Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota looked like he was well on his way to winning his first start with the team on Sunday, but a 26-10 lead disappeared in the fourth quarter and the Saints wound up beating their NFC South rivals 27-26.
Saints quarterback Jameis Winston struggled to move the ball through the first three quarters, but went 13-of-16 for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the final quarter to lead the comeback. That kind of performance could lead some to point fingers at the Atlanta defense, but Mariota looked to his side of the ball when discussing where the Falcons fell short.
“I would say the biggest difference was just finishing in the red zone,” Mariota said. “We had opportunities — multiple opportunities to go in there and score touchdowns and kind of put the game away. We allowed them, as an offense, to stick around, and that’s something we have to get back and look at and correct.”
One of the big misses came before the comeback got going. Mariota lost a fumble at the Saints’ 5-yard-line in the third quarter and the quarterback said he wishes he “would have just gone down and protected the ball” instead of trying for more yards.
Mariota did not lose any other fumbles, but a botched snap on a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter quashed any hopes of converting the first down and the Saints went ahead for good after taking possession of the ball after the ensuing punt.