New Orleans Saints 17-20 Atlanta Falcons: Home side win NFC South thriller
Last Updated: 08/12/17 6:31pm
Atlanta Falcons overcame a stuttering display from quarterback Matt Ryan to remain in contention for the NFC South title after a 20-17 victory over divisional rivals New Orleans Saints.
Last year's MVP Ryan has yet to get going this season and, in a must-win game against the Saints, threw three interceptions before keeping his cool in the fourth quarter to get Falcons over the line.
Matt Bryant's 52-yard field goal was the winning score but the Falcons defense played their part keeping an all-powerful Saints offense to season lows in points, total yards and rushing yards after the early loss of rookie running back Alvin Kamara to concussion.
They also came up with the game-winning play when Deion Jones appeared in the endzone for a brilliant interception on Drew Brees' certain-looking TD pass to Josh Hill.
Victory for the Falcons, last year's runner-up in an extraordinary Super Bowl with New England, means they are just one game behind the Saints, who stay top of the division despite a second defeat in their last three games.
Will Lutz and Bryant traded early field goals but it was not until a trademark Devonta Freeman TD run that the scoring got going, and the Saints were quick to find a response.
It was then over to the Saints defense as returning cornerback Marshon Lattimore picked off Ryan with four seconds remaining in the first half, handing Lutz a chance to kick the Saints in front.
The kick was good but a penalty meant it was all square at the break and another Ryan interception allowed Brees to give New Orleans the perfect start to the second half.
A big drive featuring Mark Ingram and ending with Thomas gave Saints a 17-10 advantage, and when Ryan was picked off again, it looked like being the Saints' night until the Falcons QB found a couple of all-important drives.
First, he found Mohamed Sanu with an eight-yard pass that levelled the scores and Bryant's huge field goal put the Falcons three points in front.
With time running out there was time for more drama as Brees and Ingram combined to give the Saints perfect field position only for the Falcons defense to provide the game-winning moment with Jones' superb move inside his own endzone with 85 seconds left on the clock.
The result also hands the Carolina Panthers a chance to draw level with New Orleans at the top of the division, although they will have to overcome the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Game's key stats
|Passing||C/A Yds TD Int||Passing||C/A Yds TD Int|
|Drew Brees||26/35 271 2 1||Matt Ryan||15/27 221 1 3|
|Rushing||Att Yds TD||Rushing||Att Yds TD|
|Mark Ingram||12 49 0||Devonta Freeman||24 91 1|
|Receiving||Rec Yds TD||Receiving||Rec Yds TD|
|Michael Thomas||10 117 1||Julio Jones||5 98 0|
|Tommylee Lewis||2 30 1||Mohamed Sanu||6 83 1|
|Total net yards||306||Total net yards||343|
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