ATLANTA (AP) — Drew Brees led two time-consuming field-goal drives before throwing his third interception to set up an Atlanta field goal that gave the Falcons a 20-13 lead early in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
The New Orleans' defense held Atlanta without a first down for five straight possessions in a span that began early in the second quarter and carried through most of the third quarter.
Garrett Hartley kicked field goals of 21 and 52 yards in the third quarter for New Orleans.
The Falcons looked dominant while building a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. Brees, who threw two first-half interceptions, regained his touch as the Saints scored 13 straight points.
The first-down drought for Atlanta ended after William Moore intercepted Brees' pass late in the third quarter. Matt Ryan then completed an 18-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez and a 20-yard pass to Roddy White to set up Matt Bryant's 29-yard field goal, pushing the Falcons lead to sevens.
Michael Turner had a 3-yard scoring run in the first quarter, and Ryan threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez early in the second quarter before the Falcons' offense stalled.
The Falcons, motivated by four straight losses in their NFC South rivalry with New Orleans, took a 17-7 halftime.
Brees has been sharp against the Falcons, averaging 302.8 yards passing as the Saints won 11 of the last 13 in the series, including a 31-27 win in New Orleans on Nov. 11.
Brees threw two interceptions before finally leading a touchdown drive late in the second quarter.
On third-and-9 from the Saints 21, Brees completed a 32-yard pass over the middle to Lance Moore. Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann drew an offside penalty on a third-down play from the Atlanta 26 to keep the drive alive.
Officials initially ruled Pierre Thomas scored on a 10-yard run, but a video review showed his knee was down before he crossed the goal line. Mark Ingram scored from the 1.
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