ATLANTA – The Falcons have played the New Orleans Saints a few times to open an NFL season. Atlanta has dominated those affairs, with seven wins in eight tries heading into Sunday's game against their biggest rival.
This contest went against the trend, with the Saints pulling out a 27-26 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Fans packed the house for this one, which featured plenty of intense action and a dramatic fashion.
It also included a late Saints comeback that included three scores in the waning moments to secure a shocking result after the Falcons controlled the game most of this Sunday.
It came down to a Will Lutz 51-yard field goal attempt, and the Saints kicker sent it straight and true through the uprights. Younghoe Too had a 65-yard attempt blocked as time expired, leaving the Falcons on the wrong end of this one.
Let's take a look at a few things that stood out during this Sunday afternoon contest:
Falcons can't hold on
The Falcons were in firm control more most of Sunday's game against the Saints, right up until the end. That's when the Saints went on a run, eliminating a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead in a flash.
They scored a touchdown and then a 2-point conversion, followed by another touchdown and a failed 2-point attempt in this game's latter stages, cutting the Falcons lead to one point.
New Orleans kept on coming, however, and set up Lutz's game-winning field goal.
That quieted a raucous Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd that was thrilled with what they saw most of the day.
While a surging Saints offense will get credit for the comeback, part of this falls on a Falcons attack that wasn't efficient scoring touchdowns. They too often settled for field goals – Marcus Mariota also fumbled deep in the red zone -- and it ultimately cost them a winnable game that slipped out of their grasp in dramatic fashion.
Pass rush activated
The Falcons had just 18 sacks in 2021. They had a solid percentage of that total in just one day. The front seven was getting home when rushing four and defensive coordinator Dean Pees had a Midas touch dialing up blitzes at just the right time.
The Falcons stilted Saints drives with pressure and sacks, exceeding their best in-game sack total since 2020. They also created a turnover off if pressure, when Jamies Winston checked down to Mark Ingram, who had the ball dislodged by Mykal Walker and recovered by Rashaan Evans.
That helped maintain a lead into the four quarter, though a Marcus Mariota fumble in the red zone prevented the Falcons from establishing a three-score lead.
Patterson starts season running strong
We didn't see much of Cordarrelle Patterson in the preseason. Or the spring or summer for that matter. The Falcons running back/offensive weapon was on his own preparation program, skipping the team's offseason program and minicamp practices. He made a cameo or two in the preseason but didn't do much beyond that.
He did a ton in Sunday's game against New Orleans, especially after Damien Williams went down early with a rib injury. Patterson was especially impactful on the Falcons' lone first-half touchdown drive, with eight carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He was not involved in just one play that entire drive.
Not matter what the drive, Patterson ran hard. He was tough between the tackles, aggressive when pushing to get outside of them. He was efficient as a more conventional rusher, something necessary that wore the Saints defense down as the game carried on.
Call for questions
Submit your questions for Monday's mailbag right here with Sunday's result fresh in your mind.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints in the first game of 2022.