This was a must win game for the Saints coming of their bye week. They remain last in the NFC South after failing to win two games in a row this season. The Saints are now three games back from the division leading Carolina Panthers and likely out of playoff contention.
Drew Brees' heroics in the fourth quarter were not enough to help the Saints pull out the win. Brees threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone and amassed 422 total yards in the game.
The offense stalled in the red zone with two of Brees' three interceptions coming on the goal line. The last went 95 yards for a pick six, courtesy of Atlanta's Chevis Jackson, the second longest in the history of the Falcon's franchise.
Brees finished the day 31-58 for 422 yards, two touchdown passes, and three interceptions.
Tight end Jeremy Shockey continued his streak of less than stellar performances, posting two receptions for 16 yards and dropping a crucial third down pass.
A bright spot for the Saints was the emergence of star wideout Marques Colston. Colston, who was sidelined for much of the first half of the season with a thumb injury, posted 140 yards on seven receptions. Although he dropped what looked to be an easy touchdown pass in the end-zone during the first quarter, it appears he is back to form.
Once again the Saints' Achilles heel reared it's ugly head. The Saints defense appeared out of sorts failing to get the Atlanta offense off the field and out of the end zone. They surrendered 361 total yards of offense, allowing rookie quarterback Matt Ryan to throw for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
Atlanta's Michael Turner chipped in for 96 yards and a touchdown, while the speedy Jerious Norwood accounted for 178 all-purpose yards, including a 67-yard touchdown pass.
The worst news to come out of the Saints loss is the appearance that cornerback Mike McKenzie is out for the season.
McKenzie fractured his right knee trying to defend a pass intended for Atlanta's Michael Jenkins. The 10-year pro has 23 tackles and one interception on the season. McKenzie by far is the most talented corner in the Saints secondary and his absence is a bad blow to an already struggling pass defense. Usama Young and Jason David are his most likely successors.
It appears the Saints are headed for another lacklustre season in a year that has been marred by injury and suspension.
They seemed destined for an 8-8 finish and once again find themselves with loads of potential, but no where to go. As much as Saints fan's would like to see their team in the playoffs, myself included, it seems unlikely that they can salvage the remainder of their season.