Saints vs. Falcons: Drew Brees Lifts Saints to 17-14 Win Despite Two Late Picks

Paul Mueller@@ThePaulMuellerSenior Analyst IDecember 28, 2010

Drew Brees overcame two interceptions to lift the Saints to a 17-10 win over the Falcons.
Drew Brees overcame two interceptions to lift the Saints to a 17-10 win over the Falcons.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

An uneventful first half had Monday Night Football viewers wondering if the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons would open things up and start scoring points, or if the defenses would continue to dominate.

The Falcons opted for defense.

The Saints led 10-7 at the half, and the Falcons could not get anything going on offense in the second half.

But their defense made-up for it—for a while.

Just minutes after a spectacular behind-the-back, no-look pitch from Drew Brees to Pierre Thomas to avoid a sack merited no gain, Brees tried a forward pitch while under duress from the Falcons pass rush.

This time, however, it did not pan out as well.

Defensive lineman Chauncey Davis found himself in the right place at the right time, and Brees gift-wrapped the interception for the six-year veteran, who rumbled 26 yards to the end zone untouched.

On the next drive, Brees rebounded, leading a five-play, 38-yard drive into Falcons territory.

But the Falcons defense proved too much once again.

As Brees dropped back and let one fly, defensive end John Abraham batted the pass into the air and out-leapt Brees for the jump ball for the interception.

It was Brees’ second consecutive interception and his 20th on the year, a career high and second-most in the league behind Eli Manning’s 24.

Brees would rebound again, though.

After the Falcons failed to chew-up any clock with a quick four-play effort, the Saints got the ball back at their own 10-yard line.

Brees led them down the field to the tune of 13 plays and 90 yards, culminating with a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham. It was Brees’ only touchdown pass of the night, and it gave the Saints a 17-14 lead.

It also gave Matt Ryan a chance to solidify the nickname “Matty Ice” on a national stage.

But it didn’t work out quite as he would have liked.

The Falcons had not been close to scoring on offense since early in the third quarter, when two pass interference penalties got them to the Saints 1-yard line. Michael Turner was stuffed on 1st-and-goal, and on second down he was stuffed again. But this time, he lost the football for the first time all season and the Saints recovered inside their own 5-yard line.

And the Falcons wouldn’t get close this time, either.

After Ryan scampered 20 yards for a first down, the Falcons proceeded to punt, continuing an ineffective offensive second half.

A couple of late first downs for the Saints sealed the Falcons' fate, and the Saints escaped the Georgia Dome with what only one other team ever has: a win against Matt Ryan.

Brees finished the game 35-of-49 for 302 yards and a touchdown with two picks.

Ryan, meanwhile, finished 15-of-29 for 148 yards and a touchdown.

The loss snapped the Falcons' eight-game winning streak and was their first loss at home in 2010. With a win in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons (12-3) will lock-up the NFC South.

The Saints (11-4), meanwhile, host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17 with a chance at the NFC South title and a potential first-round bye.

Whatever the NFL did to make Weeks 16 and 17 more meaningful in 2010, it certainly worked.

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