Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 11/29/12
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons raced to a 17-0 lead and the defense made it stand up, picking off five of Drew Brees' passes and ending his NFL-record touchdown streak with a 23-13 victory Thursday night. The Falcons moved to the brink of clinching the NFC South and dealt a big blow to the Saints (5-7) and their fading playoff hopes. William Moore had two of the five interceptions, which were the most of Brees' career and came four days after he had two passes picked off and returned for touchdowns in a loss to San Francisco. Brees had thrown a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games. He had an apparent scoring pass to Darren Sproles late in the first half, but it was nullified by a penalty. Michael Turner scored on Atlanta's opening possession, Tony Gonzalez hauled in a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan, and Matt Bryant booted three field goals, including a 55-yarder. The Falcons defense did the rest. Thomas DeCoud, Sean Weatherspoon and Jonathan Babineaux also had interceptions for Atlanta, which will clinch the NFC South with a month to go in the regular season if Tampa Bay loses to Denver on Sunday. Brees had a couple of games with four picks, but nothing like this. He finished 28 of 50 for 341 yards. The defending NFC South champion Saints lost their second in a row and will likely have to win out to have even a faint hope of making the postseason during a tumultuous year that was marred by a bounty scandal and a season-long suspension for coach Sean Payton. After winning so many close games, the Falcons started this one as if they were intent on a rout. Ryan completed a pass on the first play from scrimmage, then turned it over to a running game that has struggled most of the season. Turner burst around right end for a 35-yard gain. Jacquizz Rodgers broke off two straight 14-yard gains. Finally, it was Turner going in standing from 3 yards out, giving Atlanta a quick 7-0 lead. That was Turner's 58th touchdown in five seasons with the Falcons, breaking the team record he had shared with Terance Mathis. Atlanta struck again in the opening minute of the second period. Julio Jones hauled in an 18-yard throw from Ryan, setting up a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez in the back of the end zone. He beat former teammate Curtis Lofton, then just flipped the ball over the goalposts instead of his customary basketball dunk. Brees' second interception, this one a sloppy pass behind running Chris Ivory that deflected into the arms of Sean Weatherspoon, set up Bryant's 45-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead. Then, suddenly, the game completely changed. For the rest of the second quarter and most of the third, the Saints totally dominated. Mark Ingram scored on a 1-yard run, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive, and New Orleans should have tacked on more points at the end of the half. But Brees made a rookie-like mistake with 12 seconds remaining, dumping a pass over the middle to Sproles with no timeouts. He was wrapped up at the Atlanta 3 and the clock ran out before the Saints could spike the ball. But New Orleans got the ball to start the second half, and Brees went back to work. This time, he made a couple of nifty moves to avoid sacks, completing six passes on an 83-yard drive consuming 15 plays and more than 6 1-2 minutes. But the Falcons defense held again, forcing Garrett Hartley to boot a 21-yard field goal that cut it to 17-10. Hartley connected again from much farther out on the Saints' next possession, a 52-yarder that brought New Orleans even closer. The Falcons, meanwhile, couldn't do anything offensively. They failed to pick up a first down on five straight possessions, a stretch in which the Saints had a 289-30 lead in total yards and a staggering 18 first downs. Finally, it was the Atlanta defense that turned things around late in the third. Brees rolled to his right and threw over the middle, but Moore picked off the pass and returned it to the New Orleans 16. Ryan connected on first-down throws to Gonzalez and Roddy White to set up Bryant's field goal.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Pablo Sandoval apologizes for comments about Giants

LeBron James seems to respond to Kyrie Irving's trade request

Senator jokes that President Trump should nominate Tom Brady for ambassadorship

Report: Cubs interested in Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy

Marc-Andre Fleury took Stanley Cup on a road trip, protected it well

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cardinals say Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald won't play in Hall of Fame Game

Chiefs LB Tamba Hali goes on Twitter rant, seemingly wants out

O.J. Simpson still invited to attend Hall of Fame ceremonies

Carson Palmer threw football so hard that David Johnson needed stitches

WATCH: 49ers and Seahawks players working out together

WATCH: Vince Carter throws out first pitch for 'SagerStrong Night'

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

Best of Yardbarker: General managers take the spotlight

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

The unexpected rise of the Connecticut Sun

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

Kicking It: USMNT struggles to find consistency in Gold Cup as World Cup qualifying nears

Three Up, Three Down: The Dodgers are a complete juggernaut right now

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

Who won the Open Championship in the year you were born?

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

Box Score 7/21: Stay cool this weekend sports fans

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

The 'Yoan Moncada era starts now' quiz

The Orioles need to unwind past deals if they are going to rebuild

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Sam Hinkie is calling the shots

The 'No one is betterer than Roger Federer' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker