NEW ORLEANS (NWN) — There were only so many mistakes the Sloppy Saints could correct.
And on the heels of Jameis Winston’s season-ending knee injury a new starting quarterback was the least of his problems.
The New Orleans offense had drive stalls due to penalties, dropped passes and a costly turnover. His defense skipped several big passing plays and a third down conversion.
The result was the end of their three-game winning streak on Sunday and a missed opportunity to finish first over NFC South.
After digging the hole 24-6 with 10:39 in the fourth quarter, the Saints made three quick touchdowns to take a brief lead, only to drop a deep full from scrimmage in the next game and lose 27. Time ran out for Atlanta on a 29-yard field goal from Youngho Koo.
“It was self-inflicted wounds, punishments, some accidents,” said aggressive Taron Armstead. “That’s really what it all boils down to.”
New Orleans (5-3) also missed a draw with the defunct Tampa Bay Buccaneers after beating them 36-27 a week earlier. The Saints dropped five passes in the first half, inflicted expensive holding penalties and continued to deliver heavy play to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for a season-high 343 yards.
Needing to stop the Falcons from reaching field-goal range with a minute to go, the Saints allowed Ryan to find Cordrell Patterson in singles coverage against rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo, who then missed the tackle as Patterson There was a narrow escape and New Orleans ran for 11 safety before Marcus Williams got him out of bounds.
The Falcons went down the clock 3 seconds before Koo’s game-winner.
The Saints made their big losses, failing to score on all four properties of the first half.
Center Eric McCoy was called for holding after the Saints reached the Falcons 26 – the first of three penalties that took him out of field-goal range on the first half drive. Tight end Adam Troutman dropped a fourth-down pass from Atalanta 36 the next time he had the ball.
New Orleans went on to score three more in the second half before their first touchdown.
“He played better than us today,” said Saints coach Sean Payton. “We didn’t do what winning teams consistently do in our league, and we have to fix that.”
Atlanta took a 10-0 lead after Ryan took 7 for 8 on a 92-yard drive just before halftime, converting three-thirds down with a scramble and two completions. He completed 23 of 30, including finishing 49, 39 and 34 before the last one for Patterson.
“Ryan did a good job of being skilled. It was hard to make mistakes or get behind sticks,” said Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. “He made some great throws and great catches.”
Another offensive mistake resulted in the Falcons’ final touch. Linebacker James Watters ran right around Armstead to strip-sack Trevor Simien, and Steven Means returned it to the New Orleans 6 for 32 yards.
“It was just a really bad set up,” Armstead said. “I read it wrong and put myself in no position to win that snap. It was completely on me. Terrible.”
Ryan threw his second touchdown pass on the next play, giving the Falcons a 24-6 lead.
“We really have a low margin for error as a team, which is obviously the work we’re doing, but we were still able to win the game,” Jenkins said. “We put ourselves in the position and didn’t come to terms with it.”
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