>>What a pleasure it is to welcome all of you back inside the Louisiana Superdome. Hi. I’m Mike Tirico. Welcome to “Monday Night Football.” The last time that thousands gathered here, their mission was survival. Well, 56 weeks after Hurricane Katrina, everything’s changed about New Orleans, but as thousands gather back in here for the first time since, they gather back in here with a real purpose of why this building, this great building, with so many memories, was built three decades ago — to enjoy a big-time, good, old-fashioned Southern football game, with a couple undefeated teams playing for the lead in the NFC South. Quite simply tonight is the most significant New Orleans Saints game ever. And they’re here for the return in New Orleans. With Michele Tafoya and Suzy Kolber on the sideline, Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theismann in the booth. As you heard, the Falcons are ready to receive. Michael Vick will get on the field. John Carney set to kick it off for New Orleans with Allen Rossum to receive. A moment almost unimaginable 13 months ago is here. The NFL, the Saints back in New Orleans, back in the Superdome. Rossum from the 5. And a nice return to the 29-yard line, and that brings Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons out to the field. Quite simply what Michael Vick has done in the first couple of games is like the Michael Vick that we saw in Virginia Tech when he almost won a national championship in this building against Florida State. He’s running. He’s run for 175 yards this year, tied for eighth in the NFL through his first couple of weeks. Opening drive starts from the 29. And Vick gives to Warrick Dunn. Over the right side to the 35, gain of 6. After the gain of 6, second and 4. And Vick’s first throw of the night is incomplete. It was intended for Michael Jenkins. Vick lost the football! It goes out of bounds. New Orleans did not have possession. It’s still Atlanta ball, but it’s fourth down. Fujita came in and freed it out of Vick’s hands.>>And Bryan Scott had an opportunity to pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. Michael’s got the ball out loose, trying to straight-arm. Fujita does a nice job. Bryan Scott gets a good hop, tries to scoop it with one hand and can’t make the play.>>So much for the notion that Michael Vick would run wild starting with the first play.>>Michael Koenen, who has made a headline for missing six of his eight field-goal attempts this year is now back to just punting and kicking off. The former Saint Morten Andersen is here for most field goals. Look out! Right through! The kick blocked by Steve Gleason! It is scooped and scored by Curtis DeLoatch! Touchdown, New Orleans! [ Crowd cheering ] John Carney for the extra point. 7-0 New Orleans.>>Unbelievable how the center was blocked. Remember, you can’t line anybody up over the center. And what they do is they just create this giant gap for Gleason to go through, and he’s on the kicker before he ever gets a chance to get it off. Watch how close he is to taking off his hands.>>You could not script this any better than it just happened for the New Orleans Saints. Everybody thought that the wave of emotion would come in with the Saints. If you were the Falcons, the first thing you had to be afraid of is being swept away in that particular wave of emotion. That is exactly what happened now. And for those people who look to the New Orleans Saints as something that will uplift them, uplift this city, uplift the entire Gulf region, they just had it.>>This is like a slap in the face to the Atlanta Falcons to say, “Okay, look, we know it’s all about the Saints here, but you know what? This is a football game, and we better get ourselves ready for it.”>>Gleason, who was a big special-teams presence the last few years, came up with the block. DeLoatch was waived by the Giants. That’s how he ended up on this roster. Third year in the league, and that is his first National Football League touchdown.>>Joe, you can say it’s a football game for the Atlanta Falcons, but for people in here and people watching who root for the Saints, it’s more than a football game, and that delivered on everything they could’ve hoped for.>>DeAngelo Hall, who is a bottle of excitement as well, is back with Rossum to return this kick. And it comes to the hands of Rossum, who fakes the backward pass to Hall and is brought down at the 28-yard line. For a franchise who, in their very first game — 1967 — returned the opening kickoff in franchise history for a touchdown, on this rebirth night, a moment to remember. Vick and the Falcons take over from their own 28. And Michael runs out the backdoor. Gain of 3, pushed out of bounds by Fred Thomas.>>Even though that was a big play on the blocked punt, Sean Payton has to be careful that his ball club doesn’t get too high ’cause you can go through an adrenaline depletion where everybody’s excited, everybody’s emotionally jacked to the heights, and then all of a sudden you get completely drained, and your legs feel like lead and you feel like you’re running in cement. I guarantee you Reggie Bush’s heartbeat is going off the charts right now. It’s so electric in here. They have to stay calm as long as they can and settle into the game against Vick and company.>>After an official gain of 4, second and 6. And Vick to the air. It is complete for a first down at the 40-yard line. Caught by Michael Jenkins.>>Michael Vick looked like an entirely different person when I’ve had a chance to visit with him yesterday. He’s so relaxed. He looks like he’s enjoying the game. He’s much more disciplined, and he’s very decisive, whether he’s throwing the ball or running with it, and we’ve seen that on back-to-back plays.>>He’s been running with it fabulously, but it looks like the Saints know he’s gonna do that. They’re gonna force him to pass, which has been his weakness.>>After the game’s first first down, they’re waiting for Vick, who throws incomplete. Josh Bullocks put on the pressure.>>This is what you want to do if you’re playing against Atlanta. He could kill you running. He might kill you passing, but history has shown he’s only a 51%, 52% passer. You want to take his legs out of the game and make him use his arm.>>You take the “might” side versus the sure thing.>>Yeah.>>Those numbers are in their first two games. Obviously they ran the ball well, but those are, like, one half stats for Brett Favre these days, you know? It just looks odd, but they are so effective doing the safest thing in football — running it. Second and 10. He reads the end and hands it to Warrick Dunn, a gain of 4. Here’s Michele Tafoya.>>Well, Mike, the Falcons know they are underdogs tonight. As Warrick Dunn put it to us, “It’s us against the world. The whole country is cheering for the Saints.” A week ago last Sunday after their win, Jim Mora immediately sat down with his team and began to prepare them for this environment. He talked to them again Monday then again Wednesday, and then he said, “We’re not talking about it anymore.” Mora has confidence his team is mature enough to handle this situation and thrive in it. Mike, we’ll see how they recover from that opening blocked punt.>>Jim knows all about this place and how special the Saints are to New Orleans. His dad the winningest coach in franchise history. He coached here as an assistant for five years. Third down. Vick throwing the deep ball for Ashley Lelie, who hauls it in, and he’ll be marked down at the 8-yard line. So, Lelie, who came via trade from Denver, hauls in the long strike of 48 yards.>>We make such a big deal about Michael Vick the runner, and you sort of poo-poo — “Well, he throws the ball okay.” He’s now got another weapon in Ashley Lelie. He has a big, tall, 6’3″ receiver against Mike McKenzie. Mike tries to get a hand on it. This is snuggling. Ashley does a nice job of just hauling it in, but the ball was perfectly thrown.>>That’s why they got Lelie, to go deep because Mike Vick throws the deep ball better than the short ball, doesn’t he?>>You are correct.>>Yeah, maybe.>>Dunn goes right side. Mike McKenzie there for the tackle. Gain of about a yard. Those of you just clicking over, quite a night here in New Orleans, not just for guys like Warrick Dunn, born in this city, but for all the Saints, all the city, all the NFL, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina, this dome, which hosted evacuees who were trying to survive now hosting football, the way this building was meant to do when it was built three decades ago. The Saints blocked a punt on the fourth snap of the game 1:30 in. Saints haven’t run a play on offense. Falcons trying to tie the game. And Vick lofts it up. It is incomplete for his security blanket, his tight end Alge Crumpler. Roman Harper, the rookie out of Alabama, on coverage.>>That doesn’t seem like much, but Michael Vick showed you there that he has touch. But also an excellent job of coverage. You see — Now, this is Harper, Roman Harper, a rookie, who’s starting for the Saints, having a chance to make a play.>>That’s a poor percentage of touchdowns in the red zone. The reason has been penalties and sacks. Third and goal. Blakley, the second tight end, in motion in the slot at the top.>>He’s still looking for Alge Crumpler.>>And he throws that way. Crumpler had it go in and out of his hands. Incomplete.>>I’m sorry. You got to catch that.>>You have to catch it.>>Particularly for me. I’ve got him in fantasy tonight. That just hurt me.>>Alge Crumpler has been the receiver that Michael Vick has thrown the most to. This is simple for him. This is easy, and he can’t put it away.>>Morten Andersen, the all-time leading Saints kicker, signed this week by the Atlanta Falcons. [ Crowd booing ] He is the oldest player to take the field in the National Football League, as he is “welcomed” back home, since 1975, and George Blanda. The 46-year-old from 26 yards.>>I hope that’s in his range at 46.>>And Morten Andersen, back on the scoreboard again, his 355th NFL game. Michael Koenen on the kickoff. Aaron Stecker returns. Tripped up at the 15-yard line. Omare Lowe, backup safety, makes the tackle. Brees, first snap. First throw. Deuce McAllister out of the backfield. To the 20-yard line. The tackle made by Michael Boley. Reggie Bush, who lines up in the backfield. Or on the side, excuse me. He takes that toss and gets to the 25-yard line. That’s the 70th offensive snap Bush has been on the field for, 22 lining up as a receiver, 48 as the running back.>>Reggie Bush really is as advertised, and that’s not for me. That’s when you talk to his teammates. They understand the impact that he can have on a football team. He had 15 receptions in the first two games, led all running backs in the first two games in receptions. Been effective as a runner. He’s really qualified as a space player, somebody that gets to the perimeter and can make things happen.>>And you saw a little discomfort for Reggie after that gain of 5, so McAllister is in there for third and a long 2. And Brees’ pass is deflected and incomplete. Fourth down.>>We saw Reggie Bush almost trip when he tried to make his cut. The field is soft. It’s real new turf. It hasn’t been matted down yet. You’d almost call it a slow field, if they let grass grow a little bit. It’s more difficult to be able to plant and cut. And that’s what you saw in Reggie Bush. And it just slows down the speed of the players.>>Steve Weatherford, the rookie out of Illinois, is punting. His punt of 39 yards is caught by Rossum. And Allen Rossum is brought down hard at the 42-yard line by Omar Stoutmire. I’m sure many people who didn’t have tickets were around the Dome just to soak up some of the atmosphere. Good field position for Atlanta’s third drive of this opening quarter. And after the fake, Vick throws. Nearly intercepted. He loves Crumpler, and the safeties know it. Roman Harper and Josh Bullocks in coverage.>>And the Saints know that he love Crumpler, Mike. What they’re gonna do is both of the safeties are gonna bracket him. This is Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper again. Alge’s working to the middle. You see Harper close. They like Harper. Alabama guy, started three years down there. Really won the job. And when you think about Sean Payton, he let his players go out and win jobs. Just ’cause you were a veteran didn’t mean you had one.>>Michael Jenkins, the slot man, in motion, coming closer to you. And Dunn waits for the block of Justin Griffith. Not much room. Third and 8. Receiver slipped. Pass incomplete. Mike McKenzie covering Roddy White.>>Michael, this turf is gonna be an issue all night. Even though Mike McKenzie jumped the route, you’re gonna see Roddy White have problems with his footing. He makes the cut. Now he tries to plant, and you see his feet slide right out. It’s gonna force these receivers to run with their body on top of their legs.>>Michael Koenen with the punt. Lance Moore lets it bounce. It died and I don’t think Omare Lowe could locate it. Touchback. First time in franchise history the New Orleans Saints sold out for the entire season, a statement stronger than any of how much the Saints mean to this city. First three snaps in the three-and-out all throws for Drew Brees and the Saints. This drive starts after the touchback from the 20. Deuce McAllister running on a surgically repaired knee, gains 3 to the 23.>>Joe, you made the point before that the field is soft and the field isn’t working right now. How long until a new turf field settles down to where, when you plant and make a cut, like Reggie Bush is doing, you can hold the cut?>>I think it’ll take at least a year, and there’s gonna have to be lots of play. You have to treat this field like a muddy, rainy field. The little guys with the short strides will be more effective than long striders trying to make cuts on this turf.>>So, after the McAllister gain of 3, Bush out in space to the left. The attention goes there. And the pass goes for a first down to Joe Horn at the 34-yard line. Thrown by Drew Brees, and as you know, Drew Brees was with the San Diego Chargers for four years. Led them to the playoffs. He has come to New Orleans in large part — he was available in free agency because of the injury he suffered, the major shoulder injury, at the end of last year’s season, and Brees had great numbers against the Packers last week.>>When you look at the numbers, 353 yards throwing, Mike, you got to figure there’s nothing wrong with his arm, and he’s back today, so he can’t be tired.>>And play-action from the 34, looking towards Reggie, who’s covered, and the pass for Horn is incomplete. When you think about Drew Brees, guys, we talk about the San Diego situation, and obviously he proved in that spot that he could be a leader, he could be a quality quarterback in this league. But that whole situation with Philip Rivers sitting there had to be resolved and finally was, as Brees, in free agency, came here, and it’s a place, Tony, that I think he found, as he worded it, a calling to.>>He said when he talked about it, he could’ve gone to Miami. He came here. He said, “I got the feeling from New Orleans, ‘You are our guy. We’ve been waiting for a guy like you for a long time.'” And he said, “I’m signing right now.” Of course, money helped.>>$60 million.>>It helped.>>Brees throws complete to Devery Henderson. The former LSU Tiger gets the first down to the 48-yard line, a pickup of 14.>>I don’t want to make it seem like he was the Red Cross and didn’t take any money ’cause he took a lot of money, but he also settled into the community. He and his wife bought a house on the same block, I believe, where Archie Manning lives. People will tell you that you see him around town, ordering beignets. You see he and his wife in the park. He said, “I’m gonna live here. You’re going to see me here. I commit to the city as the team commits to me.”>>A couple of first downs here on this drive, and the toss to Bush. Looking for space. Finds Michael Boley, good second-year outside linebacker. Loss of a few. Bush lost 3 on that one. And here he goes again. This time hitting it hard and just shy of midfield.>>You’d like to utilize a guy like Reggie Bush, get him out into space, try and get him to the perimeters — screens, draws, quick screens, swing passes, parts of the offense that you can get him outside. The turf, I think, will play a factor for him. I really believe that. This turf does not favor a Reggie Bush, just like a wet field wouldn’t. He’s gonna be better off going north and south than trying to put the cute, quick moves on to slide outside.>>Not just Bush but Aaron Stecker, another running back, is lined up as a receiver here on third and 8, and Atlanta’s gonna take a time-out here. Falcons sideline saw something that hasn’t been on film yet in that five wide, so they stop it here. This is an Atlanta defense that has been so stingy all year. Haven’t allowed a touchdown. So, with the time-out, let’s check in with Suzy Kolber. Suze?>>Well, Mike, after that incredible Saints start, the blocked punt for a touchdown, offensive coordinator Doug Marrone gathered his offensive line on the sideline. You could see him motioning, “Calm down, take a deep breath. It’s just the beginning. We have a long way to go.” And that was the theme throughout the sideline. Sean Payton brought his team here Friday night. He tried to simulate the emotion of tonight. I’m here to tell you, from this vantage point, it would be impossible. The energy is off the charts.>>Yeah, Suzy, Sean Payton, the 42-year-old, that kind of fits his profile, keeping his team calm. Remember, he replaced Jim Haslett, who was here for six years, the defensive coordinator now for St. Louis. Payton the last three years with the Cowboys, running Bill Parcells’ offense. Before that, helped the Giants as the coordinator with Jim Fassel get to the Super Bowl. This is the first opportunity as an NFL head coach at age 42. After the Atlanta time-out, third and 8. And Brees’ throw is complete to Marques Colston. Penalty marker down back at the quarterback. Patrick Kerney was rushing. It may add to a 27-yard gain. Let’s see.>>You just can’t touch a quarterback anymore in this league. DeAngelo Hall shaken up on the play as well.>>Personal foul — roughing the passer, defense, led with the helmet. 15-yard penalty from the end of the run. First down.>>The league has placed an emphasis on protecting quarterbacks. If somebody hits them low or you hit them with the crown of your helmet you’re going to wind up with a penalty.>>Meantime, all the way through the time-out, DeAngelo Hall, the Pro Bowl corner for the Falcons, was down, now getting up. Let’s go back to the end of the Colston completion. Hall diving in.>>He hits him. Not sure whether it’s a knee or an ankle. Not quite certain. He stands up and seems to be fine, and now comes off.>>With some assistance. So you take away one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.>>That really hurts, and it hurts DeAngelo Hall because he was a guy who was gonna play some offense as well tonight. Remember, he was saying how he wanted to score a touchdown and announce himself to the entire world. He was gonna play offense and defense.>>Well, what you do here if you’re the New Orleans Saints is you figure okay, Allen Rossum is taking his place. I like my odds — Joe Horn against Allen Rossum.>>One of the things DeAngelo Hall said, and I quote, “The world needs to see DeAngelo Hall.” I’m sure he didn’t feel they needed to see him like that, being helped off the field.>>Three receivers, and Lawyer Milloy goes out there as the coverage goes to one side. This is first down. It’s in the hands of Bush. It’s the hands of Devery Henderson, the former LSU Tiger! In the end zone in the Louisiana Superdome. Touchdown, New Orleans.>>What a block by Drew Brees to get him into the end zone. Number 9 hands off. Now he’s out front, leading the reverse. Watch number 9. Throws the block. Terrific job.>>You know, I know that there are social issues we should talk about here and cultural issues. But what a start by New Orleans for a football game they want to win. They get a score on a blocked punt, they get a score on a double reverse. The crowd is waiting to explode. Gets a chance twice early.>>Quarterback with a bad shoulder throwing a good block.>>Couldn’t write it any better, could not.>>Extra point added by Carney to make it 14-3. And Suzy’s on the sideline with a special New Orleans guest, Suze.>>Archie Manning has lived here in New Orleans since he was drafted by the Saints 35 years ago. Archie, tonight is about rebirth and also reality. What would you say is the state of the New Orleans community now?>>Well, just excited, Suzy. Great anticipation of this day coming. We kind of look for good news here, and this is a good news day. I think we all want to get back, and we want to get — everybody wants their home back, their business back. But we got something back today. We got our building back and we got our football team back, so that’s good news.>>How do you express what the Saints mean to this community?>>Well, like in a lot of places, college towns and some pro places, it’s really the pulse of the community, especially during the fall. I mean, what happens on Sunday kind of dictates people’s personality for a week or so. And I think especially now that everybody’s been depressed, everybody’s been through some tough times, and we’re kind of looking for the Saints to give us some joy and happiness.>>What can people do who are watching to help?>>Pardon me?>>What can people still do to help this community?>>Well, there’s still a lot of projects. We got a lot of problems. There’s still a lot of projects. Very charitable things. The nonprofits who don’t — were struggling before really have problems now, so it’s easy to find a good project to help.>>Thanks for joining us, Archie.>>Thanks for being here.>>Suzy, thank you. The kick return by Atlanta brings it out to about the 40-yard line. Jerious Norwood returned it. An injured New Orleans Saint on the play. The injured player, Ninkovich, limped off. Didn’t put any power on his right leg. Vick and the Falcons take over from the 44. And no running room. In this early going, it’s been all Charles Grant, the New Orleans defense, and the Saints with a couple of big plays.>>It’s striking what has happened so far. A team scores on a blocked punt, a team scores on a double reverse. They hold Atlanta pretty well on defense, and you hear the crowd explode with glee. And I know we’re going to talk about the hard times that are here because you can’t ignore it, but you almost get the feeling that the people here want to ignore it a little bit and just celebrate the fact that their football team is doing something that they haven’t seen in over a year.>>After no gain, second and 10. Warrick Dunn squirts through the hole and gets to the 48-yard line. Here’s Michele.>>Guys, DeAngelo Hall has a left calf injury. His return is questionable. He’s in quite a bit of pain on the sidelines. Saturday night he got a text message from a buddy, Deion Sanders, who said, “How bad do you want it? I know you’re tired, sore, and unsatisfied, but your family, kids, friends, teammates, and fans are depending on you. 60 minutes is all you have.” He may not have those 60 minutes, guys.>>Yeah, Hall has become friendly with Deion, and the former Falcon returned to the Falcons camp this summer to work with the DBs, part of that relationship that has grown and continues via text message. Third and 6. Vick for Crumpler. Broken up again. Scott Fujita, who’s been a lot of places in this first quarter. Fourth down.>>You have to be very impressed with the job that Gary Gibbs, their defensive coordinator, has done. Michael Vick has had no passes where a defender hasn’t been on top of his receivers. It’s almost like the defense knows where he wants to go with the football.>>Koenen’s first punt was 56. His first attempted punt was blocked for the opening touchdown. And with Lance Moore back deep to receive, we’ll see if Koenen can pin the Saints inside their own 20. He cannot. 52-yard punt, the net — 32. Drew Brees and the Saints take over in this battle of 2-0 teams at the 20. Fake to Bush, throw to Colston. And the third to last player taken in the draft gains 5. The Saints have scored two touchdowns in the first quarter at home for the first time in eight years. Bush twisted a yard shy of the first down. Massive Grady Jackson brings him down.>>One of the things that we heard from the Atlanta players was the notion that everybody would root against them. I mean, they didn’t say it with any anger. They understood the emotion of this moment, the New Orleans Saints coming back home for the first time in 14 months. And I think outside of Atlanta, that’s probably true. Right now, the New Orleans Saints are not just the team to a lot of people, they’re a cause, and I think people are happy to see them do well.>>Their coach told them at the start of the season, “You have a chance to do something no team has ever done — represent a city as they try to come back.” Second quarter here in the Louisiana Superdome, reopened and looking brighter and better than it’s ever looked. 14-3, Saints leading the Falcons. Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theismann in the booth. Michele Tafoya, Suzy Kolber down on the sideline. Of course, our “Monday Night Countdown” crew on hand. So glad that you have joined us for a unique and memorable evening of “Monday Night Football.” Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister have been splitting the load. That time McAllister lined up in the backfield. A penalty marker down as pushing and shoving goes on, on the back end of that run to the 46. Flag not related to the post-play pushing.>>Holding, offense, number 70. 10-yard penalty. Repeat third down.>>Left tackle Jammal Brown’s penalty wipes away an 18-yard gain.>>You’ll see a lot of movement from the New Orleans Saints going one direction, coming back the other. One of their big concerns was the speed of the Atlanta Falcon defense, one of the fastest in the league. So what you want to do is get them running in one direction, cause them to chase and go back. That’s what happened. You saw the wide receiver come around behind. Deuce McAllister takes it up the middle and gashes the defense.>>So, after the penalty, we’ll have third and 10 back at the 20. Brees fakes it one way. Has it knocked down by Michael Boley and incomplete. Brees knew he could grab it and catch it and run with it. Couldn’t get there, and it’s fourth down.>>Why? Why would he want to?>>That’s probably why he let it go.>>That’s exactly what went through his mind. “Why would I want to do this?” That’s the second time the Atlanta Falcons have come up with a batted ball on third down.>>Weatherford earned the job as punter with Mitch Berger, who was around but had a groin injury all throughout preseason and was placed on injured reserve. So, the rookie — line drive here. Falcons return man Rossum says, “Get away from it,” and what results is a 43-yard punt with no return. So the Falcons will take over at the 37. And Vick reads what the defensive end is doing, gives it to Warrick Dunn, who gets a first down and a gain of a dozen yards. So much of the New Orleans story — Warrick Dunn inSports Illustrateda year ago called out his fellow players in the National Football League, an open letter. He said… Well, some players have contributed, not to the level Dunn had hoped, the $8.5 million, but Warrick Dunn, who has been such a great humanitarian in this league, called his fellow players out publicly to do what he has been doing. And there he gains 6 yards. Michele Tafoya has more on Warrick Dunn.>>Well, last night, Mike, Warrick Dunn hired three cars to take him and 25 Falcon players and staffers on a 90-minute tour of the Ninth Ward. They all wanted to see for themselves up close what Hurricane Katrina actually has left behind, and they watched it, looked at it in awe. Today Warrick Dunn said the tour was one word — “surreal.”>>And Stuart Scott pointed out on the pregame, Michele, Warrick didn’t want cameras to go. That was not a thing to be seen by everybody. It’s something he personally wanted to do. Falcons will back up five here.>>False start, offense, number 65. 5-yard penalty. Third down.>>We have all, the three of us at least, have taken a tour in one form or another of some of the most hardest hit areas in New Orleans. In the Lower Ninth Ward, what you see often, because the houses have been carted away, what you see is a couple of steps of concrete leading to where a porch used to be. We passed 9 or 10 of them. They’re almost like unmarked gravestones in a graveyard of a community that no longer exists.>>Flag of 5. Back to second and 10. Right back in the belly of Dunn. And he gets back across midfield, to the 48-yard line, where a third down will come up.>>That’s the third time they’ve run that read-option, for lack of a better description. They spent some time with people from the Ohio State University. The coaches came in and took a look. Michael’s gonna read the end person on the line of scrimmage. If there’s a hole, he’s gonna give it. If not, he’ll keep it and turn outside. Puts a lot of pressure on that end man, whether it’s a linebacker or a defensive end.>>Vick is 2 of 9 passing. 2 of 10. Will Smith, out of The Ohio State University, knocked it down. He’s missed his last six passes.>>Michael sits in the pocket. Will Smith coming outside, around Gandy. Both were Saints. Will Smith — one of those guys. He’s had 2 sacks so far this year, 8 1/2 last year. The speed part of that defense is their defensive line.>>This is what the first two opponents of the Falcons were unable to do — to make Michael Vick pass, and he ran all day, he and Dunn.>>And Michael Koenen’s punt will be fair-caught by Moore at the 15-yard line. Those images, those still images, have more power and so much of a different light. You just are reminded the moments in time and how painful they were, as people try to come back and try to get some energy back in their city and their lives from their football team. First-down run with Reggie Bush. The ball comes out. Jammal Brown falls on it, and it was, in fact, ruled on the field a fumble and a recovery by the Saints out there at the 23-yard line. Well, one of the many pieces of very, very good work done about the hurricane was done by this man, the great Spike Lee, whose documentary that aired on HBO, “When the Levees Broke,” it’s 4 hours, 20 minutes, and you can’t stop watching it. Spike, it’s great to have you here on this very historic night.>>Historic night. I’ve been at a lot of sporting events, and this is one of the greatest I’ve been. I mean, it’s exciting. My hairs are on end. It’s a great night.>>Here’s the second-down run for Deuce McAllister, who breaks into the secondary, and McAllister is out to the 45-yard line, a pickup of 22 for Deuce.>>It’s a real nice job by the left side of the offensive line. Jammal Brown, number 70, Jamar Nesbit — they just collapse. And what you see is Allen Rossum, as he comes along the formation, trying to stay with Reggie Bush, just takes himself out. And then big Deuce lowers the shoulder when he can’t go any further. Let’s everybody know that the knee is okay.>>Remember when people were worried that Deuce McAllister would get no carries ’cause Reggie Bush would get them all? And they’ve been splitting time, splitting carries the whole season so far.>>On first down from the 45, back to McAllister, who gains about a yard and a half. Spike, the documentary — why did you do it?>>I’m a filmmaker, and I just wanted to give the people of New Orleans a chance to speak to a camera and tell their stories. I didn’t want a narrator. I didn’t want to put myself in front of the camera. I just wanted to put the people, the great citizens of New Orleans, and tell their stories, and that’s what we did.>>Of all the things you saw, all the heartbreaking things and all the things that gave you some joy, I’m sure, what one stands out the most for you in that long process?>>Just the courage of the people, how they continue. And I don’t want to sound like a doomsayer, but a year later, it’s not right here. It’s still not right.>>Here’s McAllister. Shy of midfield. Third down coming up.>>Being from New York, there are a lot of teams that you could root for, and we know who you affiliate with. But did you come up with a sense as to why the Saints are so important to this community, that a game like this could be, in fact, so uplifting it might not be in other cities?>>It’s all they have, really. So, it’s four hours, then back to your FEMA trailer. And that’s not… That’s not nice.>>The power of sports impresses you with what it can do?>>Yes, to bring everybody together, and you just got to build on what’s happening here tonight.>>Third down here as New Orleans tries to make the most of that McAllister play. Falcons back off to zone. And Brees comes underneath. Complete to Marques Colston. Spike, here’s a guy right up your alley. He’s a guy from Hofstra, the third to last player taken in the draft, became a rookie starter. He’s done a terrific job. First down at the 40-yard line.>>Not from New York.>>Reggie Bush — here’s an individual who’s being asked to do a lot. What’s your impressions of how much Reggie has done for the community?>>They’re putting a lot of stuff on Reggie’s shoulder. But he’s been great, and he’s really taken a poor position and trying to galvanize the people and use his celebrity to raise some money and help the people here in this great city.>>We’ve seen so many of those charitable acts, and we’ll continue to show you some of those as the night goes on. On first down, Brees pumps left, comes back right. It was high, but Joe Horn went up to get it. May have gotten hurt on that. He sure did. 17 yards as Joe comes down, peels himself off the turf.>>If there is anybody that is symbolic of what the Saint fans appreciate, it’s what Joe Horn has done in his time here. In the 11 years that he has played in different places, here, he just shows himself. Lands dead on his back, gets hit right in the butt, and he’ll lay for a second, but he knows this is just too big. “I can’t be hurt.” And he basically is the kind of guy that just wills himself places.>>I agree. The fans are just fired up tonight.>>McAllister inside the tackles. Goes to the 18-yard line.>>Spike, you’re in a situation here where you see what the power of sports can do for almost 100,000 people, 70,000 or whatever. But you’ve seen the depressing elements as well.>>Right.>>14 months later, houses not just not rebuilt. Not even gutted yet. Are you optimistic or pessimistic with everything you see tonight as opposed to what’s outside?>>Go ahead, Spike. Tell the truth. Come on.>>I’m not gonna pull a Kanye up here. [ Laughter ]>>Put it out there.>>No. No Kanye West tonight for me, folks. America!>>Politically correct Spike Lee. I didn’t know that I’d ever say that.>>Colston drops the pass there. It was tough to catch.>>I’m assuming you’d like to see more done. Is that okay?>>Yes.>>All right.>>Yes. I mean, it’s a great city, and I just can’t understand why we cannot help our own American citizens, why it took five days to come help our own American citizens.>>And yet, a year later, there are lots of things to do. But when you look at the downtown area, the business people want everybody to come. They want businesses to come back, conventions to come back. This is what this dome can be. It can be the center of economics.>>Needless to say, it’s a very split and a very complex story without black and white answers, and a lot of issues still to be raised. A flag is down here on third down. Well, Spike, you got Knicks season revving up here in a month. I know you’re ready to get back courtside at the Garden.>>Well, first, the Yankees are gonna win the Wor– well, we got to go to the World Series with the Yankees first.>>Okay. And then you get to basketball.>>Then we go to basketball.>>Again, your documentary that HBO aired — it was on HBO…on a selective basis, “When the Levees Broke.” Really, it’s 4 hours and 20 minutes of the most gripping television. Pleasure to have you up here. Thank you.>>Thank you. You guys are doing a great job.>>We’re not gonna let him go without asking about Isiah. Is Isiah the savior? Come on now.>>You have to answer that one.>>Potential coach of the year. You heard it right here.>>Isiah Thomas.>>I haven’t been smoking.>>Big shoes.>>Goodbye, Spike. [ Laughter ] Isiah Thomas, of course, the New York Knicks, who took over from Tony’s friend Larry Brown.>>Exactly.>>That’ll be a story to watch in New York. Meantime here, after the play was stopped, it stays as third and 6 from the 19-yard line. Brees is pressured. Throws incomplete. Fans want a flag and get it. But the Falcons are saying, Joe, that it was deflected.>>Yeah, after the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, you can hit a receiver. Now the officials are doing an excellent job of conferring. Ed Hochuli and his crew do a real nice job of communicating. You have the police, the official police, that keep the players away, and then you have a group of two or three that meet and discuss it. You see the line of officials keeping the Falcon players away.>>That’s almost as many assistant coaches that some teams have.>>Pass interference, defense, number 56. The ball will be placed at the spot of the foul. First down.>>Brooking, Keith Brooking, was defending Reggie Bush, and Jim Mora wants to know why the deflection didn’t negate the pass interference.>>There he is holding on to him. But the Falcons all believed that that ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, as does Jim Mora.>>And he’s going to throw his red challenge flag here. Ed Hochuli will come over for the conversation with Mora. It was 75, Roderick Coleman.>>Atlanta is challenging the ruling on the field that the ball was not touched before the pass interference.>>Okay, Ed Hochuli has gone under the hood for 60 seconds, watched the replay, and here’s the call on the challenge by Atlanta that the pass interference should be negated because of the deflection.>>There’s no question that the ball was tipped. The question in his mind has to be when.>>The ball was tipped by defensive player number 75 before the pass interference, therefore there is no foul on the play by rule. It will therefore be an incomplete pass. It’s fourth and 6 on the 19. No time-outs are charged to Atlanta.>>And Atlanta loses one of its challenges. The rare successful challenge. Joe, explain.>>Rod Coleman, number 75. Once this ball is tipped, any contact that Brooking has with Reggie Brown doesn’t count. That was a heck of a play by Rod Coleman, staying at the line of scrimmage and just reading Drew Brees’ eyes.>>There’s the home run point, Joe — the timing of all that. Tip, free, pass interference. Thus flag negated. And as I said, Jim Mora, who uses replay with as little success as almost anyone in terms of head coaches, finally gets one to go his way. That is now the 18th challenge and the 4th on-field call overturned. That is one of the lower rates of coaches, one of the five lowest among the 45 head coaches who have had 10 challenges, and not just that, Dan Reeves, who he followed, Reeves had a bad record, and his dad, Jim Mora, had a bad replay record.>>Well, he got one right.>>John Carney, 37-yard field goal. Saints lead by 14. All of the external forces have obviously been explained in our significant story line. Just from a pure football perspective, I don’t think anybody really knew how good New Orleans was. They are 2-0. They won two road games. You never take that away in the NFL. But they won against Cleveland and Green Bay, certainly not teams that come in with a high profile or high expectations for this season. The Falcons have just run over everyone. They’ve only rushed for 41 yards thus far in the game and find themselves trailing by 14 points here in the second. Kickoff return by Jerious Norwood, the rookie out of Mississippi State. Shown the sideline at the 42, and a 15-yard flag tacked on as Curtis DeLoatch got too intense, and his head coach, Sean Payton, is right there to tell him you can’t do that. Or something to that effect.>>Well, Sean Payton explained to him, in a game like this, when you have all the momentum in the world, he’s out of bounds, now you take and throw him. That’s just stupid. I mean, you’re a third-year player.>>Personal foul, unnecessary roughness by the kicking team, number 39 — threw him to the ground out of bounds. 15-yard penalty. Atlanta’s ball. First down.>>And, Joe, you can see why his frustration was there because as Norwood is going to stiff-arm him, he’s up by the headgear of DeLoatch.>>I don’t care. I don’t care about frustration. You have to use your head at this level. You can’t — In a game like this, with all the emotion, you can’t let your emotions get the best of you. It doesn’t matter who — you know, runners can straight-arm and grab face masks. It doesn’t matter.>>Michael Vick is 2 of 10 passing. He’s missed his last six. But a great opportunity here. As Vick loads up and throws incomplete. Roman Harper, the safety, read that read-option very well. Second and 10. Vick has space. Fakes out Fujita, but good pursuit by Hollis Thomas, the former Philadelphia Eagle. Third down coming up. They run on third and 5. And they’re gonna come up a yard shy with the Justin Griffith carry. The fullback getting just his second effort as a ballcarrier.>>I wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Mora goes for it here. He has such supreme confidence in his running game. And you’ve got Fred McCrary coming in. You’ve got Warrick Dunn coming in. You’ve got a guy who’s quick, who can make moves, and a big battering ram in front of him.>>And just from a football strategy point, from here it would be a 51-yard field goal and likely out of the range of Morten Andersen, just added. You’d have to go back to Koenen for a long field-goal attempt here. And New Orleans is gonna take a time-out to discuss fourth and 1.>>Considering Morten Andersen says that his leg is so lively, having sat out for a year or so, that he can bomb them from 50, he also said, though — he made a big joke about his age, 46 — he said, “They took blood from me the other day, and dust came out.” That’s a pretty funny line.>>You know, this game and this night was full to the top of the cup with story lines. When Andersen announced this week that he was coming back and the Falcons signed him, it was just one more because so many different roads and paths converging here tonight, and so much of the story, in a football game, we talk about the fans, the atmosphere. When the game starts, the fans aren’t part of the story or the stadium really isn’t. It can get loud, make communication tough. But the people are so much a part of the story tonight because the joy on their faces — I was walking through the concourse when we got here. And people were just so thrilled to be back, looking around at this building, saying, “We have our building back.”>>They’ve waited an awfully long time for their team to come back to this city. How much it means to the city. The chance to finally have something good to cheer about, which they haven’t had, and when they go outside, they don’t necessarily have it either.>>Fourth and 1. And they will choose to throw it. And complete it to Alge Crumpler, tackled by Josh Bullocks. First down at the 16. Exactly what you didn’t think would happen. Flag down deep in the secondary. Let’s check the flag.>>That’s a clutch catch. Good coverage again, but Mr. Clutch manages to pull it in, Alge Crumpler. He dropped an early touchdown pass. He’s certainly not gonna drop another one.>>12 men on the field, defense. The penalty is declined. The play results in a first down.>>And that was after a time-out.>>Right.>>Remember, that was after a time-out that the New Orleans Saints wound up with too many guys on the field.>>Scott Fujita was trying to call time-out down there. Did not get it. Meantime, for Vick, it’s the first time, back since 2002, that he had gone seven attempts in a row without a completion. That stopped at a very opportune time, taking Atlanta back into the red zone. Norwood slips as he tries to cut back. Charles Grant, fifth-year man out of Georgia, former first-round pick.>>There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on the perimeter players on the defensive line — Will Smith and Charles Grant, as well as Scott Fajita. [ Chuckles ] Fujita. Fajita. Food on my mind.>>Hungry?>>Yes, I am.>>What they have to do is continue to channel Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn, Norwood back into the run support, and the back side can’t get too antsy.>>Three receivers come close to you. The tight end, Crumpler, is at the top of the screen. And the throw out to the big guy. Crumpler tries to make a man miss, and a good, down-low tackle by Fred Thomas off the corner.>>Josh Bullocks, another one of those draft choices, second-round pick out of Nebraska last year. With the trials and tribulations that these Saints went through, a lot of young guys had to play. A lot of people were hurt. And it’s incredible what they did, the places they practiced in, the buses they had to get on to go eat, to go shower, to go lift. Jim Haslett really did a great job last year just getting these guys to dress.>>Thank you for correcting me, Joe. Bullocks on the tackle, not Thomas. Third and 7. Vick now dancing out. Lofting it complete to Griffith. And he is shy of the end zone, down at the 2-yard line.>>There isn’t another quarterback in the National Football League that can make that play. Michael Vick is so unique that he can step up and everybody thinks he’s gonna run, and then he throws it in reverse very quickly and puts a little touch on it. You see him jump up inside. Will Smith thought he had him. All of a sudden he was gone. Jerious Norwood winds up with a big reception.>>That’s got to be the nightmare scenario, Joe. You can X-O and game-plan, and then he does something that they haven’t put on film before.>>Especially down here around the goal line, where you have to make quicker decisions.>>Time-out taken here by Atlanta. And the coaches are gonna really have to work on their 40 times and their flag-throwing and the challenges. They had to come all the way down to get the time-out there.>>It’s a 30-second time-out.>>Remember, going back to what we saw the opening night of the season, when Nick Saban and that flag, and everybody’s now said, “Hey, you got to make sure you throw your flag.” Well, the Falcons, and I believe it was Jim Mora, had to sprint all the way down to the referee at the 5-yard line, the official at the 5-yard line, to get the time-out.>>That’s why it would be good to hire an assistant coach someone like Theismann who can still throw the flag at great distance to make sure the referees are aware of it.>>That’s right. You got, like, 20-something coaches. Now you’re gonna have your designated replay-flag thrower and the guy who sprints to go get the line judge or side judge.>>Because you can. There’s no cap on assistants.>>That’s right.>>You can keep paying.>>Michael Vick has to be very careful with the exchange because it’s very loud, and the center is gonna have to make some big steps, so he’s got to be careful to get the ball.>>Ex-center Eric Beverly now at tight end, came in motion. Vick brought down. Brian Young, the seventh-year veteran, with the sack.>>That’s Brian Young’s fourth sack in the first three games. A little play-action fake. That’s what happens when you slide, get rid of the center, and make the play.>>Can’t run away from everything, can you?>>As long as the ends box you in, those big guys will eat you alive.>>You mentioned, Joe, that’s his fourth sack in 2 1/2 games. He had 13 in his first six years in the NFL. Second and goal. In the belly of Dunn. To the 7, and to the 2-minute warning as Young made that tackle. Flag down here before the 2-minute warning. It was thrown back in the secondary.>>That’s the 2-minute warning. 2 minutes.>>All right. Maybe the flag just slipped out. Third and goal for Michael Vick and the Falcons, trailing by 14. Four in the pattern, and Vick throws. And it’s deflected and incomplete. Intended for Fred Thomas on the coverage. Field-goal attempt coming up.>>Michael Vick has had absolutely no place to put the football to his receivers. Nice job by Fred Thomas on Ashley Lelie. He tries to throw to the back shoulder, but Fred Thomas just didn’t give him enough room to be able to make the throw.>>You know what some of this proves, Joe? Is that both teams have coaches, that the other team is watching what you’ve done well, and they’re coming up with something to stop it.>>They call that film, Tony, film. That’s what they work on.>>Morten Andersen, good from 26, is blocked on this 25-yard attempt! What a night it’s been for the special teams. Josh Bullocks, the safety, came in to get that, and Joe DeCamillis, the special-teams coach, and his crew has had a tough first half.>>We knew that his range was 26 at least, so you had to figure 25 was good.>>But you have to get it airborne. Number 29, the second on the right, Josh Bullocks. You’ll see him come inside. Terrific angle. Looked an awful lot like the punt block, where the guy making the block is right in front of the kicker. Nice job leaping through, making the block.>>So, a couple of protection breakdowns, and look at the Saints sideline.>>How good do you feel if you’re a member of the New Orleans Saints, if you’re a fan of the New Orleans Saints, if you have plugged into this story, obviously, about Katrina and said to yourself, “They could use a little bit of good luck”? How good do you feel right now?>>And with two time-outs, I don’t believe Sean Payton is gonna go into a shell. I think you come out and run the ball, see what you can get, and you try and get into a field-goal position.>>Atlanta has one time-out left. Deuce McAllister takes it to the 18-yard line. Jason Webster and Lawyer Milloy there on the tackle. Tough half for Vick, who has missed on 10 of his 15 passes. He’s been so effective running. Only two attempts for 9 yards.>>I will say this. Where Michael Vick has tried to throw the football to his receivers, I don’t know if any quarterback in the league would’ve been able to complete them. The Saints have been right on top of them, and the field has negated the speed of the Atlanta Falcons.>>Second and 5 from the 18. Brees throws complete to Colston. And the first down for Marques. Here’s Michele Tafoya.>>Mike, after the blocked field-goal attempt, the looks in the players’ eyes on this Falcons sideline instantly changed. There was a look of shock, of being stunned. Jim Mora told us he believes his players were mature enough to handle this environment. They all thought they were prepared for it. But I’m not sure they knew exactly what they were getting into, guys.>>Michele, it’s an interesting point.>>They’ve also forgotten, Michele, that the Saints aren’t what they were a year ago. This is a 2-0 football team also.>>They may equal their 3-win total all year. Reggie Bush. Right at the first-down line, and we’ll see here, with 59 seconds… Payton continuing to let the clock run.>>You can talk about that, how they’re a 2-0 football team, and that’s all well and good. But they’re scoring on trick plays, they’re batting down kick attempts and stuff like that. Everything works for them right now, everything.>>Right back to Reggie. To the 39, and now with that first down in tow, and comfortable range here, Payton’s gonna take a time-out out of the shadow of the goalpost at the 39. Suzy?>>Mike, when Sean Payton took this job, he knew he would have to change the culture, and that meant a total overhaul — 24 players on the roster tonight that weren’t here last year. Tight end Ernie Conwell told us how he appreciates that, that this is a team of good men, and he shared with us the way Payton conveyed the message during training camp. He held up a banner from 2004, the U.S. Olympic basketball team, a group of superstars who weren’t very successful. Sean said it’s not always the most talented group of men. It’s the right group of men. That’s what it takes to be successful.>>Suzy, that 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team that had just an awful time in Athens, you remember the losses that they took, to Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Lithuania, two years after the U.S. fell on its face in the world championships in Indianapolis. Bush, screen. Reggie to the sideline at the 41. Here, New Orleans, one time-out, 33 seconds, and operating from their own 42. Flag down as Brees’ pass, intended for Devery Henderson, is incomplete.>>That’s gonna be against Jammal Brown, the left tackle, moving a little too quick.>>Illegal formation, offense, number 70 lined up in the backfield.>>Ooh!>>5-yard penalty. Repeat second down.>>He wants to be a running back.>>He broke that line of helmets there that you have to maintain. Did not get that. Well, the Falcons against the Panthers and Buccaneers, combined those teams only ran it for 105 yards and no touchdowns. Atlanta came into this third week of the year one of three teams not to allow a touchdown. Well, tonight New Orleans has already run for 75 yards and two touchdowns scored. Really, one allowed by the defense, one coming on the special-teams play, but it was the first touchdown allowed by Atlanta all year, keeping safe the 1937 Bears, who are the last team in NFL history to go three games without a touchdown being scored upon them. Baltimore, Denver, and Atlanta had a chance to take them out of the books this week and have not.>>I think I rooted for them when I was small, the ’37 Bears.>>The clock should read 28 seconds. 28 seconds.>>5-second runoff on the penalty on New Orleans. While we have a second, you can look at the numbers from this first half.>>They need to pick up 40 more yards, the Saints do, to give Carney an opportunity at a 50-yard field goal.>>And one time-out and 28 seconds to try to accomplish that. And a hand-off inside to Bush. He gets to the edge. Can’t get out of bounds as Reggie is taken down at the 49-yard line. And New Orleans takes its final time-out.>>Reggie is so electric. The short steps. When he cuts, he doesn’t get his legs out away from his body. He cuts with his legs underneath his body.>>I would hope so.>>The difference is he’s a high-stepper. His knees go up and down. They don’t slide out. Tall receivers have a little — The big guys have it more difficult.>>How do you like those gold shoes he’s wearing tonight?>>New ones.>>Guys, Reggie Bush, of course, was in the news because of what happened when he was at USC as an eligible student-athlete while playing at USC. Did Reggie and his family accept financial benefits from potential agents to try to sign him once he turned pro? If that happened, then it’s an NCAA violation. National championship and the Heisman come into question. They question who paid for several things, including a hotel stay and a used car for Reggie. Ten days ago, there was an investigative story. Reggie’s attorney — we met with him yesterday — knocked down some of the claims. Brees here with 19 seconds, pitches it to Bush, who runs to the sideline and gets there at the 49-yard line to stop the clock. Mathis took a shot at Joe Horn, and that was a bad penalty. Adds 15 yards, and the Saints are gonna be very close to field-goal range. And Joe Horn has to be careful not to get it back as he goes mouth to mouth with DeAngelo Hall.>>Both of these teams are wrapped up in the emotion of the night.>>After the play was over, personal foul — unnecessary roughness, defense, number 23. 15-yard penalty. First down.>>Good block by Joe Horn. Now he comes back and pushes him. Joe Horn is protecting his partner. He’s protecting his running back. Now, Joe is never one not to finish a conversation, so he’s gonna say something.>>Yeah, speaking of finishing, let me finish the Reggie Bush story. We talked to Reggie’s agent yesterday. He again poked some holes in some of the claims that were in that printed story from Yahoo Sports online. We asked if they’re gonna cooperate with the Pac-10 or the NCAA investigation. He said there’s litigation still out there potentially, so they’ll consider cooperating with that investigation, only if it’s in Reggie’s best interest. So that cleans up some of the Reggie Bush story that has been out there. Really, not a lot to advance the story at this point. Brees — no time-outs left — throws incomplete.>>What does stay out there, though, is the notion, the possibility that Reggie Bush’s family accepted either — you know, free rent for some long period of time last year, the house that they were moved out of when the story first broke, and you have to identify were they ever charged rent? If they were, how did they pay rent? That sort of hangs out there, and that would be an improper benefit in most people’s eyes if that were the case.>>Yeah, and it’s a college football story because that’s the impact. It’s not a story down here in New Orleans because of all the things Reggie has reached out to the community at their time of need before playing a game in here. Final seconds. Brees, without time-outs, has to get to the sidelines, and they almost lost yardage on the pass to Henderson. So, from here, you’re looking at a 51-yard field-goal attempt with 5 seconds left, and all Henderson can do is say, “Hey, I had to get out of bounds, gaining or losing.”>>No point not trying it.>>51 is a makable distance for John Carney. In preseason — excuse me — in pregame he kicked a 53-yarder.>>So, John Carney, this fountain of kicking youth tonight at age 42, with Morten Andersen on the other side, comes out to attempt this field goal at the back end of the half.>>It’s the oldest two kickers since the Rockettes had a reunion from the 1945 Rockettes.>>From 51. On line. Is it long enough? You betcha.>>[ Laughs ] How does everything go right, right now, for the New Orleans Saints in their first game here in 14 months?>>As we begin the third quarter here in the reopened Louisiana Superdome. Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya on the field. Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theismann in the booth. Michael Koenen kicking off for the Falcons. And Aaron Stecker will take it 2 yards deep in the end zone. Hurdling a tackler, he makes a man miss, and brings it out to the 25-yard line, where Fred McCrary, the fullback, makes the stop. The delay after the kickoff and before the first play — John Leake was shaken up for the Falcons. He walked off under his own power. On first down, Brees throws complete to Marques Colston again. Turns down tackles and takes it into Falcons territory. First down, gain of 29.>>Marques Colston is such a wonderful story, a seventh-round draft choice. Everybody liked him. They liked him in the third. They liked him in the fourth. They liked him in the fifth. Nobody could pull the trigger on him.>>They must’ve loved him in the seventh.>>Oh, they absolutely did. Out of Hofstra, they felt like all he could do was run the bubble screen in college and run fast. But with each day in practice, he got better and better.>>Sean Payton, quoting his old coach Bill Parcells, “Bill taught us unbias yourself as to how we acquired the player.” You look at a guy who was a very low draft choice, you say, “How could he become a starter?”>>Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, after they found out New Orleans was their new football home, they have infused themselves into this city, purchasing a home in the Uptown area, the truly New Orleans area, where Archie and Olivia Manning, the first football couple of this city, still call home. Brees pumps deep. Gets it to McAllister. To the 39-yard line, 3 shy of a first down. Look at the numbers here for the first 31 minutes. Brees — 14 of 20, very efficient night. McAllister averaging right around 6.5 a carry. Reggie Bush has touched it from scrimmage 10 times, averaging just under 5 per touch.>>And also, you have to be impressed with the offensive line of the New Orleans Saints. All five are new starters, and Drew Brees went through this in San Diego a few years back when they started a whole new group, and they’re starting to gel. They’ve done a terrific job giving him a chance to stand back there and throw the ball.>>McAllister runs for a first down. Michael Boley and Demorrio Williams made the tackle. And we should reiterate that Atlanta is without two starters on defense here again tonight — Ed Hartwell, their middle linebacker, out with both knees that were scoped in late August. They hope to get him back next week. Same true for the pass-rushing defensive end John Abraham, who is back in Atlanta, missing his second game with a groin injury.>>When we came into this game, we wondered aloud — everybody did — how good was New Orleans. The New Orleans players wondered that as well. Ernie Conwell said, “On a scale of 10, we’re a 6. This will be a real good gauge for where we’re at.” They’re above a 6 right now.>>Good job just to make sure that the hand-off was successful there. Keith Brooking making the tackle.>>The best way to defend Michael Vick is what the Saints are doing now, is having him standing on the sidelines. In the first two games, the Atlanta Falcons had an advantage in time of possession by 10 minutes, roughly 35 to 25. When you look at this game, I’m sure that the balance goes in favor of the Saints, and that’s another factor, Tony, when we talk about all the things that are going their way, to be able to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball.>>Vick certainly does not look happy sitting there.>>Joe Horn in motion. Brees to Horn. First down, 13-yard line.>>Who says you have to be 6’5″ to play quarterback in the National Football League? Joe Horn finds the soft belly of the defense, right behind the linebackers, right in front of Lawyer Milloy. Wonderful lane to throw the football for Drew Brees.>>Horn, who had a disappointing year last year, in part the injury that he suffered, a hamstring. Certainly in large part the difficult circumstances he took the field with every week. Bush. [ Whistle blows ] To the 12. The ball came out, but the whistle, as you heard, had already sounded.>>Those are the type of plays, Michael, that the coaches want to see Reggie Bush run. They don’t want to have him try and turn every play into a highlight. Sometime you have to put your head down, take the 2 or 3 yards, and then go back and do it again. The discipline to run inside as well is only going to benefit him as he matures and grows into this game.>>Merril Hoge was talking about that on our “Monday Night” “SportsCenter” early this afternoon. Keep your team on schedule. Second and 8 much better than second and 13 when you try to make the home-run play. Brees has to take a second time-out in this drive. And for those of us who have been to Final Fours and Super Bowls and other events in this city, Bourbon Street looks just like Bourbon Street used to look.>>And the natives want you to come here. They need the money. They need the help. They want the tourist dollar they’ve always been able to depend on.>>Second and 8 out of the second called time-out by the Saints on this drive. Brees, quick toss. Colston caught it at the 5. Jason Webster makes the tackle to set up third and 2.>>Take advantage of somebody that’s 6’4″ and 230 pounds. Those are the kind of things that he caught in college, the real quick — I’m very impressed with the way he catches the ball in his hands.>>As opposed to his feet?>>No. Not his feet, you dummy.>>The body.>>With the body. You’ve been around this game long enough.>>He’s a Hofstra kid. Come on, I’m a Long Island boy myself. Of course I’m rooting for him.>>You have to keep your feet underneath you. Remember that.>>[ Laughs ]>>Deuce McAllister in the backfield. Mike Karney, the fullback, leads the way. McAllister, first down and goal.>>This is domination by the Saints offensive line. Jahri Evans, a rookie, fourth-round pick playing right guard. Jammal Brown, a second-year guy, new position — left tackle. They’re just moving them off the ball. Grady Jackson, big number 90, is supposed to be the anchor that doesn’t allow people to be able to do what we have seen the Saints do tonight.>>And that out of two tight ends with Ernie Conwell and Mark Campbell, out of Washington and Michigan respectively. [ Crowd chanting “Deuce” ] First and goal. They anticipate Deuce. They have got Deuce. Deuce is down. Tackled by Jonathan Babineaux, second-year man out of Iowa. Babineaux was one of the many players on this defense that started a lot last year because of injuries, and the fans react to Reggie Bush, who has not scored a touchdown, as a receiver or a running back, yet in the NFL. And Bush did score his first touchdown in college in his third game.>>Reggie Bush, in a situation like this, can be the guy that everybody focuses their attention to. But yet you can’t ignore Ernie Conwell, the tight end.>>Here is Reggie, bouncing it to the outside. Tried to cut back in, but he is stopped for virtually no gain. Michael Boley and Jason Webster force third and goal.>>I see a lot of young running backs coming out of college and in college, and I see Reggie Bush doing this as well. When they think the whistle is blown, they’re cutting the ball loose. Don’t do that because one of these times, the officials are not gonna blow the whistle. You’re gonna cut it loose and you’re gonna fumble in a critical situation. You hold on to it as long as you can. Don’t put it on the ground.>>Quick — call the play. Third and goal. What was your play, quarterback?>>Play-action.>>Colston in motion. It is Bush, who is stopped shy of the 1.>>Mine would’ve worked.>>And the Saints have an extra-point-sized field goal here if they so choose. It would make it a 20-point lead and would force Atlanta…>>You kick it.>>…to score three touchdowns as opposed to two field goals and a touchdown.>>No question you have to kick it here. You can’t run the risk of losing all of the emotion and momentum that has been built up for you as the New Orleans Saints.>>No, the fans quickly, when they came out to kick, stopped chanting for them to go for it. They realize that.>>This is right on that 2-yard mark, so it becomes an extra point that’s worth 3. Carney bangs it through, and it’s a terrific drive. You come out of the locker room. You know Michael Vick’s salivating to get his hands on the ball. You take half the quarter, get points, and take a 20-point lead. Music the soul of this city, so present every alley and street you walk down. They’re trying to keep it going. Allen Rossum, kickoff return. Pulled down at the 25-yard line. And one of the landmarks of New Orleans, Emeril’s. A lot of the waitstaff is now gathered to watch the football game as well, and hi to all you folks. So many of the people of New Orleans, and this is a people of New Orleans night, as the Saints lead by 20. First possession for the Falcons. Warrick Dunn almost busted through. Got to the 30-yard line. Three John Carney field goals have made it 23-3. And the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-raised Dunn and the Falcons have been stymied by New Orleans here tonight. Third down coming up.>>The interior line of the New Orleans Saints has really done a terrific job handling the zone blocking concept of the Falcons. Hollis Thomas in the middle, number 99. Brian Young either seems to be around the ballcarrier or in Michael Vick’s face an awful lot.>>Look at all those Saints crowding the line. Many back in coverage. Vick — from behind. Still able to stand in the pocket, but throws incomplete for a blanketed Alge Crumpler. The Falcons have converted just 2 of 10 third downs tonight.>>For all Michael Vick’s great talent, the picture that we see of him tonight is one of frustration as he sits on the bench. It’s difficult for him to get back onto the field because the Saints possess the ball, and when he does get there, he is neither running nor passing with anywhere near the amount of yards we have seen in the first two games from him.>>Meantime, one of the Saints defensive backs was injured deep downfield on the back end of the play. The Falcon faces have been frustrated faces as they sit on the sideline during the time-out. Injury to Fred Thomas, the starting corner for the Saints. But he jogged off after sitting down for about 40 seconds on the field under his own power. Falcons have had seven possessions, fourth three-and-out. And Michael Koenen to kick again. 50-yard kick, and here’s Lance Moore from the 19. He’ll take it out to the 28-yard line. Here’s Suzy Kolber.>>Well, Mike, one of the major topics of discussion around New Orleans — that a majority of the funding that went to rebuild the Superdome came from FEMA, which raised the question, why rebuild a stadium before you rebuild homes? Well, I spoke with the FEMA director today, who spent five days in the Dome after Katrina. He explained the city doesn’t rebound without an economic base. New Orleans survives on tourism. 10 to 12 million will be poured into the community just because this game is being played tonight. Now, of course, there’s a delicate balance of what you do first, but what’s first impacts what’s second and third — homes, schools, the police force. Before the residents can come back, people who work in the hotels and the restaurants, you have to bring business back. Tonight puts the focus back on the city in a positive way so it can turn the corner and the tourists will come back.>>And, Suzy, after we started talking about that today, as I went out to get a po’boy sandwich and just do the New Orleans lunch-type things, the line at Mother’s to get in was long. That’s the question I took to people, Suzy, because I wanted to hear from the people of New Orleans, and I asked 20 at completely random, non-scientific sample, and 20 out of 20 people said, “Of course we needed to rebuild the Dome. If not, if the Saints go, if the Final Four doesn’t come back,” if a Super Bowl they hope somewhere down the line, if all those things don’t come back, that’s not gonna show New Orleans as the city it’s been for a long time. “What are we gonna do?” Because tourism is such an important part of this city. There was a 5-yard penalty on the Falcons, so New Orleans had the option — tack it on or rekick. They choose the rekick to see if they can get better field position. Koenen hits his best punt of the night, and it goes down at the 23-yard line. Part of New Orleans coming back is some of the music we talked about. Michele is with one of the people instrumental in that.>>Yeah, Harry Connick Jr. I mean, when you think New Orleans and you think music, you think of Harry. Tell us a little bit about Musicians’ Village in the Upper Ninth Ward. What is it?>>Well, it’s the first and only reconstruction effort on a major level in New Orleans, and we have over 30 houses that are constructed now, three families that are there. This city was very slow to get back on its feet, and myself and Branford Marsalis and my manager, Ann Marie Wilkins, decided we’re gonna get some musicians, who are the heart of the culture of this city, back into town. So we started Musicians’ Village. It started with one house, and we’re moving on, and it’s just terrific. It’s right there in the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward, which is the heart of our city.>>Now, as a guy who was born and raised here, what is it gonna take to get this place back to what you remember it being?>>Well, this is probably the greatest thing that could happen, is to have this great team playing in this great dome in this great city right now, and this game is a great bonus. But we need people to come see us. We need people to spend their money here, to come stay in the hotels, eat at the restaurants. It’s my favorite city in the world, and to have people come back and visit and help us and boost our economy, that’s really what we need right now.>>Now, be honest. You’ve been watching this game. Punt gets blocked for a touchdown. What are you thinking?>>I-I don’t even know what to say. I’m — I’m so blown away right now. I mean, this is sick. I mean, a blocked field goal, a blocked punt. This is crazy, man. And everybody’s getting a chance to play. It’s crazy, insane.>>I think the Falcons think so, too. Harry Connick Jr., thank you so much. Good luck.>>Thanks.>>Thank you, Michele. Reggie Bush a run for a loss of yard. Deuce McAllister, on that little screen, gets the yard back. We’ll have third and 10 coming up with 4 1/2 left in the third.>>We were talking before about FEMA putting in money to the Superdome. Uh, there’s nobody in this city who is running away from all the ills of the city, all the gutted houses in the city, all the miles and miles of destruction. But what they are saying — Harry Connick said, what they all say is, “We got to start with something that builds the city back up,” and the Saints mean that much to this city, as they don’t in other cities where there’s a multiplicity of sports teams.>>Third and 10. Brees settles, throws. Just about a yard shy of the first down, to the 32-yard line. And on fourth down, they’ll have to kick it away. And a little instruction on the field there for the rookie Reggie. Weatherford back on to punt. Good punt. Allen Rossum from the 16. Flag down. He’s down at the 22. What a boot by Weatherford. It was 66 yards, and let’s check the flag.>>During the return, holding by the receiving team, number 81. Half the distance to the goal. Atlanta keeps the ball. First down.>>If it happened in the league on Sunday, our guys, the best in the business, break it down for you leading up to kickoff on Monday night. Vick from inside his own 10. To Crumpler at the 24. First down.>>You have to figure that the Atlanta Falcons have to score on every drive. The most they’ll have will be four possessions in this game. They’re down by 20 points. They’re gonna have to get touchdowns, and their defense is gonna have to stand up and stop the Saints offensively, and they can’t take their time. They’re gonna have to do it in chunks like that.>>42 minutes played. Michael Vick has six completions. The Falcons — that was just their sixth first down. Only one by the run. Dunn. Trying to make Mark Simoneau miss, but the man who was acquired from the Eagles in that trade we mentioned with Donté Stallworth brings him down after a short gain.>>We talked about Marques Colston, the wide receiver of the Saints. It was because of his play all through camp that Donté Stallworth became expendable, and the deal could be made to help probably the one area of this football team that needed the most defensively, the linebacker position.>>Yeah, remember the preseason? They told us that’s the weakest position on this team, the position that concerned Sean Payton the most. Vick. Across the 30 to the 31. Joe, you mentioned a few times that the field was such an issue. For the fans just joining us tonight, why is the field an issue for footing and speed of the Falcons?>>It’s brand-new grass, and the blades of the grass, be it artificial or not, are long. And the rubber that is mixed in, you can see it flying up. The field has not been matted down yet. It’s a slow track. I liken it to a muddy football field under normal conditions, where you just can’t get that really good footing.>>Third and 4. Time for Vick. The deep ball for Ashley Lelie. A lot of contact. Flag comes down. Lelie and Mike McKenzie got all locked up as they were sprinting down about 35 yards from where the play happened. Let’s see who the call is going to be on. When Ed Hochuli tells the coach “stay there”…>>[ Chuckles ] Exactly. You look at his arms.>>There was no foul for pass interference on the play. The pass is incomplete.>>You decide.>>If there was no foul, why was the flag thrown? Did the official not see something?>>That’s a very Zen-like question, Joe. I don’t think we’re capable of answering it.>>Don’t you think, after watching that replay, that that was the right outcome at the end of the day?>>You know, with pass interference, Mike, you just don’t know. I mean, his body — You don’t know. I mean, it could be, it couldn’t be. When the flag is thrown, he must’ve seen something that caused him to take it out of his pants.>>Koenen’s punt will go out of bounds.>>[ Laughs ]>>Theflagout of his pants. [ Laughter ]>>Tony, sometimes it’s like having a little kid. You pretend that you didn’t hear.>>I want to qualify that, okay?>>An official has taken a flag out of somewhere on this play as well.>>Yes.>>[ Laughs ] It’s a no-commenter for me.>>You started laughing, though, didn’t you?>>Yes, I did.>>And you’re still laughing.>>Yeah. It’s funny.>>So, he’s just asking the Falcons if they want to tack it on to where the ball is and push New Orleans back 10. “And while you’re asking me that question, I want to know why you picked up the flag over there.” Jim Mora taking that opportunity.>>He should ask him. What kind of discussion could they have had?>>Holding by the receiving team, number 27, during the kick. That 10-yard penalty is enforced from the end of the kick. First down.>>Something to keep in mind — in the first two games for Atlanta, against Carolina and Tampa, they scored 20 points in the first game, only 14 against the Bucs. So we’re not talking about an offense that’s hit its stride yet, that can go out and just post numbers. It’s not like they’re scoring 35 and 35. They’re counting on their defense a lot and Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn’s running ability.>>Wait. Didn’t you think that the way they were running the ball as if they were operating out of an old single wing and plowing over people, didn’t you think they had a certain invincible quality as they came into this game? Didn’t you think that?>>Yes, I did.>>Okay.>>And the Saints decided that they weren’t invincible.>>Because of the size of the turf.>>I think it’s a factor. [ Whistle blows ]>>And a whistle brings proceedings to a halt here.>>Drew Brees would like to know what’s going on. Ah, that’s one of those secret meetings that you never find out about. A secret meeting between the officials has just taken place. Let’s go play football.>>I’m totally in the “just get it right” camp. You can conference all you want.>>Enough already.>>Just get it right. And most times, although fans who care about the game of their rooting interest, don’t believe it, they do get it right. Reggie Bush gains almost 9 yards.>>Reggie Bush is proving tonight that he is not just a space player. When we say the term “space,” get outside, get one-on-one with the linebackers and the defensive backs. He’s proving he can run inside. Running an awful lot like Warrick Dunn for a guy that’s not real big.>>And you pointed them out before, Joe — an offensive line that really had a lot —a lotof questions. Almost everybody was moved, somebody in a new position, and they’ve done a very solid job tonight. McAllister will be right at the first-down mark as we bring the third quarter to a close. Sean Payton trying to open 3-0. Reggie Bush and the Saints have had one of those nights that you dream of in one of these situations. Pretty close to a nightmare for Michael Vick thus far. There is gonna be a measurement here, and that’s why the clock is stopped with 4 seconds, to see if there’s a first down before the quarter comes to an end. So, New Orleans will start first and 10 at its own 34 when the fourth frame begins. Drew Brees — in his first home game as a New Orleans Saint, the Saints in their first true home game in 23 games. Last year they were on the road all the time. The Saints’ return game here in the Louisiana Superdome. It just struck me. Just look at that image and how the images of 13 months ago are so in your mind, and over time, will that image of the Dome and of New Orleans come back? And part of it will be if you see the Saints a lot and maybe you will. They’re knocking on the door of 3-0 to start the season, leading by 20, with the ball as the fourth quarter begins. They wanted movement on the tight end Mark Campbell. They say he stayed in his stance. And McAllister runs close to a first down.>>There’s Tom Benson, the owner of the Saints. There are a lot of people who felt he wanted to move out of here even before what happened with Katrina. He certainly publicly last year said that he was unhappy with the entire state of Louisiana. Had an incident at one of the games. Paul Tagliabue made this happen here in one of the last acts as commissioner of the National Football League. He made sure that the New Orleans Saints were repatriated to New Orleans. It was so important to him for that to happen, that when the schedule was announced this year, Paul Tagliabue announced it outside the Superdome. “We’re gonna have home games at the Superdome.” And that franchise is here now. There may be a lot of owners in the league who think it may eventually go to Los Angeles, but Paul Tagliabue made it clear it would come back, and I believe the league wants it here for as long as possible.>>The Saints’ current lease in the Superdome runs through 2010. That’s not a long time in terms of stadium leases. Brees pumping, throwing the deep ball for Joe Horn. DeAngelo Hall had coverage. Hall banged up in the first half. Has been on the field almost all the second half, and we’ll have second down coming up. As I mentioned, that lease runs till 2010. And sports in New Orleans is a long-term questions with no long-term answer. The short term is Tulane’s football team comes back in here. They played in all different stadiums last year. They play here on Saturday. Across the walkway, the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA will play a game a month here next year, and still a question, but intentions from their owner, George Shinn, to play here in ’07 and ’08.>>You look at this crowd tonight, and this year is the first year that all the season tickets have been sold, ever, in the history of the franchise. You look at this crowd tonight, and it would seem clear to most people looking from a distance that this franchise is alive and well in New Orleans right now. Now, if it’s something like basketball, where there are 41 home games, as opposed to only 8 home games for professional football, that’s a different matter. But certainly you get the impression that they could support 8 home games. I’ll give you an example. Sean Payton talked about this — being at a concert this summer, and a guy comes up to him who does not have a job. Does not know where he’s gonna live and says, “Coach, I have bought six season tickets for the Saints. That’s how much I believe in them. That’s how much I want to be a part of this.” Sean Payton was stunned at that. Says that’s been repeated three or four times since he’s here. People without places to live, people without jobs making a commitment to the Saints because it is the lifeblood of the community.>>Third and 7, and Brees is finally brought down. That’s the first pressure of the night. Kevin Mathis bringing it off a safety blitz. Will force a New Orleans punt.>>That could be the play that the Saints need to be able to get them started. They have really muddled around in a funk all night. No spark. Michael Vick has not been able to ignite them with his legs or his arm.>>And in this half, Joe, Atlanta’s only run seven plays for 29 yards. Weatherford to punt again. 44-yard kick. Rossum from the 12. He hops out of bounds at the 25. Suzy standing by with the Dallas Mavericks head coach, Avery Johnson. Suzy.>>Well, one of the things that Sean Payton has done to try to develop this culture of winning is bring in guest speakers, and the thing they have in common they’ve all won championships, and Avery, of course, led the ’99 Spurs to a championship. What was the number-one thing you wanted to express to this team about how to be a winner?>>Well, I just talked to them from the theme of seize the second, of this season, and just take advantage of every opportunity and know that you’re not just playing for yourselves, but you’re playing for a whole city.>>Avery, hang on one second.>>All right, Suze, here’s first down from the 26. And play-action with Vick, who is flushed, dancing, darting. And brought down. Good coverage — Scott Shanle. Suzy?>>Avery, so appropriate that you’re here with the team. Where exactly did you grow up?>>I grew up about six blocks away from the Superdome, and it’s so meaningful for me to be here, representing my family, my wife’s family, and it’s just great to be here with all of the people from New Orleans.>>What were the days like for you after Katrina?>>It was tough because I had some relatives that we couldn’t contact, and it was rough staying up all night wondering where your family is, but everybody’s doing well now.>>That’s great to hear. Great to see you.>>Thanks.>>Second down deep ball is incomplete. Michael Jenkins, at 6’4″, tried to go up and get it, like Avery’s Mavericks do, but well-defended by Fred Thomas, who was hurt earlier in the half.>>Every one of the defenders, whether they’re linebackers or defensive backs, have not given the receivers of the Atlanta Falcons room to breathe. You have to find some margin of error. Michael Jenkins — it would’ve been a difficult catch, but it’s the kind of a catch you need to ignite an offense, and they’re running out of time.>>Look at those numbers. Two to one advantage, New Orleans essentially in yards. They roll Vick left. He couldn’t get his footing but finds a way to take off, and is sliding down shy of the 30. Scott Fujita and Mike McKenzie force the punt.>>It’s difficult to get completions. It’s as much on the wide receivers not getting open as Michael Vick.>>Another Koenen punt. A returnable line drive. 39 yards. Lance Moore from the 32. Out of bounds. This the 234th regular-season New Orleans Saints game here in the Superdome. That is more NFL regular-season games in this dome than any other in the National Football League. Obviously domes have come online as time has come on, but this is the one that has set the standard over time. McAllister. Deuce runs to the 46-yard line. He has 66 rushing yards tonight, Joe. Second and 7. Brees. Nobody open downfield. Scrambles back to make a positive play out of it. You know, Drew Brees is one of those guys who was always told, “You know, maybe there’s a better thing elsewhere in the parking lot.” Too small, not fast enough your whole career. Sean Payton said to us back in August, “I’ve seen plenty of big, fast, tall guys that can’t play a lick of football. But this guy, he’s a winner.” He won at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. Matter of fact, his junior year, his high school team was unbeaten. He got hurt. They didn’t win the state championship. Came back — undefeated state champs. Then he goes to Purdue. You know, that funky offense, a lot of basketball and short passes, he’s not big enough. Only Kentucky and Purdue recruited him. All-time leading passer in the Big Ten, Rose Bowl team, third in the Heisman voting. Here, trying to keep a third down alive, and it’s incomplete for Colston, and they’ll have to kick it away. So, that’s one of the reasons Sean Payton said to us, “You know, this NFL franchise, this is a billion-dollar industry, and it’s a billion-dollar jet. I feel really comfortable having that guy, 27 years old, Drew Brees, having the key to the billion-dollar jet,” and he’s guided to two and perhaps a third win here tonight.>>Paid him $60 million to fly the jet.>>Good pilot pay right now. Rossum fielding the punt at the 14. Just a gain of a yard, and the special teams for New Orleans, all night long. Vick is flushed, throwing on the run. Too high and hot for Roddy White. Incomplete. We talked about Shreveport, and this is a New Orleans story tonight, but Katrina, as you know, was a story that affected the entire Gulf. The neighbors to Mississippi, obviously all the way across the Gulf region, the number of deaths, the estimated damage at $81 billion, and the evacuees. And I know there are a lot of people watching tonight in Houston and Birmingham and Atlanta and especially in Baton Rouge who used to live in New Orleans, and this used to be a place where you came. I know a lot of you are watching tonight with heavy hearts and a lot of happiness, too, as Vick gets out of a sack, keeps time-out alive, dumps it to Alge Crumpler, who gets a first down to the 28-yard line. Mike McKenzie with the tackle. And, guys, as you toured New Orleans here, these things speak so much. They just look like signs, but there’s a lot to them.>>There are X’s on many of the houses that have to be gutted still. At the bottom of the X, sometimes the saddest number of all reveals the dead that were found in that home.>>Vick throws. It is dropped by Michael Jenkins. The Atlanta receivers haven’t come up tonight.>>Each of the houses was marked with an X, and that signified that someone went there from an official agency and saw what had happened to that house. Might’ve referred to a pet that would be found, and again, at the bottom of the X, though, that sad number, and I saw one with five at the bottom, and those things are still clearly marked, and until the houses are removed, you will see them as you saw in that pictures of Katrina photo essay.>>After the incompletion, second and 10. Vick airing it out for White. Uncatchable. Third down.>>We look at the Atlanta Falcons’ struggles on the offensive side of the ball, and what about Michael Vick? Warrick Dunn. We haven’t even called his name tonight. I mean, number-wise, he’s been nonexistent. It’s the New Orleans Saints defense — never seen a defense stay this close to receivers and give them no place to throw the football. Can’t imagine ever seeing one that everybody has put in their hip pocket.>>Vick takes off, finally able to get a first down and more! The magic of Michael Vick. To the 42-yard line. First down.>>He needs to do that a lot more. Don’t know if time is going to allow him to do it. The Falcons need yards in chunks — 20 yards, 15 yards. Get a score.>>Gain of 30 there, and they’re going no-huddle here now, down 20. There’s the big toss. It’s too tall and incomplete. With Crumpler the intended receiver.>>Alge Crumpler missed a lot of the OTAs, the off-season workout, and it gave Michael Vick an opportunity to be able to get more comfortable with Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. What has made him uncomfortable this evening is the fact that those two wide receivers cannot get away from Fred Thomas and Mike McKenzie, the two corners of the Saints.>>That’s 8 for 25 total. I mean, that’s not ever gonna win, 8 for 25, unless you run for 300, and he hasn’t done that.>>Which they have been doing — run for 279 a game.>>Jim Mora can’t believe that a penalty wasn’t called on hitting a defenseless receiver because there was no way Crumpler was gonna get that. They get Dunn again for a loss. Brian Young’s had a very good game. He and Scott Shanle combined for the tackle. And, Joe, you talked about Warrick Dunn. He was just so impressive with Vick as a rushing offense. They set a franchise record against Tampa. Their two-game total was the third best in the NFL all time. And tonight, 97 rushing yards. They ran for so many yards, even with all the games played yesterday, the Falcons started the night with 100-plus rushing yards from every other team in the league, and they hadn’t played this game yet. Third and a dozen. Here’s a blitz. It’s picked up. Incomplete. Intended for White. That’s Fred Thomas there again on coverage.>>It doesn’t even look like the wide receivers of the Falcons are making the defensive backs work. They’re right there. Fred Thomas just looking at him. Roddy White tries to come back. Boom. Right there. The other thing about this game, Mike, is the New Orleans Saints, over the last six years, have not been a very good home team. They’re 19-29 at home. They play better on the road. Tonight, you get the feeling it’s unbelievable.>>Going for it on fourth down. Hauled in by Jenkins for the first down at the 30-yard line. Part of the Ohio State championship team in 2002. Here he is in his third year, which can be the breakthrough year for a wide receiver. You have a third-year receiver, a second-year receiver, and Lelie, who is seen as a somewhat one-dimensional receiver, a deep threat, although the Falcons say he’s been pretty good in the complete receiver game thus far. Crumpler tackled. Gain of about a half yard.>>You wonder why Roman Harper is starting at safety for the New Orleans Saints. Because he’s a number-two draft pick who can do things like that. Excellent in the open field, taking on a very big tight end. Has great quickness. Spent a lot of time on the field at Alabama.>>No-huddle, 5 DBs. Underneath, Justin Griffith meets Scott Fujita.>>This is one of those drives, like the one last night that Tom Brady spent about 9 minutes being on, and Atlanta is gonna run out of time. Even if they score, it’s gonna take them 6 or 7 minutes to actually finally score a touchdown.>>A day when they said close the businesses at 3:00 so the fans can enjoy the first Saints game, regular season here, since the end of ’04. Third down. Vick eludes one. Not the second. Charles Grant will get credit.>>But again, it’s Brian Young, number 66, has been able to come up the middle and be in Michael Vick’s face all day.>>Done a great job up front. And a hold here on Atlanta.>>Holding, offense, number 74. The penalty is declined. Brings up fourth down. The foul would’ve been enforced from the previous spot, not the spot of the foul.>>The offensive line trying to hold people out. Really, this offensive line isn’t built to block 35, 40 times. They’re built to be able to zone-block, move people, get them moving. They pride themselves on a small, athletic line. When you drop anybody back, Michael Vick behind them, the big guys start to push them.>>Fourth down again. Needs to get to the 20 to keep the drive alive. Hit as he throws. Adjustment by Jenkins. Didn’t hold it down, but the flag came down.>>That’s got a chance of being offensive pass interference.>>It is.>>Michael Jenkins just pushed himself to be open.>>On Jason Craft. And remember, the pass was incomplete.>>The pass was incomplete. Pass interference, offense, number 12. The penalty is declined. First down.>>This must be so frustrating to Atlanta. They come into a circumstance where it’s the Saints’ first home game in over a year, and they think and they feel that everyone is rooting against them, and it’s probably true. Everyone probably is rooting against them. And they can get nothing done, even though for the first two weeks they look like one of the best teams in the National Football League, running over Carolina, right? Running over Tampa Bay. They came in here. They probably had to think, “Okay, we take the crowd out of it, we run over New Orleans.” Do you see it on the faces of all the players on the team, and they’re wondering, “What has happened to us in this building tonight?”>>A 13-play drive gives them nothing. The Saints fans chant “Who dat?” The cry that has been heard — “Who dat think gonna beat dem Saints?” as the locals like to say.>>I imagine what happens now if you’re New Orleans — you try to run out the clock. Where would Sean Payton have learned that? He would’ve learned it from Bill Parcells, who was one of his mentors along the way. And when he uses phrases like, “unbias yourself as to how we acquired the player.” Bill Parcells always referred to people as players. He never mentioned Terrell Owens’ name. He just said “the player” each time. And when you look at Sean Payton and you hear him talk in that clipped way Parcells does, he even sounds like Parcells. The only thing he doesn’t have yet at his age is the dripping sarcasm that Parcells has with every comment he makes. But he’s the pup out of Parcells for sure.>>McAllister, as this goes inside the 5-minute mark, to the 34. Joe, you’ve been around Sean Payton a while. You go back to his days when he was with the Giants and the play calling. There was such heat there after he was the play-calling genius. Jim Fassel had to take over the play calling. What kind of feel do you have for how Sean is gonna do here long-term as the head coach?>>He’s laid a foundation of excellence, just the way he evaluates his players. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter where you’re drafted, whether you have any tenure or not. “If you play well, you’re gonna play for me.” I thought some of the quotes about “maybe not the most talented players, but I’m gonna have the best players that work together,” that is the way he will approach it, and that will serve him well.>>Third down. Marques Colston will fit that mold to a T. He gets the first down at the 45-yard line.>>You talked about Bill Parcells, Tony.>>Yeah.>>When Mickey Loomis, the G.M. of the Saints, went out looking for coaches, one of the things that he considered was where Sean Payton had coached, and Bill Parcells was a big part of it. As a matter of fact, John Fox, the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, called Mickey Loomis unsolicited and suggested Sean Payton.>>Hadn’t he also worked for Parcells — John Fox? Everybody seems to have worked for Parcells at one time or another. Sean Payton at the moment — 3-0. You got to like that.>>Seven catches for Colston, 97 yards for the rookie. And McAllister takes us inside 3 1/2 minutes to the 47-yard line. Suzy, what about the players Sean Payton’s brought around?>>Well, I’m gonna go back to Tony’s point about the influence of Bill Parcells, and a lot of the players were concerned he would be more like a Parcells type of coach — “my way or the highway.” But, really, they say, he’s been just the opposite. He’s given them the tools for success but then put the responsibility on them to make their own mark, put their own signature on the team. They describe Payton as very businesslike. His speeches are quite matter-of-fact, but they build confidence, and they know, Mike, that if they listen to him, they can win.>>And they can trust him. That’s something else. But they can trust him. When he says it’s gonna be a certain way, that’s the way it’s going to be.>>McAllister runs here. Inside of 2:50 left. You know, the New Orleans Saints have been a franchise of futility in so many ways for so many years. They have lost on “Monday Night Football” seven consecutive games, the longest streak that was going, but that will come to an end here tonight, and still the Saints will have the lowest “Monday Night Football” percentage at 6-15, which will be 7-15. Think about this franchise. As we know, it took them so long to just get a winning season, and this is their 40th year. It took them until 1987, which happened to be, by the way, the year the Pope said mass in the Dome.>>Ah.>>Just for them to have a winning record and then going forward in this getting to 40 years. Now, they’ve had one playoff win. There was so much negativity around this franchise for so long, and look at — when you have to go back to the last time they had a Monday night win — 13 years ago, really 13 1/2, with Jim Mora’s dad, the all-time winningest Saints coach, Jim Mora, on the Saints sideline.>>And they talked about this game being a game where they can find out where they are. Ernie Conwell said, “This game will give us a gauge of where we are.” And over the next three weeks, they get the Panthers, the Bucs, and the Eagles. So they will be challenged as they go. But you sense a degree of confidence coming into that.>>McAllister twisted around there on that surgically repaired right knee, as they’re at the 45-yard line, shy of the first down.>>Haven’t you been impressed with the unselfishness of Deuce McAllister? The franchise goes out and drafts Reggie Bush, and Deuce McAllister basically says, “I’m coming in lighter. My knee is coming back.” And he said if Reggie Bush was out there, he would’ve drafted him, and I think Sean Payton has found a very nice balance between the two.>>There you see how those numbers balance out tonight.>>I like when you suggested before that it was providential, that with the Pope’s visit they were able, at that point, to have their first winning season of all time.>>Well, it just kind of speaks to the history here, as fourth down comes and the Falcons will receive the punt, the history of this building as well, that it’s not just the football stadium. So much has happened here in a variety of ways, and the NFL chiefly among them. You think about it. And people at home watching, you probably have a Superdome memory that comes to mind right away for you. Fair catch, Rossum, 19-yard line. Falcons will take over. Somebody who I know who went to school at Syracuse remembers being in this dome when Keith Smart hit the shot for Indiana and then coming back 16 years later and Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara led Syracuse to a national championship in here. There’s so many sporting events. Think of the Super Bowls here, six of them. Vick back on the field. To Dunn, to the 20-yard line.>>And that brings it full circle to some degree, that one of the reasons they have so many Super Bowls here is because the food is so good that everybody wants to come here, reminding people once again that New Orleans is open for business right now.>>You mean the media people don’t complain, as they did in Detroit, or some media people complained in Jacksonville?>>I don’t know who you’re talking about.>>I don’t know who we’re talking about, yes.>>Waffle houses. I don’t know who you’re talking about.>>There’s Vick scrambling for the first down as we arrive at the 2-minute warning. Vick sacked again, by Will Smith again. Five New Orleans sacks on the night.>>And they’re coming from the defensive linemen. It’s not like linebackers are blitzing and defensive backs are blitzing.>>There’s a line in the movie “On the Waterfront” that applies to Michael Vick tonight, and it’s “It’s not your night, kid. It’s not your night.”>>Very apropos. Wrapped up like a Christmas package.>>They have the Cardinals and then a bye week, do the Falcons. Joe mentioned the Saints go to Carolina, then Tampa Bay comes in here the following. They’re just gonna run it with Justin Griffith, who gets to the 34.>>I would venture to say, of the 11 guys that started on the defensive side of the ball, seven of them had a piece of Michael Vick at some point tonight.>>Very strong Martha and the Vandellas reference by you, Joe, very strong.>>Third and 6, and they’re just running to cut your losses here and get on out. Griffith, with the tackle. Fourth down coming up. You know, guys, as this game wraps up here tonight, you think people are gonna enjoy, they’re gonna celebrate, they’ll have a good time. Tomorrow morning is gonna come and all the problems that people have in New Orleans are still gonna be here, but for tonight they were given a chance to step away and enjoy a moment in the Dome that some never thought they would see again. [ Crowd cheering ] New Orleans Saints, 3-0. Tom Benson with the parasol, the owner out on the field. As the joyous Saints wrap up this night.