8:25 PM ET, November 21, 2013
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Saints complete season sweep of Falcons, who guarantee losing season
ATLANTA -- The New Orleans Saints have won plenty of games with their dazzling offense.
The defense is doing its part, too.
Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, and the guys on the other side made sure that was enough, sending the Saints to a 17-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
More from ESPN.com
After turning aside Atlanta's upset bid, the Saints can turn their attention to their NFC showdown with Seattle, Mike Triplett writes. Blog
The Falcons responded to questions about whether they'd quit on the season with a spirited effort in their loss Thursday, Vaughn McClure writes. Blog
Atlanta (2-9) dropped its fifth straight game, clinched its first losing season since 2007 and was officially eliminated from the division race with five weeks remaining.
The Falcons had a chance to pull off the upset, driving to the Saints' 29 with less than three minutes to go. But New Orleans turned up the pressure on Ryan, Atlanta missed a long field goal and the Saints ran off all but the last five seconds.
"We knew coming here was going to be a challenge," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "The two teams, the history, regardless of the record, it has always been a close game, and tonight was no exception."
The Georgia Dome rocked with chants of "Who Dat! Who Dat!" as the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Saints ensuring they will remain alone atop the NFC South and just one game behind Seattle for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. New Orleans will face the Seahawks on Dec. 2 in what shapes up as one of the biggest games of the year.
"The identity of the team is still developing," said Jordan, who was credited with 2 1/2 sacks.
The Falcons had hoped to salvage a bit of pride in this lost season, driving from their own 9 -- actually, the 3 after Ryan was sacked -- to the Saints' 29. But Ryan was sacked again by Jordan and hurried into a pair of incompletions. As the crowd groaned, the Falcons surprisingly sent on Matt Bryant to attempt a 52-yard field goal.
Quite The Turnaround
The Falcons were tied for tops in the league last season through 11 games. This year, they are hovering near the bottom and are guaranteed their first losing season since 2007.
Falcons Through 11 Games
Past 2 Seasons
Past 2 Seasons
|>>T-best in NFL|
-- ESPN Stats & Information
He knocked one through, but the Saints called timeout just before the snap. His next try sailed wide of the left upright.
Brees and the offense took it from there, ensuring Atlanta had time for only one desperate play at the end.
"We responded to momentum changes and some adversity in the football game," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "But it was still not good enough. If you don't win, it's not good enough."
Brees was 23-of-33 for 278 yards. Ryan was 30-of-39 for 292 yards, but Atlanta's offense produced only one touchdown -- the fourth time that has happened during its current skid.
The Falcons, who had been outscored 135-61 over their previous four games, put together an impressive drive on their opening possession. Steven Jackson carried it five times for 24 yards, the last of them a dive into the end zone on third-and-goal at the Saints' 1 to give Atlanta its first lead in nearly a month. The Falcons had gone nearly 15 quarters -- almost four full games -- since being up 3-0 over Arizona early in Week 8.
The advantage didn't last long. Brees guided a 15-play, 78-yard drive in which the Saints converted five straight times on third down, including Watson's leaping catch in the back of the end zone.
Bryant put the Falcons back ahead with the first of his two field goals, a 39-yarder early in the second quarter, but New Orleans grabbed the lead for good when Graham slipped behind the secondary and hauled in his long touchdown.
He celebrated by dunking over the goalpost and hung on the crossbar for extra emphasis, and ended up bending the post. As the Saints lined up to attempt the extra point, the officials noticed the crooked uprights, leading to a brief delay as a worker came out with a ladder to straighten the bar.
SportsNation: Most prolific passers?
Drew Brees moved into fifth on the NFL's all-time passing yards list Thursday night. Can you name the top 10? Quiz! »
The Falcons got in position to recapture the lead, driving to the New Orleans' 10. On third-and-goal, Ryan couldn't find an open receiver and took off running, briefly spotting a path to the end zone. But the Saints closed in quickly, prompting Ryan to slide down at the 6 rather than risk an injury. Some Atlanta fans booed as Ryan trotted off the field. Atlanta settled for another field goal from 24 yards and trailed 14-13 at the half.
The Falcons got no closer.
The only points of the second half came on Garrett Hartley's 41-yard field goal.
Graham had five receptions for 100 yards. ... Saints DE Akiem Hicks had 1 1/2 sacks. ... Falcons CB Desmond Trufant went out in the first half with a thigh injury but returned to the game after halftime. ... Jackson had 63 yards on 16 carries for Atlanta.
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 21: Running back Steven Jackson #39 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball as defensive end...(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||6.3||5.4|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||1-2||1-2|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|TD||8:51||Steven Jackson 1 Yard Run (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 76 yds, 4:16
|TD||1:23||Benjamin Watson 1 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 15 plays, 78 yds, 7:31
|FG||12:26||Matt Bryant 39 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 7 plays, 59 yds, 3:57
|TD||10:21||Jimmy Graham 44 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 80 yds, 2:08
|FG||2:44||Matt Bryant 24 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 14 plays, 74 yds, 7:31
|FG||4:42||Garrett Hartley 41 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yds, 3:55
The Falcons have struggled against play-action passing this season. Drew Brees completed 7-of-11 passes for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns on play-action Thursday night. - Brees' 10 play-action touchdown passes this season are second-most in the league, trailing Peyton Manning (11).[+]
Falcons Defense vs Play Action, This Season
Drew Brees completed another deep touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham Thursday, a 44-yard score in the second quarter. Brees' 13 touchdown passes and Graham's 6 touchdown receptions on throws 15 or more yards downfield both lead the league this season. - Drew Brees has thrown 2 interceptions on passes at least 15 yards downfield this season. Last season, Brees was tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions on such throws.[+]
Drew Brees Passing 15+ Yards Downfield, This Season
- Jimmy Graham caught his 11th touchdown Thursday night, tying Calvin Johnson for the league lead. Graham also posted his 6th 100-yard receiving game of the season, tied with A.J. Green for most in the league. The only other tight end to record 6 100-yard receiving games in a season is Tony Gonzalez (2000 and 2004). - Jimmy Graham recorded 26 yards after contact, his most in a game in his career. - The Saints have forced 12 fumbles on defense this season. The Saints forced 11 fumbles on defense all of last season.
The Saints tied their season high with 5 sacks Thursday night with 4 coming in the second half. The Saints sacked Matt Ryan on 16.0% of his dropbacks in the second half, the highest rate the Falcons have allowed in any half this season. The Saints have 19 sacks in the second half this season, tied for the third-most in the league. The Saints have recorded a sack on 9.0% of opponent dropbacks this season, tied with the Rams for the highest rate in the league. Last season, the Saints recorded a sack on 4.6% of opponent dropbacks, the fourth-lowest in the league.
Drew Brees was 11-of-17 for 134 yards and a touchdown when the Falcons rushed 5 or more defenders. The Falcons brought added pressure on nearly half of Brees' dropbacks (17-of-35). The Falcons have allowed 14 touchdown passes when sending 5 or more rushers, most in the league. - In his first game against the Falcons this season, Brees was 8-of-9 for 148 yards and a touchdown when the Falcons rushed 5 or more defenders.
The Falcons fall to 2-9, a far cry from this same point last season when they were 10-1 and tied for the best record in the NFL through 11 games.[+]
Falcons Through 11 Games Last 2 Seasons
Drew Brees came in needing 38 yards to move past Warren Moon and into 5th all-time in passing yards. He is now less than 500 yards from becoming the 5th to reach 50,000 career passing yards. Next up on the list for Brees is John Elway.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information
- NFL Home
- AFC East
- Buffalo Bills
- Miami Dolphins
- NE Patriots
- New York Jets
- AFC West
- Denver Broncos
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Oakland Raiders
- San Diego Chargers
- AFC North
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Cleveland Browns
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- AFC South
- Houston Texans
- Indianapolis Colts
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tennessee Titans
- NFL Nation
- MN HQ
- Free agents