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New Orleans Saints hold off Atlanta Falcons 17-13

Saints improve to 9-2 with hard-fought win

Atlanta - The New Orleans Saints edged division rival Atlanta 17-13 in a hard-fought, nip-and-tuck game Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.

Quarterback Drew Brees threw two first-half scoring passes to his tight ends - one yard to Ben Watson and 44 yards to Jimmy Graham - but were unable to get any separation on the Falcons, who lost their fifth straight game. Garrett Hartley's third quarter field goal was the only scoring the Saints could manage in the second half.

Atlanta put together a strong drive at end the game but Matt Bryant's 52-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left. Bryant made two field goals in the second quarter, one from 39 yards and one from 24. The Falcons got the ball with five seconds left but their final play came up way short.

"Two teams with history, regardless of the records it's always been a close game," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "It's a good win for us. We'll enjoy it for now ... and then get ready for our next game."

The Saints moved to 9-2 with the win and the loss dropped Atlanta to 2-9.

Brees finished the game 23 of 33 for 276 yards and the two TDs. In the first quarter, Brees surpassed Warren Moon to now rank fifth in NFL history in passing yardage. Brees finished the night with 49,566 career passing yards. He ranks behind Brett Favre (71,838), Peyton Manning (63,059), Dan Marino (61,361) and John Elway (51,475).

Graham had another big game with five receptions for 100 yards, his sixth 100-yard game of the season. Pierre Thomas had an all-around solid effort with five receptions for 57 yards and 10 carries for 75 yards. He helped to seal the game with a 16-yard run up the gut of the Falcons' defense with less than two minutes to play.

The Saints were excellent on third down, converting 7 of 13 chances, and didn't have a turnover. The Falcons' one turnover, a fumble by Darius Johnson forced by Keyunta Dawson and recovered by Corey White, short-circuited a potential scoring drive.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was 30 of 39 for 292 yards with no TDs and no interceptions but the Saints were able to sack him five times, 2.5 times by defensive end Cameron Jordan. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks had a strong outing as well with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. Atlanta running back Steven Jackson had 63 yards on 16 carries and a 1-yard touchdown run. Harry Douglas was the Falcons' top receiver with nine receptions for 79 yards.

Roddy White had just two catches for 24 yards and veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez had four catches for 43 yards.

The Saints will have some extra time off before taking on the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks (10-1) in a "Monday Night Football" game on Dec. 2 in Seattle.

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