Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/30/12
ATLANTA -- Drew Brees' trip to Georgia began with the team bus getting egged and concluded with the rottenest performance of his illustrious career. The Atlanta Falcons snapped Brees' record 54-game streak with a touchdown pass, picking off the New Orleans quarterback five times in a 23-13 victory over the Saints on Thursday at the Georgia Dome. Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez scored touchdowns and Matt Bryant kicked three field goals, as the Falcons improved to an NFL-best 11-1 and crushed the slim playoff hopes of the Saints (5-7). The Falcons ended a four-game losing streak to their NFC South rivals in front of an announced crowd of 70,564. They head into December with a commanding lead in the division and a good chance to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs. Brees has thrown seven interceptions in his last two games, both Saints' losses. Jonathan Babineaux collected the final interception, sending the Georgia Dome into euphoria. Chants of "Who Dat? We dat" got louder as the clock ticked down. "Drew Brees is an outstanding quarterback," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. This is a guy that has gone out there and thrown touchdown after touchdown, game after game after game. Just says a whole bunch about the way our football team played tonight." Brees finished 28-of-50 for 341 yards and no touchdowns. It is the first five-interception game of his career. "We played well enough to win except for the glaring exception of the turnovers," said Brees. "I'm going to hold myself fully accountable." Matt Ryan completed 18-of-33 passes for 165 yards and one 17-yard touchdown to Gonzalez. The Falcons were dominating, leading 17-0 in the second quarter, but the offense that plowed through the Saints' defense early disappeared. Atlanta went five consecutive possessions without a first down, a stretch that began in the second quarter and lasted late into the third quarter. While the Falcons were struggling, Brees and the Saints' offense were finding their rhythm after a slow start. New Orleans cut the lead to 17-7 at halftime and got two Garrett Hartley field goals on their first two possessions of the second half to get back into the game. With the way this NFC South rivalry has gone recently, the Falcons had to be worried. The Saints had won 11 of the last 13 meetings, including 31-27 victory three weeks ago in New Orleans. But the Atlanta defense stood up at key moments in the second half. William Moore made a momentum-changing interception late in the third quarter, and John Abraham had a drive-killing sack in the fourth quarter with the Saints threatening. Moore also picked off Brees with under two minutes to play. "William Moore had an outstanding game," Smith said. "Not only the turnovers, but he dislodged a ball on a pass down our sideline that probably would have given a first down inside the 15-yard line. It was a big-time play." Bryant's 55-yard field goal with 4:25 to play was the clincher. The game had the makings of a rout early. The Falcons gashed the Saints' defense on the ground on the opening possession, with Turner picking up chunks of yardage and capping the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons up 7-0 four minutes into the game. They made it 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter on Ryan's 17-yard scoring pass to Gonzalez. Thomas DeCoud picked off Brees on a deep ball in the end zone on the Saints' first drive, and Sean Weatherspoon intercepted a poorly thrown ball in the second quarter that resulted in a Bryant field goal and a 17-0 Falcons lead. The Saints got on the board late in the second quarter, converting on third down three times during an 11-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard Mark Ingram touchdown run. New Orleans had a chance to cut into the lead further, but had a touchdown pass to Darren Sproles nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty and then had time run out with ball on the Falcons' 1-yard line. "That was huge, very big," Smith said of the stop right before the half. "We got off the field with no points. We were reeling a little bit there in the second quarter." Saints interim coach Joe Vitt knows his battered team is in a tough spot, heading into December. "I take full responsibility for this loss," Vitt said. "I didn't do a good job of preparing our football team to come in here and get the job done. "We will go back to work tomorrow. The future as far as the playoffs go looks bleak right now, but we will still work to get better every day. That's what our responsibility as coaches is and that's what we'll do." NOTES: Turner tied the Falcons' franchise record for total touchdowns with his first-quarter run, his 58th as a Falcon. ... tickets were distributed for the game. ... Falcons CB Asante Samuel, who was a game-time decision to play, injured his shoulder in the first quarter and did not return. ... The Saints had won 14 straight home games in November, before last week's loss to San Francisco. ... The Falcons are at Carolina next week, while the Saints head to New York to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.
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