The New Orleans Saints (4-5) defeated the Atlanta Falcons (8-1), 31-27, Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Superdome to hand their division rival its first loss of the season.
After starting the regular season 0-4, the Saints have now won four of their last five games after earning a victory over the NFL's last undefeated team.
The Saints have now won four straight games against the Falcons and 11 of the last 13.
"Big win for our football team - we played a heck of a team in Atlanta," Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt said after the game. "I can't say enough about our assistant coaches and the gameplan they put in this week."
QB Drew Brees threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns while completing 21 of 32 attempts.
RB Chris Ivory carried the football seven times for 72 yards (10.3 avg.) and a touchdown while also catching one pass for 13 yards. RB Mark Ingram recorded 16 carries for 67 yards.
TE Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for a career-best 146 yards and two touchdowns. WR Lance Moore added 91 receiving yards on seven catches.
S Malcolm Jenkins led the team in tackles with 10 (five solo) while also registering three pass defenses.
The Falcons won the coin toss and elected to receive to start the contest between NFC South opponents in the Superdome.
QB Matt Ryan orchestrated the game's first drive as he led the Falcons 80 yards on seven plays while completing all five of his passes.
Ryan completed a play-action pass to T Mike Johnson in the endzone to cap off the drive and K Matt Bryant made the extra point to give Atlanta an early 7-0 lead.
On the Saints first offensive possession, Brees was intercepted by CB Asante Samuel. The Saints defense held Atlanta to a three-and-out and Bryant added three points with a 37-yard field goal.
Then the Saints took to the ground as Ingram rushed for 13 yards, RB Pierre Thomas earned a first down, and then Ivory broke off a 56-yard touchdown run, the longest rush of his career and the longest by a Saint since 2006. K Garrett Hartley made the PAT to close the gap.
After a solid stop by the defense, the Saints offense was able to run down the rest of the first quarter and into the second quarter with an 11-play, 90-yard drive that lasted 5:23.
Brees completed all six of his attempts on the drive including a 29-yard touchdown strike to Graham. Hartley made the extra point to give the Saints a 14-10 lead. The touchdown pass pushed Brees' streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 52. The reception moved Graham to second on club's all-time touchdown list by a tight end ahead of Hoby Brenner.
Ryan and the Atlanta offense was able to answer though as Ryan completed his last seven passes while leading a 14 play, 80-yard drive that lasted 7:06 of the second quarter. Ryan was then able to end the drive by completing a two-yard touchdown pass to TE Tony Gonzalez. Bryant added the extra point to give Atlanta a 17-14 second quarter lead.
Brees was able to drive down the field one last time before the end of the half as he led an eight play drive that started just before the two-minute warning.
Brees connected with Graham for gains of 18 yards, 15 yards and 14 yards through the air including a touchdown, Graham's second of the day.
The reception moved Graham into a tie for eighth on the club's all-time receiving touchdown list with Robert Meachem and Donte Stallworth.
CB Corey White came up with an interception on the Falcon's first possession of the second half that led to long scoring drive for the black and gold. Brees gained three first downs through the air while Ingram added 20 yards on the ground.
Brees finally found WR Marques Colston for a seven-yard touchdown, the 55th touchdown of Colston's career. The score put Colston tied with RB Deuce McAllister for first on the club's all-time touchdown list. Hartley made the extra point to give the Saints a 28-17 third quarter lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Ryan completed three straight throws for 44 yards including a six-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez. Bryant kicked the extra point but the Falcons still trailed the Saints, 28-24.
Then, following a Saints three-and-out, Ryan hit WR Julio Jones deep down the field for a gain of 52 yards. The Saints defense held the Falcons in the redzone as Bryant was forced to kick a 20-yard field goal. Bryant made the kick and brought the score to 28-27.
The Saints were able to add three points on their next possession. A 46-yard reception by Graham set up a 31-yard field goal attempt that Hartley put through the uprights. The kick gave New Orleans a 31-27 lead with 5:54 remaining in the game.
Ryan drove the Falcons down inside the redzone when he connected with WR Harry Douglas for a nine-yard pass to put the Falcons on the Saints one-yard line with 2:26 left in the game.
After Ryan threw an incomplete pass on second-down, the Saints stuffed Turner behind the line for a one-yard loss to bring up fourth down. CB Jabari Greer broke up Ryan's final attempt at the endzone to give the Saints the ball back with 1:42 left in the contest.
The Saints went three-and-out on running plays on the next drive, giving the Falcons the ball with 37 seconds remaining.
The Falcons' last chance for a comeback ended when Gonzales dropped a pass on fourth and one at the Atlanta 40-yard line – giving the Saints the division win.