NEW ORLEANS — The rollercoaster ride that is the young season for Garrett Hartley hit rock bottom Sunday when the kicker missed a chip-shot field goal in overtime that ultimately led to a 27-24 Atlanta win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in front of an announced crowd of 70,051 at the Louisiana Superdome.
With the miss in overtime, the drama was just starting.
The Falcons (2-1) took advantage of the gift, chewing up clock and yardage with a steady diet of running plays for a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
The Saints blocked the kick, but coach Sean Payton had called a timeout seconds before the snap.
That was all Bryant needed. After a 5-yard Atlanta penalty, Bryant hit from 46 yards with 1:55 remaining in overtime to give the Falcons the NFC South Division win.
“It was one of those whistle plays,” Payton said. “I was going to use a timeout and let them kick it again.”
But it is the kick that didn’t sail through the uprights that will be talked about in the Big Easy this week.
Hartley, who hit a 37-yarder as time expired last week to beat San Francisco, was wide left from 29 yards out this week to shock those in attendance.
The miss was the third of the season for Hartley.
After the game, Payton refused to talk about other options in the kicking game.
“We are not going to talk about personnel right now,” he said.
“The game came down to a 29-yard field goal and I yanked it left,” said Hartley, who hit from 32 yards with four seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. “No ifs or buts about it. It was clearly my mistake. I need to go back to the drawing board. It’s the highs and lows of being a kicker.
“I need to get back to kicking the football and not over-kicking it like I did today.”
Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, said he thought Hartley was going to make it.
“To me looking out there, it was a chip shot and I thought the game was over,” he said.
The Falcons took over on their 20 and after a holding penalty, they methodically worked their way down the field.
“Our offensive line did an outstanding job after the missed field goal,” Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. “We kind of took control of the line of scrimmage.”
Michael Turner, who finished with 114 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, and Jason Snelling, who added 62 yards on 14 carries, hammered away at the Saints defense to set up the dramatic ending.
The Saints (2-1) only have themselves to blame for the outcome.