New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman (16) is gang tackled by Atlanta Falcons defenders after a 7 yard gain in the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans September 26, 2016. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo
NEW ORLEANS -- Matt Ryan threw two touchdowns passes, Tevin Coleman ran for two scores and rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown to power the Atlanta Falcons to a 45-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Falcons (2-1) scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions and added a field goal on their sixth drive to build a 38-25 lead late in the third quarter.
Then with the Saints moving into position to cut the deficit to six, Brian Poole jumped a slant route and deflected Drew Brees' pass intended for Michael Thomas. The ball bounced high into the air and Jones, who played his high school ball in New Orleans, raced 90 yards for a score, putting the Falcons up 45-25 with 13:37 left.
Before that play, Brees had thrown 305 passes without an interception, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history behind Tom Brady (359), Alex Smith (312) and Bernie Kosar (308).
New Orleans (0-3) closed the gap to 45-32 with a 5-yard swing pass to Mark Ingram with 10 minutes left.
Ryan finished 20 of 30 for 240 yards, and the Falcons outrushed the Saints 217-115. Devonta Freeman led Atlanta with 152 yards on 14 carries, including a 36-yard gain on the Falcons' third touchdown drive.
Brees had to throw 54 times, completing 36, for 376 yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons marched to four consecutive touchdowns in the first half ¬-- giving them 10 scoring drives in their last 12 possessions -- to grab a 28-17 halftime lead.
Ryan threw a 13-yard pass in the left flat to Freeman, who was wide open, and a shovel pass to wide receiver Justin Hardy that went for 4 yards and another score.
Coleman had the other two Falcons' touchdowns on 2-yard runs.
Ryan completed 15 of 20 passes for 137 yards in the first half and the Falcons had to punt only once. Even when they did, the Falcons turned that into points as two Saints -- De'Vante Harris and Tommylee Lewis -- ran into each other while trying to field the punt. The ball scraped Harris' leg and the Falcons recovered at the New Orleans 11, leading to Atlanta's first score.
The Saints took a 7-0 lead with a 75-yard opening drive capped by Brees' 2-yard pass to tight end Coby Fleener in the back of the end zone. Brees tied the score at 14 early in the second quarter with a 3-yard slant to Thomas.
The Falcons struck for back-to-back touchdowns to extend their lead to 28-14, but the Saints got a 57-yard field goal from Wil Lutz to end the half.
NOTES: Players from both teams formed a circle at midfield and held hands after the national anthem as a show of unity against injustice in America. The idea apparently was initiated earlier in the week by Saints coach Sean Payton, who called Atlanta coach Dan Quinn to set the stage. ... Steve Gleason, who blocked a punt against the Falcons 10 years ago when the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina, was on hand for the coin flip, driving his motorized wheelchair to midfield. Gleason, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, carried his son Rivers, 4, in his lap. ... The Falcons led 28-17 at half even though Julio Jones did not catch a pass.