After winning so many close games, the Falcons started this one as if they were intent on routing the only team to beat them this season. New Orleans knocked off Atlanta 31-27 at the Superdome on Nov. 11, the bright spot in a tumultuous year that was marred by a bounty scandal and a season-long suspension for coach Sean Payton.
Ryan completed a pass on the first play from scrimmage before turning 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. Ryan threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez in the back of the end zone, taking advantage of the matchup with their former teammate, linebacker Curtis Lofton.
Brees' second interception, this one a sloppy pass behind running Chris Ivory that deflected into the arms of 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.
After squandering that long drive at the end of the half, Brees got the ball to start the third quarter and went back to work. He made a couple of nifty moves to avoid sacks, completing six passes on an 83-yard drive consuming 15 plays and more than 6½ minutes. But the Falcons held again, forcing Garrett Hartley to boot a 21-yard field goal that cut it to 17-10.
Hartley connected from 52 yards on the Saints' next possession to make it even closer.
The Falcons 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.
But the Atlanta defense kept coming through when it counted.
Late in the third, Brees rolled to his right and threw over the middle. Moore stepped in front of the receiver and returned it to the New Orleans 41. Ryan connected on first-down throws to Gonzalez and Roddy White to set up Bryant for a 29-yarder that extended the lead back to a touchdown.
Moore made another pick in the closing minutes to seal the victory.
NOTES: Brees had two previous games with four interceptions. ... Turner ran 12 times for 83 yards. ... Lance Moore of the Saints hauled in 11 passes for 123 yards.
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