The NFC South division got a little clearer today when rivals Atlanta and New Orleans met for the first time this season. New Orleans had won the last four meetings but, despite some heroic efforts late in the fourth quarter, could not continue their streak. For Atlanta, the keys to the victory were a lack of mistakes on offense and well-played defense.
Saints QB Drew Brees continued his phenomenal season, finishing the day with 422 yards, completing 31 of 58, with two touchdowns and three interceptions while rookie Atlanta QB Matt Ryan had 248 yards, making 16 of 23, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the first half, Atlanta made touchdowns while New Orleans could only make field goals. The Saints started their first possession of the game by throwing a deep pass to WR Devery Henderson in double coverage that was intercepted by Safety Erik Coleman. Starting from midfield on their next possession, Atlanta quickly drove down to the red zone and made their first touchdown of the day with a 16-yard pass to WR Roddy White.
A long drive for New Orleans on their next possession resulted in a 24-yard field goal by newly signed Kicker Garrett Hartley. Atlanta answered by driving down from their 20 to a RB Michael Turner two-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Following the only sack of the first half, New Orleans was then forced to kick a 44-yard field goal midway through the quarter. Atlanta answered back again with their own field goal from 22 yards, making the score at halftime Atlanta 17 and New Orleans 6 and with Atlanta also leading in total yards and time of possession.
The second half started out pretty quiet with the only score in the third quarter being a 27-yard field goal for Atlanta to cap a long 60-yard drive which took 13 plays and 8 and a half minutes. After shutting New Orleans down on their next possession, Atlanta then started out the fourth quarter scoring quickly with a short pass to RB Jerious Norwood who then turned it into a 67-yard play and a touchdown to put Atlanta ahead 27 to 6.
Early in the fourth quarter, New Orleans started to show some life with a 15-yard run into the end zone by RB Deuce McAllister on a short pass by Brees. New Orleans showed some energy after the touchdown driving down the field, but fell flat when Brees threw an interception in the end zone. New Orleans did not stop their charge, getting to the 8 yard line on the next possession, but Brees was intercepted again while throwing to Devery Henderson.
This time, it was returned by CB Chevis Jackson 95 yards for a touchdown with a minute and a half left in the game. New Orleans continued to push even when the game was lost with a 32-yard touchdown pass to WR Lance Moore as time expired.
Atlanta is now 6 and 3 for the season, tied with Tampa Bay for second in the division behind Carolina. New Orleans is 4 and 5. Atlanta will face Denver next week while New Orleans will go to Kansas City.