NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) - New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton says he's not going to blame kicker Garrett Hartley for the loss. He says everyone is to blame including himself.
But...Hartley carries a heavy load on his shoulders. On a positive note he forced overtime drilling a 32-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in regulation. The celebration didn't last long.
After the Saints defense stopped Atlanta on the Falcons first offensive series in OT, Drew Brees drove New Orleans close to the Atlanta goal line setting up what should have been a game winning 29-yard field goal. It didn't happen. Hartley's kick veered left, no good.
Hartley said, "Regardless the highs and lows. You hit one to send it into overtime and then you basically miss an extra point and they go down there and Matt Bryant came through."
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan would rely on a solid ground game driving the Falcons into Saints territory where Matt Bryant remained cool under pressure drilling a 46 yard field goal with 2 minutes remaining in overtime. The sellout Superdome crowd quitely hit the exit ramps in disbelief, except for the Falcons fans.
While reports already have the Saints bringing in kickers for tryouts, New Orleans players aren't placing all the blame on Hartley.
"We win together and we lose together.," explained Saints kick return specialist Courtney Roby. "No "I" in team. It's been that way forever. You know we won the Super Bowl as a team last year and you know we lost tonight as a team. Like I say it's a total team effort. You can't blame one person."
A crucial drive for the Atlanta Falcons took place in the second quarter. They ate up 10 minutes and 39 seconds and got the touchdown.
The Saints defense had a tough time stopping the Falcons all day. Quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 228 yards and tossed a 13 yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez.
The Falcons ground game exploded for 202 yards with Michael Turner leading the way with 114 yards and a touchdown completing that 72 yard drive, taking 10 minutes and 39 seconds off the clock.
Saints linebacker Scott Shanle says the defense has got to stop the opposition, especially on 3rd down.
"We knew they're a good team," Shanle stated. "Very balanced on offense. Have a good run game, good receivers and I think in the end it came down to them making a play when they had to make a play."
He added, "Early in the game they converted a lot of third downs. That's something we haven't done well to this point in the season, getting off the field on 3rd down and we have to improve on that."
While the Falcons enjoyed plenty of success rushing the football, the Saints offense could generate only 43 yards on 16 attempts, that's only 2.7 yards per carry.
Drew Brees completed 30 of 38 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80 yard strike to a wide open Lance Moore. Brees also tossed two interceptions.
Before the season began the Atlanta Falcons had marked this game on their calendar and in the end they got want they wanted...a win.
Courtney Roby says the lost stings, "You know anytime you get into the division you always want to come away with wins but like I tell everyone else, we'll see them again."
The Saints will move on and will get ready for the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome.