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Falcons Sneak By Saints

Morten Andersen rediscovered his accuracy just in time for the struggling Atlanta Falcons.

After missing four of six field goal attempts going into the game, Andersen connected twice in the fourth quarter as the defending NFC champions rallied for a 20-17 victory Sunday over the New Orleans Saints their first win of the year.

"It feels good to get back on track a little bit and hit the ball the way I know I can hit it," Andersen said. "It was good medicine for me and certainly the win was great medicine for the team."

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Game Summary

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  • Andersen hit a 36-yarder to tie the game at 17 early in the final period, then hit a 44-yarder with about six minutes left to give Atlanta (1-4) a lead it wouldn't give up. He holds the NFL record for game-winning kicks with 26.

    With the victory, their ninth in a row against the Saints (1-3), the Falcons avoided matching the worst start by a Super Bowl team. The 1987 New York Giants went 0-5, but that came during a strike season, and three of the losses were with replacement players.

    "It feels a whole lot better when you win, that's for sure," Falcons quarterback Tony Graziani said. "I'm on cloud nine."

    Not that Atlanta has regained its Super Bowl form. Beating New Orleans, which has one of the worst offenses in the NFL, was a struggle because of the Saints' defense and the Falcons' own blunders.

    Atlanta, which trailed 17-7 at the half, gained just 251 yards while collecting nine penalties for 68 yards, fumbling three times, losing two, and converting on just three of 12 third downs.

    Graziani, filling in for the injured Chris Chandler, completed 11 of 20 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked three times.

    The Falcons, who have won five of their last six in the Superdme, drove 76 yards on 11 plays on their opening possession and scored on Terance Mathis' 22-yard reception to go up 7-0. They were Atlanta's first points in the first quarter this season.

    "We were tremendously disappointed in our performance the last four weeks," Andersen said. "We just haven't put it together and today was a step in the right direction."

    Ken Oxendine, who had only 33 yards coming into the game, ran for 30 yards on Atlanta's opening drive. He finished with 57 yards on 20 carries.

    New Orleans came back when Doug Brien hit a 42-yard field goal early in the second quarter and the Falcons made both of the Saints' Billy Joes Hobert then Tolliver look like All-Pros.

    First, Hobert unleashed a 90-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Kennison the longest in the team's 33-year history to put New Orleans up 10-7. Then Tolliver stepped in after Hobert left the game with a neck stinger with four minutes left in the half.

    Tolliver completed five passes for 81 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown throw that Brett Bech caught with a leaping, one-handed snare to put the Saints ahead 17-7.

    Bob Christian pulled Atlanta to 17-14 with a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, setting the stage for Andersen's fourth-quarter heroics.

    Tolliver finished 13-of-26 for 185 yards and a touchdown; Hobert was 9-for-14 for 153 yards and a score. Saints rookie Ricky Williams rushed for 53 yards on 19 carries.

    It was the third straight loss for New Orleans, which has not scored a point in the fourth quarter this season and for the third straight time blew a lead in the fourth quarter.

    "I'm aware of it," Hobert said. "You'd have to say it's an embarrassment, not scoring in the fourth quarter. Putting teams away when you're ahead is totally a mind-set."


  • Mathis' 18-yard catch in the third quarter was his 500th career reception.
  • Brien missed a 28-yard field goal, his first miss under 40 yards since Sept. 29, 1996.
  • Atlanta had started the season 0-4 for the third time in four years.
  • Injuries: Falcons LB Keith Brooking, right knee; LB, Jessie Tuggle, left knee. Saints QB, Billy Joe Hobert, neck; LB, Vinson Smith, right hamstring; TE, Cam Cleeland, left knee; C, Jerry Fontenot, neck.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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