NEW ORLEANS -- Once Deuce McAllister hit his stride, Atlanta's hopes for back-to-back victories disappeared.
McAllister was held to 20 yards in the first half, had two fumbles, including a critical one in overtime, but finished with 173 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints' 23-20 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons. His 23-yard run in overtime set up John Carney's 36-yard field goal.
"I knew I had no business fumbling that ball," McAllister said. "I should have got it done the first time. I'm obviously gratified that we won, but I'm definitely disappointed for the two fumbles."
New Orleans (5-5) fought back from a 20-3 first-half deficit to tie the game at 20. McAllister had touchdown runs of 5 and 7 yards in the rally and Carney capped it with a 26-yard field goal.
"Like coach says, 'Anytime you allow a team to score no more than 20 points in the National Football League you've got a chance to win,"' said Saints defensive end Charles Grant. "And that's what we did."
The Saints got the first possession of overtime and McAllister ran 58 yards on the first play. But Juron Bolden slapped the ball out of McAllister's hands and into the end zone, giving the Falcons first down on the 20.
Joe Horn, who played very little because of a sore left knee, caught a 14-yard pass that moved the Saints into Atlanta territory. Then McAllister, with both arms around the football, ran to the Atlanta 18.
McAllister, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven consecutive games, gained 83 yards in overtime. He also had nine receptions for 64 yards.
"I'm glad that we won," McAllister said. "I'm just disappointed that I put the ball on the ground two times.
Atlanta (2-8), ranked dead last overall in defense, gave the Saints trouble in the first half. The Falcons turned two interceptions into touchdowns, sacked Aaron Brooks seven times and kept him under constant pressure. Brooks completed 21 of 37 passes for 228 yards.
"Our focus was on stopping Deuce," said Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking. "He ran all over us in the last game. The offense is predicated on him, so we tried to stop him and make Brooks beat us. We did a pretty good job of hitting him and contained him pretty well until the overtime runs."
Atlanta got a touchdown when Tod McBride picked off Brooks' throw and scampered 15 yards to make it 7-0. Feely's 38-yard field goal made it 10-0 as time ran out in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Bolden got his first interception of the season and returned it to the Saints 5. Two plays later, T.J. Duckett took it the final 4 yards to make it 17-0.
New Orleans drove to the Atlanta 4, but came up with only a 28-yard field goal after Brooks was sacked.
Feely added a 27-yarder to give Atlanta a 20-3 lead at halftime.
The Saints then took advantage of an interception by Fred Thomas that set them up on the Falcons 16. McAllister charged the last 5 yards to pull New Orleans to 20-10.
Aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty and a defensive holding call that gave them a first down, the Saints drove 52 yards and McAllister got his second TD on a 7-yard run with 12:22 left.
The Saints drove to the Atlanta 8 in the closing seconds of regulation. But Brooks was sacked, and Carney's 26-yard field goal tied it with nine seconds left.
- It was the first game played on the Louisiana Superdome's new AstroPlay surface, whose developers claim the natural grass-like covering is safer and softer than the stadium's old AstroTurf carpet.
- It was the Saints' 27th consecutive sellout of the 72,000-seat Superdome.
- Horn has caught at least one pass in 72 consecutive NFL games, in all 58 regular-season games with the Saints and his last 14 games with Kansas City in 1999.
- Atlanta WR Peerless Price extended his streak to 60 straight games with at least one reception.
- New Orleans K John Carney's 28-yard kick in the second period extended his team field goal record to 22 consecutive games.
- Saints WR Donte' Stallworth hurt his hamstring and TE Ernie Conwell broke right ankle.
The Associated Press News Service
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