ATLANTA (AP) — While the Saints and Falcons saw much to like about their new and old stars on offense, each team’s defensive worries continue to grow.
Drew Brees’ 1-yard scoring run capped an 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime that lifted New Orleans to a 43-37 win over Atlanta on Sunday.
The two teams combined for 941 yards, so it was no surprise overtime was a one-possession affair. Once the Saints won the coin toss, they weren’t giving up the ball, and the Falcons’ depleted defense couldn’t muster a stand.
“Anytime you give the ball to our offense and we have as many weapons on our offense as we do, you’re not worried,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had two sacks. “Ain’t no problem. Ain’t no problem.”
Brees became the NFL’s career leader in completed passes, passing Brett Favre.
Brees passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns. He added two scoring runs, including a 7-yarder late in the fourth quarter to force the overtime.
The Saints (2-1) finished with 534 yards. Alvin Kamara had 15 catches for 124 yards and ran for 66 yards.
The Falcons (1-2) also had ample offense as Matt Ryan had his first career game with five scoring passes. Calvin Ridley became the first Atlanta rookie with three scoring catches.
Ryan passed for 374 yards, including 146 to Ridley, who had seven receptions, including a 75-yard TD. Julio Jones had five catches for 96 yards.
Ridley beat P.J. Williams on his first two scoring catches, an 18-yarder in the first quarter and the 75-yarder in the second quarter.
The Saints made a defensive switch, moving Ken Crawley into coverage on Ridley. Crawley was called for pass interference on a deep incompletion to Ridley early in the third quarter that gave Atlanta a first down at the New Orleans 5. On second down from the 9, Ridley’s third scoring catch gave the Falcons a 21-16 lead.
“You can’t have guys running through the defense, guys like Julio Jones,” said Saints coach Sean Payton. “But we got some of the key stops when we needed it.”
An Atlanta defense which already was playing without injured starters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Takk McKinley saw safety Ricardo Allen leave with what was announced as a calf injury early in the overtime. Allen held his lower left leg on the field before he was helped to the sideline and then driven on a cart to the locker room.
“I don’t want to speculate too much, but it was serious enough that he was down for the game,” said Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
Ryan’s five touchdown passes tied the team record set by Wade Wilson on Dec. 13, 1992, at Tampa Bay.
RECORD FOR BREES
With his 14th completed pass, a 17-yard pass to Michael Thomas in the second quarter, the 39-year-old Brees broke the record of 6,300 career completions set by Favre.
“I’m just very grateful,” Brees said. “I hope there’s a lot more coming. I just think about all the people who have had a hand in that. A lot of hands have caught a lot of passes. … They are all a part of this.”
Atlanta led 21-16 when New Orleans defensive end Alex Okafor blocked Matt Bosher’s punt in the third quarter. On a day with no turnovers, the big special teams play was crucial. The play set up Brees’ 11-yard scoring pass to Cameron Meredith.
“I was right in his lap,” Okafor said. “I could have blocked it with my knee. It was just right there.”
Saints reserve cornerback Patrick Robinson was carted from the field early in the third quarter with a left ankle injury. He did not return.
Falcons reserve cornerback Justin Bethel injured a knee in the third quarter. … Atlanta rookie linebacker Foyesade Oluokun left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
ANOTHER BIG DAY FOR THOMAS
Thomas continued the best start for a receiver in NFL history. He had 10 catches for 129 yards. His 38 catches are the most by an NFL player in his team’s first three games to start a season. His 28 catches through two games also were a record.
Ryan’s 75-yard scoring pass to Ridley was his 34th career TD pass against the Saints, the most by any quarterback. He surpassed Joe Montana’s 33 TD passes against New Orleans. Ryan added three more, leaving his total at 37.
By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer