The New Orleans Saints edged out division rival Atlanta Falcons to win, 23-17.
There were no safeties in this game, but what an incredible game it still was–from an emotional beginning to a nail-biter end. Head coach Sean Payton returned for his first regular season game since 2011. Payton was joined by Steve Gleason for the opening chant.
The Falcons scored first with a Matt Ryan 7-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez. I was feeling uneasy when the Saints fell behind 0-10 in the first quarter. The Saints came to life in the second quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points and ending the first half up 13-10.
Drew Brees threw for 357 yards, 2 TDs, and one INT. The Saints’ leading receivers were Darren Sproles (88 yards) and rookie WR Kenny Stills (86 yards). Marques Colston set a new club record for career receptions; reception No. 533 came on a 25-yard TD pass from Brees. Jimmy Graham scored a seven-yard TD.
The win wasn’t a breeze for the Saints, though. The Saints struggled with six penalties for 57 yards. Guard Jahri Evans received two holding calls; he seemed to have trouble with Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for 304 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. The scores came on a 7-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez and a four-yard pass to Julio Jones.
The game was tight. Believe it or not, it was the much-improved Saints defense that sealed the Saints win. The Saints defense sacked Ryan three times and forced two fumbles.
The game came to a heart-pounding conclusion. The Saints were up six points, but the Falcons had the ball. Atlanta seemed to have no trouble driving down the field. They needed an unanswered touchdown to win. On fourth and goal with under a minute left on the clock, Ryan threw a pass intended for Gonzalez. The Atlanta tight end got his hands on it but couldn’t pull it in. The ball fell into the arms of Roman Harper. Drew Brees was able to take a knee to run down the clock. Saints win!
What an exciting start the 2013 season! Welcome back Sean Payton! Congratulations to Marques Colston!
Saints travel to Tampa Bay for the Sunday afternoon game in Week 2.