The Saints fell short last night against archrival Atlanta, 23-13 in the Georgia Dome in front of a sell-out crowd and a national television audience.
New Orleans has dominated the Falcons over the past seven seasons, winning eleven out of their last 13 meetings before yesterday, but couldn’t overcome one of the worst games of quarterback Drew Brees’ career.
Brees told his teammates before the game, “This is our division. We know it. They know it.” But it just wasn’t the Saints’ night. Brees only completed 28 of his 50 passes, threw a career-high five interceptions, and ended his games with a touchdown pass record at 54.
The Falcons took control of the game early, rushing the ball on five plays for 72 yards on their opening drive, capped off by running back Michael Turner’s three-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
Atlanta, aided by Saints’ turnovers, kept adding to their lead, going on a 17-0 run before their offense sputtered early in the second quarter and the momentum swung New Orleans’ way.
The Saints’ offense started to hit their stride, aided by numerous three-and-outs forced by the secondary. Running back Pierre Thomas gashed the Falcons’ defense for one hard-hitting run after another, and Mark Ingram plunged into the endzone to shrink the deficit to ten points late in the first half.
The Saints would get another chance to put points on the board before the end of the half, but uncharacteristically poor clock management negated an otherwise beautiful drive by the Saints to the Falcon’s three-yard line as time expired.
Despite the mistakes and missed opportunities, the Saints’ defense played their best game of the year, giving up a season-low 283 total yards to a Falcons offense that managed only one third-down conversion in the entire game.
The Saints have lost two games in a row, dropping their record to 5-7, and they need to win out their four remaining games, plus hope for plenty of help, in order to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
Next up: next Sunday in New York, for a date with the defending Super Bowl-champion New York Giants.