Kittner struggles through first career start

Updated: October 19, 2003, 7:13 PM ET

ATLANTA -- Kurt Kittner played well -- for about a quarter.

Kittner made his first start at quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, and he threw his first career touchdown late in the first quarter to tie the game.

Then he fell apart.

In the final three quarters, he misfired on 20 of his last 25 passes -- including an interception -- and the New Orleans Saints beat the Falcons 45-17 Sunday.

"There were a lot of balls I'd like to have back," said Kittner, who finished 9-of-29 for 115 yards. "There was nothing that we didn't expect. We just didn't execute all the time and we need to be more consistent."

At least Atlanta didn't get shut out. Coming of a 36-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Monday night, a loss so egregious owner Arthur Blank felt compelled to send a letter of apology to ABC, the Falcons scored on the second play.

Warrick Dunn scampered through the line and then broke outside, taking advantage of a crushing block by wide receiver Quentin McCord to run 69 yards for a TD.

"We had a good run game early but kind of left it a little bit," Kittner said.

Late in the first quarter, with New Orleans leading 14-7, Kittner threw an 18-yard scoring pass to Brian Finneran. The play developed a bit slowly, but Kittner waited patiently until Finneran broke free.

That tied the game with only three seconds left in the first, and Kittner was 4-for-9 for 60 yards. He quickly lost his touch.

Kittner had five straight incompletions to finish the half -- he was credited with a sixth when he spiked the ball to stop the clock -- then kept struggling after the break. In the fourth quarter, with the outcome long decided, he attempted only three passes and missed all of those, with Fred Thomas getting an interception.

"I didn't see him make any bad decisions," Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. "We had an awful lot of balls that were tipped. We just didn't get enough completions."

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^AMBROSE'S RETURN:@ New Orleans cornerback Ashley Ambrose returned to the Georgia Dome, where he played the previous three seasons with the Falcons.

And he's won three in a row in this divisional series, after Atlanta swept last season and the Saints won handily Sunday. He started 48 straight with the Falcons, and has missed only one game since the start of the 1996 season.

"It's a big rivalry," Ambrose said. "I know Atlanta is having a down year, but all I am focused on is being a New Orleans Saint. I'm happy to be where I'm at."

His former team could have used him. Aaron Brooks threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, and Deuce McAllister ran for 116 yards and two more TDs. The Saints piled up 507 yards of total offense.

"I know those guys over there have got their heads down," Ambrose said. "But they just need to keep their heads up and to stay together."

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^WILLIAMS BENCHED:@ Atlanta cornerback Tyrone Williams, who's already been suspended from a game earlier this season for yelling at an assistant coach, was benched after he was beaten for a 69-yard touchdown pass from Brooks to Donte' Stallworth.

After Stallworth caught a simple pass over the middle, Williams appeared to stop running, and Stallworth easily scooted away from the rest of the defense.

Reeves said the benching had more to do with the way Williams played the pass, not his laziness in tracking down Stallworth.

"I haven't talked with the defensive coaches, but I'm sure they felt he wasn't playing the technique right," Reeves said. "He didn't play the inside like he was supposed to. We've been having trouble with that all year."

Williams certainly looked as if he knew he wouldn't return. He spent the remainder of the game alternately reclining on the bench, sitting on water coolers, and standing by himself on the sideline with his arms crossed.

He didn't have his helmet.

"I don't doubt guys are giving 100 percent," Dunn said. "You can't point at guys and say you're not playing 100 percent. We have to have faith in each other and rely on each other."

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^HORN'S CELEBRATION:@ After catching a 32-yard touchdown pass, New Orleans wide receiver Joe Horn got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his celebration, which was choreographed perfectly.

He turned to face teammates Michael Lewis and Jerome Pathon and mimicked holding a machine gun. Then he unleashed imaginary bullets and swung his arms from side-to-side, with Lewis and Pathon about 10 yards away.

Both of them went down as if they'd been shot.

Horn declined to talk about his performance after the game, but Saints coach Jim Haslett did.

"He can't do that," Haslett said. "That's uncalled for. I got him, the refs got him, and I'm sure the league will have something to say to him. If he wants to dance a little, that's fine. But you can't be pulling out six-shooters or guns on the field."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index