ATLANTA— A disconsolate 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.”
New Orleans (7-3) took control of the NFC South race, snapping Atlanta’s three-game winning streak. But this one will be long remembered for Smith’s gutsy and ill-fated call, especially if this loss comes back to cost the defending division champion Falcons a return to the playoffs.
Atlanta (5-4) 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.
“We were going to be aggressive in all that we did,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, it did not work out.”
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees went 30 of 43 for 322 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. Marques Colston had eight catches for 113 yards.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan threw a staggering 52 passes, completing 29 for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Harry Douglas became his favorite receiver after rookie Julio Jones left the game, sidelined again by an ailing hamstring. Douglas finished with eight receptions for 133 yards.