Final

Saints 26

(13-0, 7-0 away)

Falcons 23

(6-7, 5-2 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 13, 2009

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
NO 3 13 7 326
ATL 6 3 7 723

Top Performers

Passing: C. Redman (ATL) - 303 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: P. Thomas (NO) - 13 CAR, 47 YDS

Receiving: M. Jenkins (ATL) - 3 REC, 82 YDS, 1 TD

Saints clinch first-round bye as Brees' 3 TDs key another close win

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The New Orleans Saints are still perfect, which is all that matters.

They're not the least bit worried about another close call.

More from ESPN.com

Winning ugly? Not so much. It's just winning for the still-undefeated Saints, writes ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas. Blog


Another close win for the Saints just proved that they are a different team in 2009. This version can finish strong, writes ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli. Story

Drew Brees threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns, Jonathan Vilma came up with two huge defensive plays, and the Saints pulled out another tight win, 26-23 over the pesky Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

A week ago, New Orleans (13-0) appeared on the verge of losing until Washington missed a chip-shot field goal in regulation. The Saints rallied for a 33-30 overtime win.

This time, they struggled to hold off an Atlanta team that was missing injured stars Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. The result was in doubt until Vilma came up with a crushing fourth-down hit on Jason Snelling, stopping him a yard short of the marker with just over a minute remaining.

New Orleans joined Indianapolis, also a winner Sunday, as one of seven NFL teams to reach 13-0. Still, these last two games have been the closest margins of a season dominated by double-digit wins.

A cause for concern?

Looking Ahead

The Colts and Saints are each three games away from finishing the NFL regular season undefeated, the latest in a season the NFL has ever had two teams which haven't lost.

Week Colts opp. Saints opp.
15 @Jags Cowboys
16 Jets Bucs
17 @Bills @Panthers

"Why would we be concerned? We're 13-0," Vilma said. "You're not going to get many blowout wins in the NFL."

Or, as Brees said, "We call that being battle-tested."

While lacking in style points, New Orleans set a franchise record for wins in a season, clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs and moved a step closer to home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

"It's only going to get harder from here on out," Brees said. But "no matter what the situation, we always feel like we have an opportunity to win. Whether it's our offense, defense or special teams, somehow we're going to find a way to win the game."

Fast Facts

• The 26 points was the Saints' second fewest in a game this season and their fewest on the road this year.

• With his 120th passing touchdown, Drew Brees tied Aaron Brooks' franchise record.

• Reggie Bush had two receiving touchdowns to give him 11 for his career. Only Brian Westbrook has more receiving touchdowns among running backs since Bush's rookie year of 2006.

• Chris Redman threw for his second career 300-yard game and his first since Dec. 23, 2007.

• Bloggers' wrapups

• Rapid reaction

-- ESPN Stats & Information

Garrett Hartley put New Orleans back ahead on a 38-yard field goal with a 4:42 remaining after the Falcons rallied from two touchdowns down to tie it at 23.

Atlanta still had a couple of chances to pull out an improbable victory. Vilma stopped them both.

First, the linebacker dropped into coverage to pick off a pass that Chris Redman, filling in again for Ryan, intended for Roddy White over the middle. The Saints failed to score any points off that miscue, attempting a fake field goal that didn't work.

The Falcons were trying to get into field-goal range when they faced fourth-and-2 at the New Orleans 46. Redman threw short to Snelling, but Vilma plastered the running back for only a 1-yard gain. Atlanta had run the very same play out of the same formation earlier in the game, so Vilma read it all the way.

The Saints' defense gave up 392 yards and forced only one Atlanta punt, but it didn't cost them.

"We always want them to put it on our shoulders at the end of the game," Vilma said.

The Falcons (6-7) lost for the sixth time in eight games and their playoff hopes are all but over. They will need to win out to avoid extending one of the most unwanted streak in sports -- Atlanta has never had consecutive winning seasons during its 44-year history.

As for the Saints, they're chasing history. Three more wins to go for a perfect regular season, something that only three other teams have done.

"It means a lot to us," Brees said. "These kind of years don't come around very often."

Brees had another big game with a 31-of-40 performance that included a pair of touchdown passes to Reggie Bush and another to Marques Colston.

The Saints appeared to be pulling away when Brees hooked up with Bush on a 21-yard score to cap the opening possession of the second half, pushing New Orleans to a 23-9 lead.

Bush, who had missed two games because of a knee injury before playing sparingly against the Redskins, also had a 6-yard scoring pass. He dove and stuck out the ball with his left arm to get it inside the pylon.

Atlanta made a game of it. Michael Jenkins hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Redman, the Falcons' defense forced New Orleans' lone punt of the game, and Snelling powered in from the 4 to tie it at 23 with 12:56 remaining.

Back came Brees and the Saints. Looking as though they intended to run off most of the clock, they put together their longest drive of the game, a 16-play, 63-yard march that finally stalled at the Atlanta 20 after an intentional grounding call on Brees.

Hartley, who had earlier missed an extra point, knocked through his second field goal to put the Saints ahead for good.

Redman was 23 of 34 for 303 yards but got little help from the ground game with Turner out. Snelling was the top rusher with 37 yards on 10 carries.

"We can build on this and hopefully finish the season strong," tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "Who knows? We can get hot and if somebody else doesn't get hot, we have a chance."

Game notes


With Turner on the sideline, the Falcons were held below 100 yards rushing for the fourth week in a row. They went over 100 yards in six of their first nine games. ... Brees tied Aaron Brooks' franchise record with his final TD pass, the 120th of his Saints career.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Team Stat Comparison

 
NO
ATL
1st Downs2419
Passing 1st downs
1712
Rushing 1st downs
46
1st downs from Penalties
31
3rd down efficiency
8-125-10
4th down efficiency
0-10-1
Total Plays6756
Total Yards391392
Yards per play5.87.0
Total Drives89
Passing296303
Comp - Att
31-4123-34
Yards per pass
7.28.9
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks - Yards Lost
0-01-0
Rushing9589
Rushing Attempts
2621
Yards per rush
3.74.2
Red Zone (Made-Att)3-61-4
Penalties6-594-55
Turnovers01
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession36:4423:16

Passing Leaders

NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees31/402967.4300-0
Brunell0/100.0000-0
ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Redman23/343038.9111-0

Rushing Leaders

NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Thomas13473.609
Bush6335.5019
ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Snelling10373.717
Norwood9333.7013

Receiving Leaders

NORECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Meachem45714.30425
Colston6549.01207
ATLRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Jenkins38227.31505
Snelling46516.30385

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNOATL
atlFG10:27Matt Bryant 36 Yd 03
noFG05:58Garrett Hartley 33 Yd 33
atlFG00:32Matt Bryant 30 Yd 36
SECOND QUARTERNOATL
noTD09:43Reggie Bush 6 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick) 106
noTD00:51Marques Colston 3 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (Pat Failed) 166
atlFG00:00Matt Bryant 27 Yd 169
THIRD QUARTERNOATL
noTD09:11Reggie Bush 21 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick) 239
atlTD06:11Michael Jenkins 50 Yd Pass From Chris Redman (Matt Bryant Kick) 2316
FOURTH QUARTERNOATL
atlTD12:56Jason Snelling 4 Yd Run (Matt Bryant Kick) 2323
noFG04:42Garrett Hartley 38 Yd 2623