ATLANTA — John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime to give the New Orleans Saints a 26-23 victory over Atlanta after Falcons coach Mike Smith decided to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory Sunday.
The Falcons (5-4) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, tying it on Matt Bryant’s 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
In overtime, Atlanta appeared to pick up a first down on a pass to Mike Cox, but he was ruled just short after referee Terry McAuley looked at the replay. Then, stunningly, Smith decided to go for it on fourth down from his own 29.
Michael Turner was stuffed, and Kasay kicked the winning field goal for the Saints (7-3).
New Orleans took control of the NFC South race, snapping Atlanta’s three-game winning streak. But this one will be long remembered for Smith’s gutsy call that backfired horribly.
After each offense went three-and-out on its first possession of overtime, Atlanta faced third-and-1 from the 29. Matt Ryan flipped a pass to Cox, the backup fullback, who was met short of the 30 but stretched out the ball with his right arm, appearing to get it across the line. It was initially ruled a first down, but the replay showed he was bobbling the ball as he was going down, and the spot was moved back.
The Falcons initially sent on the punting team, then called timeout. After thinking it over, Smith decided to go for it, figuring his team could pick up the foot or so needed to keep the drive going.
Ryan handed off to Turner, but the bruising runner never had a chance. He actually lost a couple of feet, and the jubilant Saints took over. Four plays later, Kasay booted his fourth field goal of the day.
A disconsolate Smith walked slowly across the field to shake hands with his New Orleans counterpart, Sean Payton, who coached the game on crutches in his return to the sideline after a collision with one of his players left him with a broken left leg and severe knee injuries during a game Oct. 17.
Payton had said he would coach at least one more week in the booth, but instead made a surprise return to the field.