Thomas had five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-26 win against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was the first time he had played in a game since a 30-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC divisional round of the 2021 playoffs on Jan. 17, 2021, and it marked his first NFL reception since he had five catches in the Saints' 21-9 win against Bears in the NFC wild-card round of the playoffs on Jan. 10, 2021.
Thomas, whose first catch did not come until the 11:58 mark in the third quarter, felt he had more to give and wished he could have contributed even more.
"I still have a lot more," he said. "When I come into games and the ball's thrown to me, I'm trying to make every play, make every catch. That's definitely not my standard. Little rusty to me. But the biggest thing is being able to add value, put points on the board and help my team win games and come back. But from an individual standpoint, I still have more work to do."
Almost all of Thomas' catches came exclusively in the fourth quarter, helping the Saints (1-0) erase a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Falcons (0-1).
"Big-time players make big plays," said Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
The Saints would come back to win for their first victory under new coach Dennis Allen. Saints linebacker Demario Davis gave several of his teammates shoutouts for the win, singling out Thomas as one of them.
"Not to take away from the rest of that receiver room, because they all played phenomenal, but Mike T, after what he's been through the past two years, to come out and put together an electrifying performance like that, it's just great to celebrate my brothers when they go out and perform like that," Davis said.
Thomas said he was at a loss for words to describe how it felt to return to the end zone after such a long absence. Thomas' first touchdown came on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Jameis Winston with 11:16 left in the third quarter. Thomas said he had thought about how he might celebrate, but overcome with emotion and not wanting to get a penalty, he threw the ball into the stands and chest bumped with various teammates.
Thomas said the fan who caught the ball actually threw it back later, so he was able to keep it for himself.
"I didn't want to do anything to hurt this team, so I kept it simple," he said.
Landry, a new addition this offseason, led the Saints with seven catches for 114 yards, and rookie first-round pick Chris Olave had three catches for 41 yards.
"I feel like that was just a little taste," Thomas said. "If you ask me and the guys in the receiver group, we would probably say we didn't get started until the second half. So I mean, that was a lot of football we let get away in the first half. We're trying to play a complete game. ... We're all capable of getting open and making the play but ... you guys haven't seen anything yet."