Injuries and penalties took their roll Thursday night as the New Orleans Saints lost to the Falcons 20-17 in Atlanta. Matt Bryant's 52-yard field provided the winning points.
The Saints lost six players to injuries during the game – four on defense – and were assessed 11 penalties for 87 yards which led to nine Atlanta first downs.
Despite losing star running back Alvin Kamara, guard Senio Kelemete, linebacker A.J. Klein, safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Trey Hendrickson and defensive tackle David Onyemata to injuries the Saints stayed close by picking off Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan three times.
But Ryan led the Falcons on two fourth quarter scoring drives to win the game and improve the Falcons to 8-5. The loss dropped the Saints to 9-4 with games remaining against the New York Jets, Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Saints' final chance to win ended when quarterback Drew Brees was picked off by Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones.
Rookies Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams had two of the picks and veteran safety Chris Banjo provided the third. The defense held Atlanta's offense in check despite losing Klein, Hendrickson, Vaccaro and Onyemata to injuries and giving Atlanta eight first downs via penalty.
The New Orleans offense also had injury problems as rookie sensation Alvin Kamara left the game on the opening possession with a concussion. The Saints later lost guard Senio Kelemete to a concussion.
The picks by Lattimore and Williams ended Atlanta scoring chances while Banjo's set up a short Saints touchdown drive that was capped by a 1-yard pass from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas.
The Saints scored in the first half on a 26-yard reception by Tommylee Lewis, his first touchdown, and a 34-yard Wil Lutz field goal. A second Lutz field goal, this one at the end of the first half, was waved off because of a penalty.
The Saints now will have some time off ahead of their next game, Dec. 17 vs. the Jets at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
New Orleans Saints key stats
Derew Brees, 26 of 35 for 271 yards with two TDs and one interception
Mark Ingram, 12 carries for 49 yards
Michael Thomas, 10 catches for 117 yards with one TD
Atlanta Falcons key stats
Matt Ryan, 15 of 27 for 221 yards with one TD and three interceptions
Devonta Freeman, 24 carries for 91 yards Julio Jones, five catches for 98 yards