ATLANTA (AP) — Wil Lutz kicked a 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining to cap a stunning fourth-quarter comeback by the New Orleans Saints, who overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-26 Sunday in coach Dennis Allen's debut.
After struggling offensively through most of the season opener, Jamies Winston guided the Saints to three straight scoring drives.
The first two ended with touchdown passes of 3 and 9 yards to Michael Thomas. The Saints converted one 2-point try, but failed on the other, leaving the Falcons clinging to a 26-24 lead.
New Orleans got the ball back one more time, taking over at its own 20 with 48 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
Winston connected on a 40-yard pass to Jarvis Landry and a 17-yarder to Juwan Johnson to set up Lutz's winning field goal.
A personal foul on the Saints gave the Falcons a chance to pull out the victory, but Younghoe Koo's 63-yard field goal attempt was blocked as the clock ran out.
It was a stirring start to the Allen era.
He took over for Sean Payton, who coached the team for 15 years and led New Orleans to its lone Super Bowl title before surprisingly stepping down after last season.
Allen, his defensive coordinator, took over, even though his first head coaching stint resulted in a record of 8-28 with the Raiders.
Make it 9-28.
The Falcons, who have seemingly never recovered from squandering a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl, added another meltdown to their resume in their first game of the post-Matt Ryan era.
Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for a career-high 120 yards, including a 5-yard scoring burst, and Marcus Mariota made his first start since 2019 as Ryan’s replacement.
Mariota threw for 215 yards and added 72 on the ground, highlight by a 2-yard touchdown run.
But in the end, the Falcons let what seemed like a sure victory get away.
Winston was sacked four times and threw for just 24 yards in the first half. He made all the throws when it really counted, finishing 23 of 34 for 269 yards.
Landry had seven catches for 114 yards, and Thomas' return after missing the entire 2021 season ended with five catches for 57 yards.
Atlanta's Williams sustained a rib injury in the first quarter, forcing Patterson to take on the bulk of the running load. The Falcons activated only one other back, Avery Williams, choosing not to play rookie Tyler Allgeier.
Saints: Home opener next Sunday against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Falcons: Hit the road to face the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the first of two straight West Coast games.