schedule is in our favor moving forward

philip minutillo

November 13th, 2011
5:08 pm

Def line ZERO Pressure!!! Someone tell me why we broke the bank for Julio??? 4th and inches punt!! Smith are you kidding me punt… That sums up the season…

monty

November 13th, 2011
5:08 pm

Oh yeh several chances to win it in regulation but either our receivers couldn’t deliver or Matt missed them.

falcon fan

November 13th, 2011
5:09 pm

I liked the fourth down call. It didn’t work.The game was losed by stupid play calling by MM in OT. Why throw deep when all we need, is move ball down field and kick a field goal. Why not try to score TD at end of game an win. OT is luck when you are giving Brees ball. and hope your Defense can hold. Is not going to happen often.
Second , I blame Roddy White. Two personal fouls and a drop ball in Shankles hands. If he couldn’t stop making these kind of plays, he needs to be benched.He is not the same player as he has been in past years. I think it goes back to JJ being drafted and he feels like he is second.

falconsrus

November 13th, 2011
5:09 pm

monday in nola will be for all the marbles we will win it

carey davis

November 13th, 2011
5:10 pm

No Pro roddy white drops another 4th quarter td pass, and dont blame Mike Smith he had to go for it with that defense he has !!!!!

monty

November 13th, 2011
5:11 pm

You try the QB sneak but only after 2 hut huts like you are just trying to draw them offside, and then on the 3rd hut you fire off and catch them unsuspecting. THey only needed 6 inches. Turner takes too long to get his momentum going.

COBRA

November 13th, 2011
5:13 pm

just dream about winning in NOLA. We kick failconass again

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:14 pm

Say it with me now: GEAUX SAINTS!

eric

November 13th, 2011
5:14 pm

Falcon fans should be more humble about the loss. Stop acting as if your GB. Falcons are not a playoff caliber team. Admit it.

5150 UOAD

November 13th, 2011
5:15 pm

falcon fan I don’t think it was White that missed the pass and Shankles got the INT. wasn’t that Harry Douglas

eric

November 13th, 2011
5:15 pm

Am sure falcons will lose to titans too.

falconsrus

November 13th, 2011
5:16 pm

Go scents and take seen with ya

eric

November 13th, 2011
5:17 pm

Chris Johnson will run 100+ yards against falcon defense. Titans 24 failcons 17

eric

November 13th, 2011
5:18 pm

Go Titans !!!

5150 UOAD

November 13th, 2011
5:19 pm

Well at least the food was good.

Mike Smith

November 13th, 2011
5:21 pm

You guys are crazy. that wasnt MM or matty’s play calling.. it was mike smith Mr. “Conservative”… Who runs the ball up the middle knowing that the defense is pushing everyone up the middle, sneak with ryan, flat to tony g, or toss to quizz….. DUMBEST PLAY I’VE EVER SEEN AND ITS ALL ON SMITH!

Ted

November 13th, 2011
5:21 pm

I love the headline…it’s been a great weekend with the NBA still being locked out and the Falcants losing!!!!!

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:23 pm

Nine Saint wins in the last 11 games between these two teams. Three in a row in the falcan’ts house. What domination. That’s what I call owning another team!

Gamer

November 13th, 2011
5:24 pm

ROLLING THE DICE ON FOURTH AND INCHES,,ON YOUR SIDE OF THE FIELD,,,TIE BALL GAME IN OVER-TIME,,,,DEFENSE PLAYING STEADY,,WHY NOT PUNT?

A COUPLE OF QUESTIONABLE CALLS WITH OFFSIDE KICK AND GOING FOR IT ON FOURTH AND INCHES..

IS COACH SMITH DOING STEROIDS WITH ERIC WEEMS,,, BECAUSE THEY BOTH MADE BONEHEAD DECISIONS AT CRITICAL MOMENTS OF THE GAME…

FALCONS NEED TO RE-FOCUS…START ANOTHER WIN STREAK…CATCH THE SAINTS SLEEPING IN THE SUPERDOME…

11-5 OR 10-6 RECORD GOOD ENOUGH FOR WILD-CARD.

I KNOW ONE TEAM THAT WON’T GET TO THE POSTSEASON…IS THE EAGLES WITH SEVEN LOSSES.. NO WAY.

mountain_jim

November 13th, 2011
5:24 pm

Worst play-call of year.

Unknown Hinson

November 13th, 2011
5:26 pm

Great game today, had them where we wanted at the end and couldn’t convert. We still have a good chance to do some damage with a pretty easy schedule down the stretch.

Visited New Orleans for the first time this past Halloween and wow what a disgusting city. 2 people murdered and 16 shot within a 5 mile radius of Bourbon street and everything smelled of raw sewage. The locals couldn’t be easier to spot, all look like grown crack babies with lazy eyes and bad teeth. It was seriously just a depressing place and atmosphere, maybe the city itself needed the win more.

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:27 pm

I’m sure NFL Network will replay this game on NFL Replay. Get your DVRs ready!

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:27 pm

And today, the falcan’ts got murdered in their own house!

Mike Smith

November 13th, 2011
5:30 pm

SeenThisB4, was me and you watchin the same game, that wasnt a ownage, you are dumb

Dirty Bird

November 13th, 2011
5:30 pm

I just don’t get it…seems like MM has a short play list or something.. we do great going down the field but then don’t go back to what works..(short passess when JJ is not in, playing the middle of the field with Gonzalez, and screen pases to stop the blitz – Snelling can catch the ball!) Or at least go back to what works during a good drive!!! 4th and inches…QUARTER BACK SNEAK!!! In regulation they had 3rd and 1 or 2 RUN TURNER MID OUTSIDE…it takes him too long to run up the middle!!! Ugggggh!!!

5150 UOAD

November 13th, 2011
5:31 pm

murdered? WTF did you watch? you are a fool for sure.

Old Gold

November 13th, 2011
5:31 pm

Coach Smith must think he is Paul Johnson! Both stupid calls lost their team’s wins!!!

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:33 pm

I saw a team get killed cause they were stupid. That’s what I saw.

Mike Smith

November 13th, 2011
5:34 pm

SeenThisB4

And today, the falcan’ts got murdered in their own house!

(message error) -must have watched the wrong game, saints are not that good we shot ourselves in the foot, lets get that straight

Angus

November 13th, 2011
5:34 pm

Once again, a Mularky-called first half leads to a deficit, and then the game is handed over to Ryan when it’s almost too late.

The 10-point comeback was quite remarkable, but unnecessary.

Fire Mularky.

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:35 pm

I’m just glad we don’t have to play the Rams twice. Nope, Brees would never take another beating like he got from the Rams, but what these posers from ATL got, he can take that all day long, and in this game, he did.

Mike Smith

November 13th, 2011
5:36 pm

Angus- that was not a mularky call, that was mike smith being too conservative

SeenThisB4

November 13th, 2011
5:36 pm

Mike Smith: Okay, so shooting yourself in the foot is not stupid. Got it.

CGD...........

November 13th, 2011
5:38 pm

5150 UOAD

November 13th, 2011
4:47 pm

“Worst play call on 4 and inches”

FIRE THE WHOLE COACHING STAFF AND MATTY MELT RYAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike Smith

November 13th, 2011
5:38 pm

bro you said we got murdered, saints play wasnt that good either… what the hail are you talking about??????