ATLANTA — A disconsolate Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith watched the chip-shot field goal sail through the uprights, then walked slowly across the field, his head down, to shake hands with the other coach.
Smith knew this loss was on him.
John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime after the Atlanta coach decided to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory Sunday, a decision that backfired horribly and handed the New Orleans Saints a 26-23 victory over the Falcons.
“I know it will be scrutinized all week long,” Smith said. “I want everybody to understand I take full responsibility.”
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New Orleans took control of the NFC South race, snapping Atlanta’s three-game winning streak.
Atlanta rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, tying it on Matt Bryant’s 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
In overtime, Atlanta appeared to pick up a first down on a pass to Mike Cox, but he was ruled just short after referee Terry McAuley looked at the replay. Then, stunningly, Smith decided to go for it on fourth down from his own 29.
Michael Turner was stuffed. Game over.
“We were going to be aggressive in all that we did,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, it did not work out.”
After each offense went three-and-out on its first possession of overtime, Atlanta faced third-and-1 from the 29. Matt Ryan flipped a pass to Cox, who was met short of the 30 but stretched out the ball with his right arm, appearing to get it across the line. It was initially ruled a first down, but the replay showed he was bobbling the ball going down along the sideline, and the spot was moved back.
The Falcons initially sent on the punting team, then called timeout. Smith decided, instead, to go for it. Ryan handed off to, who was swarmed by a pile of defenders and lost a couple of feet, and the Saints took over. Four plays later, Kasay won it with his fourth field goal of the game.