Atlanta Coach Mike Smith decided to go for it on fourth down deep in his team’s own territory Sunday, a decision that backfired horribly and handed the New Orleans Saints a 26-23 overtime victory over the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal to win it.
”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 N.F.C. South race, ending Atlanta’s three-game winning streak. But the game will be long remembered for Smith’s call, especially if the loss comes back to cost the Falcons a return to the playoffs.
Atlanta (5-4) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, tying the score 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 the 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, and four plays later, the Saints had won. ”We were going to be aggressive in all that we did,” Smith said. ”Unfortunately, it did not work out.”