ATLANTA -- In a game that lived up to its expectation as a shootout between two great quarterbacks, Drew Brees got the last laugh.
The Saints took the kickoff in overtime and Brees drove them 80 yards in 15 plays and scored on a 1-yard run to beat the Atlanta Falcons (1-2) by a final score of 43-37 in a game between the two NFC South rivals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It appeared the Saints (2-1) had won the game on the previous play. Brees completed a pass in the left flat to Alvin Kamara that was ruled a touchdown, then reversed by the replay official.
"I wanted to make sure we got in and hold that ball tight," Brees said. "We thought we won it on the previous play, then it gets reviewed and brought back. Just got to get in, however we can get in."
Brees completed 39-of-49 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns and rushed three times for seven yards and two touchdowns. Brees also broke NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre's all-time completions record.
"I'm grateful, very grateful," he said. "I hope there's a lot more coming."
The performance allowed him to outduel Atlanta's Matt Ryan, who completed 26-of-35 passes for 374 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
Kamara rushed 16 times for 66 yards and caught 15 passes for 124 yards. Michael Thomas caught 10 passes for 129 yards.
Atlanta managed only 48 yards on the ground, with Tevin Coleman rushing 15 times for 33 yards.
The Falcons got a big receiving day from rookie Calvin Ridley, who caught seven balls for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Julio Jones caught five passes for 96 yards.
Ridley started his day by catching a drive-saving pass on third-and-10 to put the Falcons in the red zone while trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, and then caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to tie the score with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter.
That touchdown pass not only tied the score, but it tied Ryan with Joe Montana for the most touchdown passes vs. the Saints of any quarterback in NFL history at 33.
He didn't have to wait long to pass Montana for that milestone with No. 34.
After two Wil Lutz field goals in the second quarter put the Saints up 13-7 late in the first half, Ryan found Ridley again for a 75-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to put the Falcons up 14-13.
New Orleans went into halftime up 16-14 thanks to a third field goal of the half by Lutz from 45 yards out, but the game plan coming out of halftime was to just keep feeding Ridley, and it worked big time.
He drew a pass interference call inside the 10 on a deep post route to set up first-and-goal, and then completed the hat trick of touchdowns with a 9-yard toe-tapping reception in the back of the end zone.
The game evolved into a shootout in the third quarter, but when Ryan tied the Falcons' franchise record for touchdowns in a game on the ensuing possession with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu, it looked good for Atlanta, which was up 37-30 deep into the fourth quarter.
In a perfect metaphor for the defensive game Atlanta played, two missed tackles by Robert Alford and Brian Poole allowed Brees to rush for a tying 7-yard touchdown run to send the game to overtime.
That was the theme of the day for the Falcons, and Quinn wasn't shy about it afterward.
"Tackling," Quinn said in one word, was the biggest issue for Atlanta.