Sun Sentinel
National Football League
             === Falcons soar past Saints, end Brees' TD streak ===
 Atlanta,  GA (Sports  Network) - The Atlanta Falcons made a statement Thursday
 night, picking off New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees a career-high five times
 and  ending his remarkable consecutive games streak with a touchdown pass in a
 23-13 victory over the Saints at the Georgia Dome.
 Matt  Ryan  completed 18-of-33 passes  for 165 yards  with a touchdown for the
 Falcons  (11-1),  who avenged  their lone  defeat of the  season and snapped a
 four-game losing streak to the Saints.
 "That was a really good win for our football team. I felt our defense played a
 tremendous game," said Atlanta coach Mike Smith.
 Atlanta  can clinch the  NFC South Division title with a Tampa Bay loss or tie
 at Denver on Sunday. A loss or tie by Seattle at Chicago on Sunday will secure
 a playoff spot for the Falcons.
 New  Orleans (5-7),  meanwhile, saw its playoff hopes become even slimmer with
 its second straight loss.
 Brees,  who  had 341 passing  yards, failed to throw  a touchdown pass for the
 first time since Week 4 of the 2009 campaign, snapping a his NFL-record streak
 at 54 games.
 Garrett Hartley connected on field goals of 21 and 52 yards to draw the Saints
 within 17-13 in the third quarter.
 Brees  was intercepted  on  the next  New Orleans   drive  and safety  William
 Moore's return placed the ball at the Saints' 41-yard line.
 Ryan  moved the chains  with an 18-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons had
 gone the previous five possessions without registering a first down.
 The  drive stalled in the red zone and Matt Bryant nailed a 29-yard field goal
 12 seconds into the fourth quarter.
 Brees  then led  the team down the  field, from the Saints' 20 to the Falcons'
 32,  but  Pierre Thomas was  wrapped up for a  4-yard loss on 2nd-and-1 before
 defensive end John Abraham sacked Brees to knock New Orleans out of field goal
 Bryant drilled a 55-yarder on the ensuing drive with 4:25 remaining.
 Two  Brees  interceptions were  sandwiched around a  fumble by Atlanta running
 back  Michael Turner,  who  had the  ball stripped  on  a second-effort  drive
 forward. Rafael Bush recovered and scored on a 71-yard touchdown. The play was
 reversed, however, with Bush being ruled down by contact.
 On  the  first play after  the 2-minute warning, Moore  picked off a deep pass
 along the left sideline, sealing the win.
 "It's  extremely disappointing,"  Brees  said about  the  turnovers. "I  pride
 myself  on being a  great decision maker and a guy that's going to help us win
 the game and not be a detriment by turning the ball over like that."
 The  Falcons'  first drive  of the  game looked effortless  as they never even
 faced third down.
 Following  a near-interception  on the first play of the game, Turner, who had
 been held to 15 yards on 13 carries in a 31-27 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 11,
 blazed for 35 yards over right tackle on second down.
 Four plays later, all via the ground, Turner powered his way into the end zone
 from three yards out to become the Falcons' all-time touchdown leader with 58.
 He  had been  tied with wideout Terance Mathis for the most overall touchdowns
 in team history.
 Atlanta  cornerback Asante Samuel, who was listed as questionable because of a
 shoulder  injury,  re-injured his  shoulder on  the Saints' opening possession
 after Brees completed a downfield strike to Joe Morgan on third down. The play
 covered  38 yards, but safety Thomas DeCoud picked off Brees' next pass in the
 end zone.
 The  Falcons extended  their lead  52 seconds  into the  second quarter.  Ryan
 completed all four of his passes on a drive that started at midfield, the last
 one being caught over the middle by Gonzalez for a 17-yard score.
 Unlike  earlier in  the game,  Atlanta  was able  to  cash in  a second  Brees
 interception.  Brees threw  a screen  pass that  caromed off  Chris Ivory  and
 linebacker  Sean Weatherspoon  hauled in the deflection. His modest return set
 up a first down at the New Orleans 29.
 The  Saints' defense  held, though,  and Bryant  kicked a  45-yard field  goal
 to put Atlanta up 17-0 with 8:53 remaining.
 New  Orleans found  some traction  on  the ensuing  drive, but  a penalty  and
 mismanagement of the clock cost the team additional points prior to halftime.
 Mark  Ingram  capped the 11-play  march with a  1-yard plunge, and after their
 defense  forced a  three-and-out, the  Saints threatened  again in  the waning
 Brees  connected with  Darren Sproles for a 7-yard touchdown, but Jimmy Graham
 was  flagged  for pass interference. Brees  went back to Sproles for a 12-yard
 gain on 1st-and-goal.
 Well aware that they were out of timeouts, the Saints displayed little urgency
 in  getting  up to  the line. And  the complacency wound  up costing them when
 Sproles  was tackled at the Atlanta 3-yard line after another short reception.
 The half expired before Brees was able to spike the ball.
 "That's  my  mistake, that  can't happen...I  thought I had  more time than we
 did," Brees admitted.
                                   Game Notes
 The  Falcons have  won 10 in a row  at home ... Brees recorded his 63rd career
 300-yard  passing  game, tying Dan Marino  for second place in NFL history ...
 Turner had 12 rushes for 83 yards ... Thomas carried 14 times for 84 yards ...
 New Orleans' Lance Moore led all receivers with 123 yards on seven grabs.
 11/30 01:22:11 ET