As Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop lined up for a 31-yard field goal in overtime, fans started filing out of the Superdome.
Those who stuck around looked on in dread as New Orleans' nightmare of an offseason continued to bleed into the regular season.
Succop drilled his club-record sixth field goal of the game, punctuating an 18-point comeback that made the Chiefs 27-24 upset road winners on Sunday.
The Saints fell to 0-3 since head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a season in the NFL's bounty probe - a stark reversal of fortune for a team that made the playoffs each of the past three years.
''We don't know how we're supposed to act right now,'' interim head coach Aaron Kromer said of being winless through Week 3. ''We had a chance today. We're getting close, but close is not good enough.''
Still, Drew Brees described the Saints as a team that won't quit.
''In a lot of situations there's probably teams that will just ... notch up the season as a loss and just kind of go about their day with no purpose. We have purpose,'' Brees said. ''We believe. We also know that whatever we're facing right now is strengthening us, is molding us into the team that we're going to be. We're running out of time here, so we need to pull it together.''
The Saints have now lost twice in the Superdome, where they were unbeaten a season ago. While their losses have come by 8 points or fewer, they have also come against three teams that are now 1-2.
Next week, the Saints travel to Green Bay.
The Chiefs (1-2), meanwhile, went home feeling a lot better about not only getting their first victory, but the resolve they showed in erasing the 24-6 deficit they faced in the third quarter.
''The best part is our guys never gave up,'' said Succop, a perfect 6 for 6 on kicks ranging from 25 to 45 yards, including one from 43 that tied it with 3 seconds left in regulation. ''We kept fighting, it was a huge team win and I'm just really excited to have had a part in it.''
Jamaal Charles' 91-yard touchdown run - the longest running play in Chiefs history, and the longest given up by the Saints - started Kansas City's comeback. Then the Chiefs' defense thwarted a Saints scoring chance when Stanford Routt intercepted Brees' underthrown pass for Devery Henderson near the Kansas City goal line late in the third quarter.
Brees was 20 of 36 for 240 yards and three TDs to Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham and Jed Collins. But he did not complete a pass after the third quarter, and the Saints never got another first down.
Some of Brees' difficulty stemmed from constant pressure from end Justin Houston, who beat right tackle Zach Strief for three sacks, including a safety in the fourth quarter.
''It was all around not good enough by me,'' Strief said. ''I was physically and mentally beat, and that's disappointing.''
Charles, who finished with 233 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving, scored the only touchdown the Chiefs needed, with Succop and Houston's safety accounting for 20 points.
''This team needed a win, and a win like that really helped out in particular,'' Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. ''There were a lot of doubts about what we could do and they showed a lot of character.''
In one of several lowlights for the crew of replacement officials, New Orleans was briefly ruled the winner on the field in overtime when running back Shaun Draughn lost the ball stretching for a first down and safety Roman Harper picked it up and ran to the end zone.
The fumble was overturned on video review, and although the spot came up a half-yard short of a first down, Charles easily converted a fourth-down run.
''We knew coming in that we could run against this defense,'' Charles said. ''It was an opportunity we had to take advantage of.''
New Orleans appeared to be taking command in the third quarter thanks to a pair of turnovers by the Chiefs.
First came a fumble by Dexter McCluster, who hurt his shoulder while falling on his own after a short catch, then let the ball go moments before he would have been touched down by cornerback Jabari Greer. Officials initially ruled McCluster down while linebacker Jonathan Casillas scooped the ball and ran to the end zone. The Saints challenged and won a reversal, giving them the ball on the Chiefs' 19 and setting up Graham's 1-yard score.
Greer's interception and 28-yard return to the Kansas City 7 then set up Collins' 6-yard TD to make it 24-6, setting the stage for the Chiefs' comeback - and the Saints' collapse.
NOTES: Along with McCluster, the Chiefs lost starting C Rodney Hudson to an apparent right knee injury and RB Peyton Hillis to an ankle injury in the third quarter. ... Saints LB David Hawthorne left with a hamstring injury in the first half and did not return. ... Brees now has TD passes in 46 straight regular season games, one behind Johnny Unitas' record.
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