NEW ORLEANS (WDAM) - The New Orleans Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome may not have been as emphatic as some of their more recent victories.
But the win by the Saints over their South Division archrival might have been every bit as tasty as the pile of turkey legs that quarterback Drew Brees, running back Mark Ingram and defensive linemen Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins seemed to be enjoying during some midfield, postgame shenanigans.
Brees threw for 171 yards and touchdowns to four different players and the Saints’ defense came up with a season-high six sacks and four turnovers as New Orleans (10-1) ran its winning streak to 10 games since losing the season opener to Tampa Bay.
“It was a good win,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said simply.
And a good win of a different sort.
Having Brees throw four touchdowns is a good night’s work, not a shocker. But only the most devout of Saints’ fans could say they were conversant with those who did the hauling in of said scoring passes.
- Tommylee Lewis? Third-year receiver, activated just the day before from injured reserve, catches the Saints’ first score of the night, a 28-yarder for a 7-0 lead
- Austin Carr? Second-year man from Northwestern, makes catch in front right of end zone. Pressbox denizens make even more use of flipcards and game notes as Saints grab a 17-3 halftime lead
- Dan Arnold? Second-year tight end from Wisconsin-Plattsville, makes one heckuva nice grab on a 25-yard, scary-good touch pass down the seam from Brees for a 24-3 lead in the third quarter
- Keith Kirkwood? Rookie receiver from Temple, snags 5-yard TD pass in right front of end zone
It turns out Carr comes up as the glutton of the quartet, combining with Brees for his second touchdown catch of the season. For the remaining trio, it was the first time hitting paydirt this season.
Arnold, who caught four passes on the day for a team-high 45 yards, not only snagged the first touchdown pass of his career, but became the 50th different receiver to catch a TD pass from Brees.
“For all of them to get a touchdown on Thanksgiving, with their families and friends all watching on TV at home, it’s pretty cool,” said Brees, who topped the 3,000-yard passing mark this season, reaching the milestone for the 15th time in his career.
On the other side of the ball, Matt Ryan stood tall, throwing for 377 yards (35-of-47) and two touchdowns against a fierce New Orleans front that got to him for six sacks and numerous other hits.
The secondary also had its share of hard hits, as the Falcons (4-7) lost three fumbles in the Saints’ red zone, two coming after catches by receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
Atlanta managed to get within four points early on a 32-yard Matt Bryant field goal following Brees’ lone turnover.
But a Saints’ defense that not only contributed stops via turnover but also limited the Falcons’ ground game to 26 yards, helped New Orleans to a regular-season sweep of Atlanta.
“It certainly helps when you can hold an opponent to twenty-something yards,” Payton said. “It helps when you know what’s coming, if they are one-dimensional, and that was the case (Thursday).”
Former University of Southern Mississippi standout running back Ito Smith was a victim of that good defense. Smith netted zero yards on four carries, and wound up with 7 yards on two catches.
The Saints begin a three-game road swing, starting with a Thursday night game at Dallas before consecutive road NFC South showdowns at Tampa Bay and Carolina.