Jimmy Graham reaches for the goal line in his 3rd quarter touchdown. (John Snell)
Saints Linebacker Ramon Humber defends pass against Falcons Running Back Steven Jackson during the Saints 4th Quarter goal line stand. (John Snell)
Saints defensive end Tyrunn Walker gets to Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the second quarter . (John Snell)
Gallette showing fans love. (John Snell)
Saints Safety Roman Harper intercepts a Matt Ryan pass in the fourth quarter to seal the Saints victory
New Orleans, La. - Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and former special teams star Steve Gleason ignited the fan base when they kicked off the "Who Dat" chant pre-game. The return of both to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was a sweet appetizer to a main course devouring of the Falcons offense.
Rob Ryan's new 3-4 defense was the big star on this day. His unit racked up three sacks and forced a Matt Ryan interception on the Falcons final series of the game.
Ryan started the scoring with a touchdown pass to familiar target Tony Gonzalez. The tight end's seven-yard touchdown grab put the Dirty Birds up 7-0.
Things didn't get any better for the black and gold on the next drive. Saints ran it on fourth and one at their own 47-yard line, and Mark Ingram lost two yards as numerous Falcons swallowed him up.
The Atlanta offense got a Matt Bryant 23-yard field goal out of the defensive stand.
The Saints offense answered back with a field goal of their own in the second quarter. Drew Brees led the Saints on a 12-play, 50-yard drive ending with a Garrett Hartley 48-yard kick to cut the Falcons lead to 10-3.
Ryan's defense finally showed it's teeth with an opportunistic forced fumble by Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins stripped wide receiver Julio Jones after a 22-yard catch. Roman Harper returned the fumble to the Falcons 31.
Three plays later Brees thanked the defense with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston. The quick strike tied the contest at ten.
The Saints offense kept their assault going on their very next possession. Brees hit rookie Kenny Stills on a deep ball for a 67-yard gain. Back-to-back holding penalties by Jahri Evans thwarted the chance for a touchdown. Hartley's second field goal of the day, this one from 31 yards gave the Saints a 13-10 advantage at halftime.
Jones made amends for his second quarter fumble with a 4-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. The former Alabama receiver's score put the Falcons back on top 17-13.
The Saints offense responded on the very next drive. Brees led an 11-play, 80 drive in which the quarterback completed seven passes. The final pass of the drive was a 7-yard touchdown catch by Jimmy Graham. The second touchdown pass of the day for Brees meant the Saints led 20-17 in the third quarter.
Brees would finish the day 26-35 passing, 357 yards, and two touchdowns.
Only three points were scored in the fourth quarter, Hartley's 22-yard field goal made it 23-17 Saints, and that's all the scoring they would need.
Falcons threatened to win the game at the end, but Kenny Vaccaro deflected a Ryan pass intended for Gonzalez inside the Saints ten, and Harper's pick sealed the victory.
Ryan finished 25-38 passing, 304 yards, one touchdown, but threw one costly interception.
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