In a prime time matchup between two longtime division foes, the New Orleans Saints (8-2) will march into the Georgia Dome on Thursday night to face the Atlanta Falcons (2-8), in the second contest between the two clubs in their 2013 series.
New Orleans is coming off of a 23-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at the Mercedes- Benz Superdome that featured significant contributions on offense, defense and special teams, as the outcome was not decided until K Garrett Hartley kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired. The 8-2 Saints currently lead the NFC South by one-and-a-half games over the Carolina Panthers, pending tonight’s matchup between the Panthers and New England Patriots.
New Orleans will be looking for their third consecutive victory and a season sweep of the Falcons. A win over Atlanta would be the Saints’ third consecutive triumph over an NFC opponent this season and would assure them of keeping a lead of at least one game over the Panthers. It would also give New Orleans, who has already surpassed their win total from 2012 when they went 7-9, their fourth winning season in five years.
Sunday’s effort in all three phases took all 60 minutes for New Orleans to come up with a hard-earned victory over the 49ers. After leading 14-10 at halftime, the 49ers turned an interception into seven points in the third quarter to take a 17-14 lead. Needing a stop early in the fourth quarter with the 49ers in the red zone, New Orleans forced two incomplete passes to make them kick field goal to extend their lead to a manageable six points.
QB Drew Brees led the Saints down the field in nine plays, highlighted by long pass plays to WRs Marques Colston and Robert Meachem to set up a 21-yard field goal by K Garrett Hartley. New Orleans then forced a three-and-out in under a minute and Brees led the Saints to another field goal drive to tie the score.
After P Thomas Morstead pinned San Francisco back at the 20-yard line on a touchback on the kickoff, OLB Junior Galette sacked QB Colin Kaepernick for a nine-yard loss, setting up a three and out that took only 25 seconds off the clock and gave the Saints field position at their 40-yard line after a fair catch interference penalty assessed to 49ers WR Kassim Osgood.
The 1:41 left on the clock was enough for Brees to lead the Saints down to the San Francisco 13-yard line on five plays, powered by two first down completions to TE Jimmy Graham and a 20-yard pass play to Colston. With three seconds left, Hartley hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired to give New Orleans the dramatic victory.