Rookie Mike Gann completed a 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Cliff Austin ran back a kickoff 94 yards for another as the Atlanta Falcons won their first game of the NFL season today, 31-24, over the New Orleans Saints. It was Atlanta's second victory in 17 games.
Gerald Riggs got the Falcons (1-6) started with a three-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter after Wendell Cason's interception. The Saints tied it early in the second quarter on an 11-yard pass from Dave Wilson to Wayne Wilson.
Atlanta regained the lead midway through the period. Dave Wilson dropped the ball and Danny Wagoner recovered it and lateraled to Rick Bryan, who flipped the ball to Gann. Morten Andersen's 33-yard field goal enabled the Saints to cut their deficit to 14-10 by halftime.
David Archer widened the lead to 21-10 with 1:22 remaining in the third quarter when he caught the defense off guard with an 18-yard bootleg around the right side.
Mick Luckhurst's 16th consecutive field goal, a 31-yarder with 6:08 left in the game, put Atlanta ahead by 24-10. Dave Wilson passed New Orleans 84 yards, the last 28 to Hoby Brenner, to narrow the gap to 24-17 only to have Austin retaliate with Atlanta's first kickoff return for a score since Dennis Pearson's 100-yarder in 1978.
The Saints (3-4) scored with 30 seconds remaining when Jack Del Rio sacked Archer, picked up a fumble and handed off to Frank Warren, who went 50 yards for a touchdown. The Saints recovered an on-side kick but failed on two long passes at game's end.