After a 31-21 loss last week vs. San Francisco, the New Orleans Saints embark on the first of a two-game road trip against a pair of teams in first place in their respective divisions.
Their first of two road contests will mark a return to play in the rugged NFC South when New Orleans takes on the Atlanta Falcons (10-1) at the Georgia Dome in a nationally televised game on Thursday night. The Saints have won five of their last seven games, and a victory is essential this week to climb back to .500 and remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
"This team plays on a Thursday night against Atlanta," said New Orleans Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt. "The only thing we're looking forward to right now is to have a great practice when we come back, prepare the right way and play a game Thursday night. That's all we can do."
Even in defeat, QB Drew Brees and WR Marques Colston continued their assault of club and league record books. Brees tossed for three touchdowns and has now posted a league-leading 31 on the season. He now joins Brett Favre (9) and Peyton Manning (6) as only the third quarterback to top the 30-TD pass mark in five or more seasons. He also joins Favre (1994-98) as the only quarterbacks to do so in five consecutive seasons.
Colston's second quarter ten-yard touchdown reception was his 56th career touchdown, making him the franchise's all-time leader in the category.
Colston has enjoyed another standout season, leading New Orleans in receiving with 55 receptions for a club-best 757 yards with eight touchdowns to tie for the club lead. Overall, Brees has connected with Colston for all 56 touchdowns, making the dynamic duo tied for the eighth most prolific quarterback-receiver combination for scoring throws of all-time.
CB Patrick Robinson led a pass defense that allowed only 231 net yards passing, recording a second quarter interception. Since the start of the 2011 season, Robinson has posted seven picks, tied for seventh in the NFC and ninth in the NFL over this period. New Orleans' special teams enjoyed a productive day despite the loss. S Rafael Bush recovered a fumble on a punt return at the Saints 11-yard line, setting up a touchdown.
P Thomas Morstead averaged over 50 yards per punt for the seventh time in 11 games this season. New Orleans will be looking for their second consecutive series sweep against the Falcons, who they previously beat on Nov. 11 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 31-27, to put the sole blemish on an 8-0 start by Atlanta. In that week 10 win, New Orleans benefitted from explosive plays on offense by several players.
TE Jimmy Graham posted seven receptions for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns to capture NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time. RB Chris Ivory ripped off a 56-yard run for a touchdown, the longest run by a Saint since the 2006 season.