<span><span style="">Atlanta </span>– The Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans, 34-20, at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons played mistake free and efficiently throughout the game, while the Saints committed three turnovers on the day.
Saints QB Drew Brees recorded his seventh 300-yard passing day this season, but was also intercepted three times as the Saints were forced to throw the often in the second half in a game of catch-up. Brees concluded the day with 420 passing yards and completed the game with a 32-yard TD pass to Lance Moore, but that was little consolation for the Saints.
"I give Atlanta a lot of credit," said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton following the game. "They played awfully well offensively and we struggled early on and fell behind and put ourselves in a really tough hole to dig out of."
New Orleans out-gained the Falcons 519 yards to 361, but it was the Falcons who controlled the ebb and flow of the game by holding onto the football for 31:12 in time of possession and grinding out 113 yards on the ground to the Saints' 105. Atlanta RB Michael Turner had 27 carries for 96 yards (3.6 average) and one score, while QB Matt Ryan was sharp throughout the game, completing 16-of-23 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns.
"We became one-dimensional and they played into the hands of the defense and their pass rush," Payton said. "Their defenders made a lot of plays and we didn't take advantage of some opportunities that we had to get back in the game late in the second quarter."
"Defensively we couldn't get off the field in key spots and I would say that we got beat in all phases of the game," Payton said. "The most important thing we can focus on right now is next week's game and getting back to .500."
"That is the most explosive offense in the league," said Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith. "I was pleased that we kept them out of the end zone in the first half. Our thought going into the game that we knew we had limit their big explosive plays and keep the ball in front of us. I was pleased with the pass rush and the effort of our defensive back. We contested a lot of passes."
The game got off to a rocky start for the Saints, who accepted the opening kickoff, when Drew Brees attempted to connect on a deep pass for Devery Henderson on the first play from scrimmage. The ball was intercepted by S Erik Coleman, though, and the Washington State product returned the ball 32 yards to the Saints' 33.
New Orleans' defense stifled the Falcons on their initial drive though and the Saints were aided by a chop block infraction on RG Harvey Dahl that cost the Falcons 15 yards and the Saints then forced the Falcons to punt.
Starting at their own 10-yard line Brees came firing and quickly connected on a six-yard completion to Lance Moore. On second down Brees once again tried to hit Henderson deep down the middle of the field but CB Dominique Foxworth broke the pass up at the last second, preventing the completion. A third down run by Deuce McAllister resulted in the Saints' coming up less than a yard shy of the first down.
Newcomer punter Glenn Pakulak hammered a spiraling 56-yard punt that return man Harry Douglas returned 25 yards to midfield. Atlanta then drove 50 yards in five plays, with two intermediate completions from Matt Ryan to Roddy White for 14 yards and a 13-yard completion to Michael Jenkins. The Falcons opened the scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to White with 5:53 expired in the game.
Deuce McAllister started the Saints' drive with a six-yard gain up the middle. The Saints converted their first third down of the game on a 16-yard completion from Brees to Marques Colston. Aaron Stecker then bolted off the left side of the Saints' line for a gain of 12 yards. Two plays later Brees and Colston connected on a 19-yard completion to the Atlanta 23. The Saints could only managed to advance to the Falcons' 6 yard line and settled for a 24-yard field goal by rookie kicker Garrett Hartley, who scored his first points as a professional with the kick than cut the Falcons' lead to 7-3 after the 13 play, 71 yard drive.
The Falcons struck right back, however, marching 80 yards in nine plays. The biggest play of the drive came on a 30-yard completion from Ryan to Jenkins down the sideline that put the ball at the Saints' two. One play later Michael Turner barreled his way behind left guard for a two yard score that put the Falcons ahead 14-3.
The Saints responded with a seven play, 51-yard drive that ended in a 44-yard field goal by Hartley. The biggest play of the drive came on the first play of the drive when Devery Henderson took an end around and dashed 30 yards. The Saints were halted on a third down in the red zone when DE John Abraham sacked Brees.
Atlanta continued to roll offensively. Starting at their own 21 the Falcons mixed the run and the pass effectively, marching 75 yards in 12 plays. The drive ended with a 22-yard field goal by Jason Elam that increased the Falcons' lead to 17-6. The Saints' top defensive play on the drive came on a pass defensed in the end zone on a Ryan pass intended for Roddy White.
Trailing by 11 points before the two-minute warning, the Saints set about to chip away at the Atlanta lead. Brees connected on a 19-yard pass to Colston and then a 10-yard pass to TE Jeremy Shockey on a third-and-four. New Orleans was flagged for a holding call that negated a long Brees to Colston completion that would have given the Saints the ball at the Falcons' 30. Brees, though, got the yardage back with a pinpoint rollout strike to Lance Moore for 15 yards and a first down at the Atlanta 34. The officials reviewed the play and the ruling on the field stood that Moore maintained possession of the ball before going out of bounds. Brees then scrambled for seven yards on first down but misfired under pressure on second down with the ball on the 28 and had his third down pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. The Saints went for it on fourth down but Brees and Colston couldn't connect due to tight coverage from CB Chris Houston and the Saints turned the ball over on downs.
The teams were quite evenly statistically in the first half, with the Falcons owning a 200-193 advantage in total yards.
The Falcons led 17-6 at halftime and accepted the opening kickoff to begin the second half of play. Atlanta received a spark immediately when Jerious Norwood returned the opening kickoff 55 yards to the Saints' 44. The Saints' defense though held the Falcons and forced a punt that Moore fair caught at the Saints' 9.
Pierre Thomas flashed out of the backfield behind RT Jon Stinchcomb for a nine-yard gain and then Brees hit Colston for a gain of seven yards and a first down. Brees and Thomas connected for a nine yards gain but Thomas was drilled for a three yard loss on a second down handoff and Brees and Colston couldn't connect on third down and the Saints punted, with Pakulak hitting a 38-yarder that was not returned.
The Falcons started their second drive of the second half at their own 31 and commenced the drive with a four-yard rush from Turner. Following an Atlanta timeout Turner picked up five yards and then two on an inside handoff. The Saints challenged the spot of the ball on the field but the officials ruled after watching the video replay that the ruling on the field was correct and the Saints were charged with their first timeout of the second half.
Turner then churned his way for eight more yards to midfield and picked up four more yards and a first down on second down. The Saints jammed up the interior of the line and stopped Turner for no gain on the ensuing first down but picked up 14 yards on a bootleg pass from Ryan to TE Justin Peelle. Turner then picked up four yards and 14 yards to the New Orleans 16 before Randall Gay dropped Turner for a five-yard loss. Ryan hit Jenkins for a nine-yard gain on a crossing route on second down and on third-and-six cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Mike McKenzie teamed up to stop Jenkins after a short gain.
After the play McKenzie needed assistance from the team's trainers and was carted off the field.
Elam hit a 27-yard field goal to make the score 20-6 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Roby took the kickoff to the Saints' 37 but the Saints went three and out and were forced to punt. FB Mike Karney hobbled off the field on Roby's kickoff return.
The Falcons turned in the longest play of the day on the next drive when Jerious Norwood took a screen pass from Ryan and raced 67 yards for a touchdown, picking up a key block from Jenkins down the sideline. Following the extra point the Falcons led 27-6 with 14:40 left in the contest.
Following a touchback the Saints picked up nine yards on a second down completion from Brees to Thomas to the 29. A third down pass from Brees to Thomas was incomplete after a defender made a diving play to get his hands on the ball. The Saints went for it on fourth down and Thomas smashed his way over left guard for three yards and a first down. New Orleans was unable to pick up any yards on first and second downs but Brees hung in the pocket coolly on third down and hit Henderson for a 13-yard gain and the first down.
Billy Miller caught his first pass of the game on a 23-yard seam route to the Falcons' 32 but the Saints were guilty of a false start infraction. Brees then found Colston for a 21-yard completion to the 16 and dumped a check down pass to Thomas for a six-yard gain. The Saints were hit for a snap infraction before the snap on second down, pushing them back five yards. On third down and in the face of a heavy blitz Brees connected with McAllister out of the backfield for a 15-yard touchdown via a screen pass. Following the extra point the Saints trailed 27-13.
The Saints failed to convert an onsides kick attempt and Atlanta took over at their own 49 but the Saints forced a three and out and the Saints took possession at their own 10 with 8:10 left in the game.
Brees hit Thomas for a seven-yard gain and then Thomas ripped off a nine-yard run on a third down. Two plays later Brees hit Patten for a gain of 14 yards and a first down to the Saints' 42. Two short completions brought up another third down for the Saints; this time a third-and-five from the Saints' 46. Brees tried to connect with Moore on a quick slant but the pass was knocked away by an Atlanta defender and the Saints were forced to go for it on fourth down.
Brees hit Patten for a 19-yard gain and then zipped a perfect seam route to Miller for 23 to the Atlanta 11 with 4:46 remaining in the game. A first down shot into the end zone was incomplete and a second down screen pass was well diagnosed by the defense and the Saints were flagged for an offensive interference call that pushed them back 10 yards. Brees then tried to hit Moore across the letters in the end zone but CB Chris Houston got to the ball a step sooner than Moore and intercepted the football in he end zone, thwarting the Saints' drive.
Atlanta predictably went to the running game in an effort to run out the clock and pounded the ball into the hands of Michael Turner. The Saints stopped the Falcons and forced them to punt and the Saints took possession at their own 24.
Brees hit Colston for a 10-yard gain on second down as the clock hit the two-minute warning. The two hooked up a play later for a 46-yard gain. Brees and Moore than hit for 12 yard gain. Brees the tried to fire a pass into the corner for Colston but was intercepted by rookie CB Chevis Jackson, who returned the ball 99 yards for a score, which gave Atlanta a 34-13 lead.
The Saints scored on the final play of the game on a 32-yard pass from Brees to Moore that capped a frantic seven-play, 69-yard drive in 1:17.
Marques Colston led all receivers with seven receptions for 140 yards while Lance Moore added six grabs for 76 yards. Billy Miller and Pierre Thomas each added five receptions each for the Saints.
Defensively the Saints were paced by the play of LB Scott Fujita who had team-high 12 tackles, including one for a loss. S Kevin Kaesviharn added nine tackles and LB Scott Shanle had six stops.
Notes: Saints inactive players were: #3 Joey Harrington (3rd QB), WR Robert Meachem, RB Reggie Bush, CB Jason David, T Jermon Bushrod, C Jonathan Goodwin, DT Remi Ayodele and DT Antwan Lake. For the Falcons, QB D.J. Shockley (3rd QB), S Thomas DeCoud, CB David Irons, LB Tony Gilbert, T Sam Baker, DE Simon Fraser, T Quinn Ojinnaka and WR Adam Jennings.