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While the Falcons churned out 25 first downs, the Saints went virtually nowhere on the ground. Pierre Thomas had nine carries for 30 yards before exiting with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Rookie Chris Ivory, who missed the first two games with a knee injury, debuted with 13 yards on seven attempts and lost a fumble.
Reggie Bush is out three-to-five more weeks with a broken right leg from the Saints' win at San Francisco.
"We are going to need to be able to run the ball more efficiently to have the success we hope to have," Payton said. "We are going to need to defend the run more efficiently, too. Those are two important components to winning."
Despite those concerns, the Saints would be undefeated if Hartley had not blown the short field goal in OT. Entering the softest part of their schedule -- Carolina, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Cleveland are up next -- they could have been in position to repeat their 2009 run as wire-to-wire leaders in the NFC South.
"That's the most frustrating part," Shanle said. "We could have gotten some nice separation early in the season. There's not going to be any panic, but it's hard because this one got away from us."
For the second consecutive day Monday, Hartley answered every question about what went wrong and how secure he felt about his future.
"At this position, sometimes you're the hero and sometimes you're the goat," he said. "Last night I was wearing the horns. I'm still the starting kicker for this team and I'm going to prepare like that."
NOTES: Payton said the Saints would not have an injury update until Wednesday. In addition to Thomas, Porter tweaked a hamstring in the first half but returned in overtime. Safety Roman Harper suffered a thigh bruise in the first half and did not return. ... Payton said he had not lost confidence in Ivory, adding Ivory would get seven to 10 carries a game while Bush was out.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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