New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) makes a touchdown catch against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/AP Member –

With twelve minutes left and no hope looking in site, the New Orleans Saints were down by 16 points and could not find any stability.  Fortunately, former Heisman Trophy winner and New Orleans (1-0) starting quarterback Jameis Winston found the answer to the problem, scoring 17 unanswered points and the Saints won their first NFL regular season game 27-26 over the Atlanta Falcons.

Fierce NFC South Division rival; Atlanta, appeared to be on cruise control scoring on four consecutive possessions with the ball and building the lead behind a new offense, led by additional former Heisman Trophy Winner, Marcus Mariota.

After the Falcons Placekicker Younghoe Koo chipped in his fourth consecutive field goal to give Atlanta the 26-10 lead, Winston went to work on the next possession tossing four passes and connecting with Saints Wide Receiver Michael Thomas from 3 yards for the first New Orleans touchdown of the second half.  Following a two point conversion caught by rookie Chris Olave, the Saints trailed 26-18.

Forcing Atlanta to punt in the next series, Winston led the Saints offense down the field again with 9 straight plays and found Thomas for the second time from nine yards out.  This time, New Orleans failed to get the two point conversion and trailed 26-24.

As the Falcons attempted to control the clock until under a minute of punting, Winston tossed a few lengthy passes to Saints Wide Receivers Jarvis Landry and Juwan Johnson for just under 60 yards.

New Orleans Placekicker Wil Lutz came in with 19 seconds left and knocked a 51-yarder for his second field goal of the day and the game winner for a 27-26 lead.

The pesky Falcons ran five plays leaving an attempt for Koo to win the game from 63 yards, but the Saints blocked it with two seconds left and sealed the victory.

“It wasn’t perfect and there are a ton of things that we have to clean up,” expressed New Orleans Head Football Coach Dennis Allen.  “We are not going to win a lot of games the way we played today.  I’m proud of the way we fought and competed until the end.”

With the Deep South rivalry that began in 1967, the Saints victory got the record total even closer as Atlanta leads all-time 54-53, but New Orleans has won a Super Bowl in 2009 and more Division Championships with nine.

Offensively, Winston was 23/34 for 269 with two touchdown passes and nine yards on the ground despite being sacked four times.

Taysom Hill led the ground attack with 81 yards on only four carries and a first quarter touchdown, putting the Saints in a brief lead 7-3.

Even with Thomas’ two touchdown receptions, Jarvis Landry finished with the most passes caught and yardage, 7 & 114, respectively.  Thomas had 5 catches for 57 yards.

New Orleans Linebacker Pete Werner led the team in tackles with 13 while defensive backs, Tyrann Mathieu and Bradley Roby each recovered a fumble in the second half.

The Saints will play their first regular season home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday, September 18, 2022 at 12pm.

(Front Photo:  New Orleans Placekicker Wil Lutz kicks a 51-yard field goal during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints won 27-26. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)