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New Orleans Saints take 17-9 halftime lead over Atlanta Falcons in Week 13 contest

Taysom Hill dominates the first half

Atlanta - Taysom Hill, the New Orleans Saints' do-everything player, dominated the first half of Thursday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, giving the Saints a 17-9 lead at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Hill partially blocked Atlanta's first punt, setting up the Saints in great field position at the 30-yard line. Drew Brees then connected with Hill on a short 3-yard scoring pass. Following an Atlanta touchdown and a 22-yard Wil Lutz field goal, Hill struck again.

With the Saints facing a third-and-1 at the 2-minute mark of the second quarter, Coach Sean Payton inserted Hill at quarterback. He took the snap from the shotgun, ran up the middle and then cut it to the left side and outraced all the Falcons for a 30-yard touchdown run.

The start of the game couldn't have gone better for the Saints (9-2), who will win the NFC South title for the third consecutive season with a win against the Falcons (3-8). Defensive end Marcus Davenport sacked Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan on the first play and when the Falcons were forced to punt, Hill made his first big play of the half.

Brees' scoring pass to Hill was the 532nd touchdown pass of Brees' career, moving him into second place all time behind Peyton Manning. It was the fourth receiving touchdown for Hill this season, most all time for a quarterback.

The middle of the half bogged down for the Saints based on a combination of tough field position and penalties, which has been a problem all season. The Saints were penalized three times for 72 yards, the biggest being a 25-yard pass interference call on Eli Apple which set up Ryan's 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jaeden Graham. Younghoe Koo missed the extra-point attempt. He later missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt but ended the half making a 45-yarder.

Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore returned to action after missing the previous two games. Atlanta played without star wide receiver Julio Jones. Saints receiver Tre'Quan Smith left the game with an ankle injury

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