NFL Game Summary - New Orleans at Atlanta|
(Monday, December 27th)
Final Score: New Orleans 17, Atlanta 14
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Drew Brees threw a six-yard touchdown pass to
rookie tight end Jimmy Graham with 3:24 remaining, as the defending Super Bowl
champion New Orleans Saints secured a spot in the postseason with a 17-14
victory over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Brees completed 35-of-49 passes for 302 yards, a touchdown and two
interceptions for the Saints (11-4), who bounced back from a 30-24 loss to the
Ravens last week and avenged an overtime loss to Atlanta in Week 3.
New Orleans kept its hopes alive of claiming a second straight NFC South
title. If the Saints beat Tampa Bay next week and the Falcons lose to
Carolina, New Orleans wins the division.
Pierre Thomas carried the ball 19 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. He also
caught seven passes for 39 yards. Robert Meachem led the receiving corps with
10 catches for 101 yards.
"Obviously it was a hard fought game," Saints head coach Sean Payton said.
"The reason this is a tough team to play in the Dome is because they're really
a tough football team. It went back and forth which we though it would with
the momentum swings. We were fortunate to overcome the turnovers and still
come up with enough points to win the game."
Matt Ryan connected on 15-of-29 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown for the
Falcons (12-3), who saw an eight-game winning streak come to an end. Atlanta,
which has already wrapped up a playoff spot, can still gain the No. 1 seed in
the NFC with a win next week.
Michael Turner carried the ball 17 times for 48 yards. Roddy White hauled in
three passes for 43 yards and a score.
Trailing by three, 10-7, early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons' defense
stepped up in a big way. On the second play of the period, Jonathan Babineaux
brought pressure up the middle. Brees tried to flip the ball into the flat,
but defensive end Chauncey Davis intercepted the football and returned it 26
yards for a touchdown. That score gave the Falcons a 14-10 lead with 14:14 to
Brees had New Orleans in Atlanta territory on the ensuing possession. The
result was very similar, however, as defensive end John Abraham intercepted
Brees near midfield.
The Falcons got one first down before punting the football away. The Saints
took over at their own 10 with 10:35 to play. New Orleans quickly faced a
third-down situation, but Brees calmly threw an 18-yard pass to Lance Moore to
keep the drive going.
The visitors got into Atlanta territory before facing another third down. On
3rd-and-2 from the 38, Meachem caught a three-yard pass for a fresh set of
downs. On the next play, Brees rolled to his right and threw a pass to Thomas,
who ran for 22 yards to the 13-yard line. Graham capped the impressive 13-play
march with a six-yard TD catch to give the Saints a 17-14 edge with 3:24 left.
The Falcons got the ball to their own 43 before punting the ball back to New
Orleans with 2:44 remaining. Graham caught a seven-yard pass on first down
before fumbling the football. But replay clearly showed that he was down
before losing the ball and the call was overturned.
Thomas ran for four yards and a fresh set of downs before the two-minute
warning, then carried the ball for two yards prior to Atlanta's second timeout
of the half. A seven-yard catch by Thomas set up a 3rd-and-inches. The Falcons
wasted their final timeout before Thomas sealed the win with a three-yard run.
"It was a disappointing loss," Ryan said. "I felt that we had opportunities to
make some plays tonight and we didn't take advantage of that. You know it's
frustrating but we got to bounce back and get ready for Carolina next week and
everything that we wanted at the beginning of the season is in front of us and
we need to respond."
Each team struggled on offense in the early going, as four of the first five
possessions resulted in three-and-outs.
New Orleans finally got on the board late in the first quarter. Moore's 16-
yard catch highlighted an eight-play drive, which Garrett Hartley capped
with a 52-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining.
On the third play of the second stanza, Atlanta messed up the snap. Center
Todd McClure failed to get the ball off the ground with Ryan in the shotgun.
Jonathan Vilma of the Saints jumped on the football at the 34-yard line of the
Graham's 10-yard catch on third down was followed up by Thomas' 16-yard run.
That put the ball at the two-yard line, and Thomas rumbled up the middle for a
10-0 New Orleans margin with 11:18 left.
Atlanta, though, responded with a touchdown of its own. Faced with a 3rd-
and-11 from the New Orleans 45, Ryan completed a 19-yard pass to Jason
Snelling. White capped the eight-play drive with a seven-yard TD catch
to make it 10-7 with 7:28 remaining. The rest of the half was scoreless.
The Falcons got the ball to start the second half. Consecutive defensive
interference penalties on Tracy Porter gave Atlanta the ball at the one-yard
line. Turner was stuffed on first down before fumbling the football. Marvin
Mitchell fell on the ball for New Orleans.
Atlanta leads the all-time regular-season series with New Orleans by a 45-38
count and snapped a string of three straight defeats to the Saints with the
above-mentioned overtime win at the Superdome in Week 3...New Orleans running
back Chris Ivory and linebacker Danny Clark both missed the game with
hamstring injuries...The Falcons' eight-game surge was their longest win
streak since ripping off nine straight victories to close out the regular
season in 1998, the same year the franchise made its only Super Bowl
appearance to date...Atlanta had won 15 straight times at the Georgia Dome in
which Ryan had started. Ryan fell to 19-2 at home over his three-year
career...Moore caught four passes for 48 yards...Michael Jenkins hauled in
five passes for 40 yards for the Falcons.
12/28 02:06:34 ET