(Monday, November 2nd)
Final Score: New Orleans 35, Atlanta 27
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Drew Brees threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, and Pierre Thomas ran for another score, as the New Orleans Saints held on to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 35-27, to remain undefeated.
Brees completed 25-of-33 passes, but was also intercepted once and lost a fumble that Kroy Biermann returned for a touchdown. Thomas ran for 91 yards on 14 carries and had a touchdown reception for New Orleans, which is off to its first 7-0 start since 1991 and gained a stranglehold on the NFC South.
With the victory, the Saints established a three-game lead over the Falcons (4-3), who have lost two in a row.
"This is a huge win. Obviously you win, it's worth two [in the division]," Brees said. "It wasn't the prettiest win at times, but we did what we needed to do when we needed to do it to get the win."
Atlanta got a big game from Michael Turner, who ran for 151 yards and a score on 20 carries, while Matt Ryan threw for 289 yards and a TD. However, Ryan completed just 19-of-42 passes and had three interceptions, one of which Jabari Greer returned for a score.
Roddy White finished with four catches for 108 yards, most of which came on a 68-yard touchdown reception.
"I thought Matt's play through the game was good," Atlanta head coach Mike Smith said. "We've got to take care of the football. But that was a very good defense. Hats off to [Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams] and his staff, and [Saints head coach Sean Payton] and his staff to come out with a win."
The Falcons recovered an onside kick after Jason Elam's 40-yard field goal with 28 seconds left, but had no timeouts, and Darren Sharper intercepted Ryan's end-zone heave to seal the victory.
Atlanta faced a 28-14 halftime deficit, but closed within a score early in the third quarter. After the Saints punted on the opening possession, the Falcons took over at their own 32 and went the distance in just three plays.
They actually gained a first down, but moved back 10 yards because of a holding penalty, and faced a 2nd-and-20. But Ryan found White running up the right sideline and aired out the deep pass, which White hauled in after apparent incidental contact with his defender. White continued downfield and avoided a tackle before getting into the end zone, as the Falcons pulled within 28-21.
But it was the only score of the third quarter, as John Carney missed a 37- yard field goal on New Orleans' next drive and each team punted.
Atlanta took over at its own 23 with 3:18 left in the third, and went on a long drive that spanned into the final quarter. The Falcons faced a 4th-and-4 at the Saints' 23 and went for it, converting the chance when Ryan found Tony Gonzalez for an 11-yard gain.
Later in the drive, Ryan appeared to complete a seven-yard score to White, as it was ruled a TD. But the Saints challenged and the ruling was reversed. Elam then booted a 25-yarder to make it a 28-24 game.
Atlanta had a chance to go ahead after Thomas fumbled on the third play of the Saints' next possession and Stephen Nicholas recovered at the New Orleans 35. But the Falcons squandered the chance, as Tracy Porter picked off Ryan's pass on the third play of the drive, and New Orleans drove for a back-breaking score.
Starting at their own 19 with 8:30 to play, the Saints went the 81 yards in 11 plays, the last of which was a one-yard TD reception by Thomas. The running back caught the ball on the right side of the field, then dove over the goal line as New Orleans took a 35-24 lead with 3:03 to play.
Atlanta turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, but got another opportunity when Mike Bell fumbled near midfield and Coy Wire recovered.
The Falcons advanced to the Saints' 22, thanks in part to a 16-yard catch by Michael Jenkins that was only called a reception after Atlanta challenged the incomplete ruling. Elam's 40-yarder with 28 ticks left drew the Falcons within a score.
The onside kick was successful, as the ball bounced off the hands of the Saints' David Thomas before Wire managed to grab it and hold on. Officials had a hard time pulling players off the scrum to determine which team had possession.
Ryan completed a 14-yard pass to Jenkins, then spiked the ball near midfield with 11 seconds remaining. But he had to prematurely release his long throw because of New Orleans pressure, and Sharper made the easy interception.
"We did a lot of things that can get you beat in games, and we were still able to overcome all that and won the game," Payton said.
Atlanta scored on the game's opening drive, going 77 yards in eight plays, and Turner capped it with a 13-yard run.
The Saints countered with their first score, moving the ball 80 yards in 10 plays. Thomas ended the drive with an incredible 22-yard run, as he gained open space with a hard cut to his left, bounced off a tackler, then sprinted into the end zone.
The Falcons took the lead back later in the first, after the Saints started a drive at their own nine-yard line. On the second play, safety Thomas DeCoud ran in on a late blitz and hit Brees hard, causing him to lose the ball. Biermann picked it up and ran four yards across the goal line for a 14-7 lead with 2:14 left.
However, New Orleans had an answer on its ensuing touch. Marques Colston grabbed Brees' 18-yard pass with Tye Hill draped on his back, then fell into the end zone nearly five minutes into the second quarter.
The Saints got a one-yard TD run from Reggie Bush with 1:05 left in the half to take a 21-14 lead, then made it a two-score game on Greer's interception. The cornerback anticipated a route by White and jumped in front to snag Ryan's pass, then ran 48 yards for the score with 42 seconds left.
Colston finished with six catches for 85 yards for the Saints, while Jeremy Shockey had five receptions for 72 yards...Gonzalez ended with six grabs for 89 yards...The Saints' three interceptions gives them 16 this season, surpassing their total from all of last year (15)...Atlanta finished with 442 total yards, compared to 437 for the Saints...These teams split the two meetings last season, with each winning at home. New Orleans plays at Atlanta on December 13.
11/03 01:36:02 ET
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