Saints end Falcons' perfect run

New Orleans' Jimmy Graham (80), along with fellow tight end David Thomas and quarterback Drew Brees, celebrates one of his two touchdowns in the second quarter against Atlanta, which fell to 8-1. BILL FEIG / AP
New Orleans' Jimmy Graham (80), along with fellow tight end David Thomas and quarterback Drew Brees, celebrates one of his two touchdowns in the second quarter against Atlanta, which fell to 8-1. BILL FEIG / AP

Drew Brees threw for 298 yards and 3 TDs as New Orleans won for the fourth time in five games.

Posted: November 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - Of all the teams to end the Atlanta Falcons' unbeaten run, it had to be their resurgent rivals, the Saints, in a game filled with drama until the end.

Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for a career-best 146 yards and two touchdowns, and cornerback Jabari Greer made a diving, touchdown-saving pass breakup on a late fourth-down play Sunday as the New Orleans Saints held on to hand the Falcons their first loss, 31-27.

Graham and his Atlanta counterpart, veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, both were superb in a game that showcased all the intensity and momentum changes one would expect from one of the NFL's most passionate rivalries.

Gonzalez finished with 11 catches for 122 yards and two scores for Atlanta (8-1), and in the process became the first tight end to catch 100 touchdown passes.

Drew Brees threw for 298 yards and three TDs as the Saints (4-5) won for the fourth time in five games, keeping alive hopes of getting back into the wild card race after an 0-4 start. It was also New Orleans' 11th win in 13 games against Atlanta since Brees joined the Saints in 2006.

Matt Ryan was 34 of 52 for 411 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, and the game was there for him to win when his 9-yard pass to Harry Douglas gave Atlanta a second-and-goal at the 1. But Ryan could not connect on a second-down pass for Gonzalez, the Saints stuffed Michael Turner for a 1-yard loss on third down, and then Greer broke up Ryan's pass over the middle for White.

After three conservative run calls from their own 2, the Saints still had to punt the ball back to Atlanta with about 40 seconds left, but the Falcons' hopes were extinguished soon after when Gonzalez could not handle a fourth-down throw.

Saints 31, Falcons 27

Atlanta 10 7 0 10 – 27

New Orleans 7 14 7 3 – 31

First quarter

Atl–Johnson 1 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 11:38.

Atl–FG Bryant 37, 9:19.

NO–Ivory 56 run (Hartley kick), 6:49.

Second quarter

NO–Graham 29 pass from Brees (Hartley kick), 13:33.

Atl–Gonzalez 2 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 6:27.

NO–Graham 14 pass from Brees (Hartley kick), :34.

Third quarter

NO–Colston 7 pass from Brees (Hartley kick), 9:23.

Fourth quarter

Atl–Gonzalez 6 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 13:27.

Atl–FG Bryant 20, 9:08.

NO–FG Hartley 31, 5:54.

A: 73,126.

Atl   NO

First downs 25   21   

Total Net Yards 454   440   

Rushes-yards 18-46   29-148   

Passing 408   292   

Punt Returns 3-9   1-2   

Kickoff Returns 0-0   2-45   

Interceptions Ret. 1-13   1-0   

Comp-Att-Int 34-52-1   21-32-1   

Sacked-Yards Lost 1-3   1-6   

Punts 3-46.7   5-50.0   

Fumbles-Lost 0-0   0-0   

Penalties-Yards 6-53   5-35   

Time of Possession 32:35   27:25   

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing: Atlanta, Rodgers 3-29, Turner 13-15, Ryan 2-2. New Orleans, Ivory 7-72, Ingram 16-67, P.Thomas 5-10, Brees 1-(minus 1).

Passing: Atlanta, Ryan 34-52-1-411. New Orleans, Brees 21-32-1-298.

Receiving: Atlanta, Gonzalez 11-122, White 7-114, Jones 4-75, Douglas 4-49, Rodgers 4-33, Snelling 2-12, Palmer 1-5, Johnson 1-1. New Orleans, Graham 7-146, Moore 7-91, Colston 3-26, Cadet 2-16, Ivory 1-13, P.Thomas 1-6.

Missed Field Goals: None.

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