The offensive onslaughts exhibited by the Saints and Falcons Sunday resulted in the NFL’s most exciting game this season, and possibly, the most telling. Drew Brees, the NFL’s new leader in career completions, threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns, as the Saints overcame the Falcons in overtime, 43-37.
“I’m very grateful. Very grateful,” Brees said. “I hope there’s a lot more coming. A lot of hands have caught those passes. A lot of guys have blocked to make those happen. They all are a part of this.”
Drew Brees now has 6,326 completed passes during his career, surpassing Brett Favre (6,300) during the game. Brees also ran for two touchdowns Sunday, also becoming the first quarterback with at least 350 passing yards, three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns without an interception in a single game.
Also setting a new NFL mark was Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, whose 38 catches this season is the most any player has had in the first three games of an NFL season.
The game proved to be a breakout game for Falcons wide receiver Cavin Ridley. After being down 7-0 in the first quarter, Matt Ryan connected with Ridley on back-to-back passes, the latter going for an 18-yard touchdown.
After two field goals by Saints kicker Wil Lutz, Ridley struck again. On the second play of the Falcon’s next drive, Ridley torched the New Orleans secondary for a 75-yard touchdown pass, giving Atlanta their first lead of the game.
The Falcons began the second half with yet another Ryan-Ridley touchdown, this one for nine yards and a 21-16 advantage over the Saints.
Forty-nine seconds into the fourth quarter, Ryan connected with tight end Austin Hooper for his fourth touchdown pass.
After a Brees touchdown to Saints fullback Zach Line, Ryan completed all of his pass attempts on the Falcons’ next drive, including a touchdown and two-point conversion attempt to wideout Mohamed Sanu. Sanu’s score gave the Falcons a 37-30 lead with 6:58 remaining in the game.
Behind Pro-Bowl running back Alvin Kamara, the Saints maneuvered into scoring position with 1:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. On second and goal, Brees scrambled out of the shotgun, spun away from two Falcons defenders and dived into the end zone. Lutz’s successful extra point sent the game into overtime.
The Saints won the coin toss, and the Falcons offense would never make it back onto the field.
The Falcons’ task of stopping the Saints was made much more difficult when safety Ricardo Allen went down with an Achilles injury (he is done for the season). Brees’ first pass attempt after the Allen injury was a 23-yard completion that put the Saints in Falcons’ territory.
After four consecutive completions in the red zone, Brees attempted a quarterback sneak on second and goal and found pay dirt. Brees’ second rushing touchdown on the day gave the Saints a 43-37 win.
“We had opportunities in this game to get the job done, and to make a difference,” said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. “And we didn’t get it done, especially there at the end.”
“I know the storyline from you and some from outside the building will be the injuries…as an excuse,” he continued. “But I want to be clear: that every guy on this team is here for a reason; that we believe in them. We will not play the role of the victim with injuries. We got a locker room full of tough-a**competitive guys, and I expect us to play well. And we will.”
Ryan completed 26 of 35 passes for 374 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. Ridley caught seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Duke Riley led the Falcons’ defense with 12 tackles. Damontae Kazee returned from an ejection last week to rack up nine tackles.
The Falcons will attempt to bounce back against the 2-1 Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.