ATLANTA (AP) — Marques Colston slammed his helmet to the turf, then brushed off a New Orleans Saints teammate who tried to console him.
Not long after, he trudged to the locker room while the Atlanta Falcons celebrated.
Colston’s fumble on the second play of overtime set up Matt Bryant’s 52-yard field goal, giving the Falcons a 37-34 victory over the Saints in another thriller between the NFC South rivals Sunday.
Bryant kicked a 51-yarder on the final play of regulation to extend the game, which featured 17 points in the final 2:50 of the fourth quarter.
But the Saints will remember this one for Colston’s miscue. After catching a pass over the middle that was good enough for a first down, he had the ball stripped from behind by Atlanta safety William Moore.
Joplo Bartu fell on it at the Saints 38, essentially putting the Falcons in field goal range without having to do anything. They netted 4 yards on three conservative plays and let Bryant win it.
“Every once in a while, you get in one of these games where the score goes back and forth,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “The smallest of details, especially in overtime, magnifies any little mistake.”
Colson had five catches for 110 yards, including a 57-yarder.
“He’s won a lot of games for us,” Payton said. “When you get into overtime, it’s not just one play. It’s a series of plays.”
Matt Ryan threw for a franchise-record 448 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons, even showing some rarely used mobility. He scrambled three times for 15 yards and dodged the Saints’ pressure most of the day, going down only one time after taking a career-high 44 sacks last season.
“He’s played a lot of games, made a lot of plays for us,” coach Mike Smith said. “But I was really impressed with his ability to extend some plays by moving around in the pocket. And he was very, very accurate. When you have (568 yards) of total offense and 448 through the air, your quarterback is playing well.”
Ryan broke the team passing record of 431 yards set by Chris Chandler in 2001, and also eclipsed the Atlanta mark for career TD passes. Ryan is now at 156, breaking the record of 154 held by Steve Bartkowski.
“Matt was calm, cool and collected,” center Joe Hawley said. “He never flinched. Every time they would score, he would just go back out there and look at it as another opportunity to score.”
Rallying from a pair of 13-point deficits, the Falcons beat New Orleans for just the fourth time in their last 17 meetings. This one was particularly sweet for Atlanta coming off a miserable 4-12 season, its first losing campaign since 2007.
“We are trying to redeem ourselves for last year,” Bartu said. “We’re trying to improve and this was big for us, for our momentum and everything.”
The Falcons (1-0) went ahead on Jacquizz Rodgers’ dazzling 17-yard run with 2:50 remaining. The diminutive back cut this way and that for a 31-27 lead.
Back came Drew Brees and the Saints (0-1), needing only 90 seconds to go 71 yards. Mark Ingram powered over from the 3 for his second touchdown to make it 34-31 with 1:20 left.
That was enough time for Ryan. He completed three passes on the tying drive, the big one a 21-yarder to Devin Hester that set up Bryant’s tying kick.
Hester, known mostly as a return specialist, showed he’s still got some skills as a receiver. After not catching even one pass for Chicago last season, the 31-year-old had five receptions for 99 yards.
Brees threw for 333 yards, but was picked off in the end zone after the Saints drove to the Atlanta 14 in the third quarter.
The Saints scored on all four first-half possessions, working first-round pick Brandin Cooks right into their already dynamic offense. He hauled in a 3-yard pass that pushed New Orleans to a 20-7 lead.
Atlanta cut it to 20-10 going into the break, thanks to a brilliant leaping catch by Roddy White for a 39-yard gain on the next-to-last play of the half. Bryant booted a 40-yard field goal that gave the Falcons a bit of momentum.
NOTES: Cooks finished with seven receptions for 77 yards. … The Falcons lost rookie LT Jake Matthews with a left ankle injury on the next-to-last play of the first half. … Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson all had some impressive runs for the Saints. … For the 10th time in the last 13 meetings, the margin between the teams was eight points or less.