NFL: Atlanta Falcons lose unbeaten record against Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 11/11/12 9:32pm
New Orleans Saints celebrate a huge victory over rivals Atlanta
The Atlanta Falcons finally lost their unbeaten record this season at the ninth attempt as divisional rivals New Orleans Saints produced a huge performance to win 31-27.
The Falcons have been in a few close games this season and came out on top, but it was not to be this time around as the Saints, who have largely been awful on defence this season, produced an epic four-down stand on the goal line late in the game.
It has been a difficult season for the Saints both on and off the field so far, but with their home fans behind them they really raised their level of performance behind quarterback Drew Brees and his 298 yards passing and three TDs.
Both sides had star tight ends on show and they both performed superbly with the Saints' Jimmy Graham scoring two TDs during his 146-yard game while Tony Gonzalez had 11 catches for 122 yards and also caught two TD passes.
This big rivalry game started well for the unbeaten Falcons, with offensive tackle Mike Johnson grabbing a rare TD and Matt Bryant kicking a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Brees was then intercepted on the Saint's first possession, but Chris Ivory bulldozered his way into the end zone from 56 yards to reply for the Saints - who ran the ball well all day to dominate that exchange with their 148 yards rushing compared to just 46 yards on the ground for Atlanta.
It was the tight end show in the second quarter as Brees found Graham twice, once either side of Gonzalez's first score as the New Orleans quarterback extended his record of consecutive games with a TD pass to 52.
Marques Colston's third quarter touchdown grab gave the Saints an 11-point advantage as he tied the team record by matching Deuce McAllister's 55 touchdowns for New Orleans.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons hit back as Gonzalez caught the 100th TD of his illustrious career and Bryan's second field goal brought them right back into the game and just a point behind.
Garrett Hartley kicked a 31-yarder in response as the Saints had to settle for a field goal, but that crucially meant the Falcons needed a touchdown to win the game and preserve their unbeaten run.
Ryan marched Atlanta down the field in ominous fashion, but this time the Saints defence showed up big time and stood strong to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Falcons and maybe get them back into the form needed to make the play-offs.
At 8-1 Atlanta are still sitting pretty at the top of the NFC South, but now at 4-5 the Saints have a glimmer of hope of turning their season around if they can build on what could be a pivotal success.