Final

Saints 13

(5-7, 2-4 away)

Falcons 23

(11-1, 6-0 home)

Coverage: NFL

8:20 PM ET, November 29, 2012

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
NO 0 7 6 013
ATL 7 10 0 623

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 341 YDS, 5 INT

Rushing: P. Thomas (NO) - 14 CAR, 84 YDS

Receiving: L. Moore (NO) - 7 REC, 123 YDS

Falcons intercept Drew Brees 5 times, snap TD pass streak in win

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons moved to the brink of clinching a division championship.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints wound up with egg on their faces.

After racing to a 17-0 lead, the Falcons turned to their defense to make it stand up, picking off five Brees passes and ending his NFL-record touchdown streak in a 23-13 victory over the Saints on Thursday night.

The Falcons (11-1) will clinch the NFC South with a month to go if Tampa Bay loses at Denver on Sunday. They also dealt a big blow to the Saints (5-7) and their fading playoff hopes.

William Moore had two of the five interceptions, which were the most of Brees' career and came four days after he had two passes picked off and returned for touchdowns in a loss to San Francisco.

Brees had thrown a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games, breaking Johnny Unitas' long-standing record earlier this season. He had an apparent scoring pass to Darren Sproles late in the first half, but it was nullified by a penalty.

"I didn't realize that until we walked off the field," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "That's an unbelievable streak. Drew Brees is an outstanding quarterback. The way the defense played tonight speaks volumes. The guys had gone out there and thrown touchdown after touchdown game after game after game."

When the Saints arrived in Atlanta, their bus was pelted by eggs at the airport, a sign of the long rivalry between the teams. New Orleans had dominated in recent years, winning four in a row and 11 of 13.

This time, Michael Turner scored on Atlanta's opening possession, Tony Gonzalez hauled in a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan, and Matt Bryant booted three field goals, including a 55-yarder.

The defense did the rest. Thomas DeCoud, Sean Weatherspoon and Jonathan Babineaux also had interceptions for Atlanta, and another pick by Corey Peters was wiped out by a penalty.

Brees had a couple of games with four picks, but nothing like this. He finished 28 of 50 for 341 yards.

The defending NFC South champion Saints lost their second in a row and will likely have to win out to have even a faint hope of making the postseason during a tumultuous year that was marred by a bounty scandal and a season-long suspension for coach Sean Payton.

After winning so many close games, the Falcons started this one as if they were intent on a rout.

Ryan completed a pass on the first play from scrimmage, then turned it over to a running game that has struggled most of the season. Turner burst around right end for a 35-yard gain. Jacquizz Rodgers broke off two straight 14-yard gains. Finally, it was Turner going in standing from 3 yards out, giving Atlanta a quick 7-0 lead.

That was Turner's 58th touchdown in five seasons with the Falcons, breaking the team record he had shared with Terance Mathis.

Atlanta struck again in the opening minute of the second period. Julio Jones hauled in an 18-yard throw from Ryan, setting up a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez in the back of the end zone. He beat former teammate Curtis Lofton, then just flipped the ball over the goalposts instead of his customary basketball dunk.

Brees' second interception, this one a sloppy pass behind running back Chris Ivory that deflected into the arms of Sean Weatherspoon, set up Bryant's 45-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.

Then, suddenly, the game completely changed.

For the rest of the second quarter and most of the third, the Saints totally dominated. Mark Ingram scored on a 1-yard run, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive, and New Orleans should have tacked on more points at the end of the half. But Brees made a rookie-like mistake with 12 seconds remaining, dumping a pass over the middle to Sproles with no timeouts. He was wrapped up at the Atlanta 3 and the clock ran out before the Saints could spike the ball.

But New Orleans got the ball to start the second half, and Brees went back to work. This time, he made a couple of nifty moves to avoid sacks, completing six passes on an 83-yard drive consuming 15 plays and more than 6½ minutes. But the Falcons held again, forcing Garrett Hartley to boot a 21-yard field goal that cut it to 17-10.

Hartley connected again from much farther out on the Saints' next possession, a 52-yarder that brought New Orleans even closer.

The Falcons, meanwhile, couldn't do anything offensively. They failed to pick up a first down on five straight possessions, a stretch in which the Saints had a 289-30 lead in total yards and a staggering 18 first downs.

Finally, it was the Atlanta defense that turned things around late in the third.

Brees rolled to his right and threw over the middle, but Moore picked off the pass and returned it to the New Orleans 16. Ryan connected on first-down throws to Gonzalez and Roddy White to set up Bryant's field goal.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NO
ATL
1st Downs2415
Passing 1st downs
187
Rushing 1st downs
48
1st downs from Penalties
20
3rd down efficiency
7-141-11
4th down efficiency
0-00-0
Total Plays7457
Total Yards436283
Yards per play5.95.0
Total Drives1313
Passing335159
Comp - Att
28-5018-33
Yards per pass
6.74.8
Interceptions thrown
50
Sacks - Yards Lost
1-61-6
Rushing101124
Rushing Attempts
2323
Yards per rush
4.45.4
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-32-3
Penalties5-305-25
Turnovers51
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
50
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession33:4426:16

Passing Leaders

NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees28/503416.8051-6
ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Ryan18/331655.0101-6

Rushing Leaders

NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Thomas14846.0013
Ingram6132.215
ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner12836.9135
Rodgers8435.4014

Receiving Leaders

NORECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Moore712317.603211
Colston67111.802111
ATLRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Gonzalez45814.51185
Jones5489.60188

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNOATL
atlTD11:09Michael Turner 3 Yd Run (Matt Bryant Kick) 07
SECOND QUARTERNOATL
atlTD14:08Tony Gonzalez 17 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick) 014
atlFG08:53Matt Bryant 45 Yd 017
noTD03:17Mark Ingram 1 Yd Run (Garrett Hartley Kick) 717
THIRD QUARTERNOATL
noFG08:24Garrett Hartley 21 Yd 1017
noFG03:53Garrett Hartley 52 Yd 1317
FOURTH QUARTERNOATL
atlFG14:48Matt Bryant 29 Yd 1320
atlFG04:25Matt Bryant 55 Yd 1323

Research Notes

Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined to average 13.6 yards per rush between the tackles in the first quarter, obliterating the Falcons season average of 3.2. Six of their seven first-quarter runs between the tackles went for first downs. The Falcons gained 122 of their 126 total rushing yards (not counting kneels) between the tackles.
  [+]
Drew Brees threw a career-high five interceptions Thursday, with three coming on play-action passes. Entering Thursday, Brees had thrown two interceptions after play action all season.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: Drew Brees attempted six passes that traveled more than 30 yards downfield Thursday, the most he has thrown in a game in the last five seasons. Brees was intercepted twice on those throws, both of which were underthrown. Entering Thursday, Brees had not underthrown a receiver on throws of more than 30 yards since Week 15 of last season.
NEXT LEVEL: The Falcons had success when sending four or fewer pass rushers against Drew Brees, intercepting him four times. Entering the game, Atlanta ranked among the bottom five teams in yards per attempt and completion percentage with such pressure.
  [+]
Roddy White: 2 targets, 0 catches at halftime. This is the first time he had a reception-less 1st half since Week 15 of 2007. It's the first time in his last 78 games that he went without a 1st-half catch.

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