Saints take down Falcons to win NFC South for third season in a row

New Orleans Saints strong safety Vonn Bell (24) celebrates with teammates after his interception against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA (WAFB) - The Saints are NFC South champs after a win over the Falcons on Thanksgiving. It is the third straight division title for the Saints.

New Orleans (10-2) clinched the division with a 26-18 victory over Atlanta (3-9) behind two touchdowns by Taysom Hill and four field goals from Wil Lutz. The Saints’ defense was potent, racking up nine sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. There were also nine tackles for loss and quarterback Matt Ryan took seven hits.

Quarterback Drew Brees was 18-of-30 for 184 yards and a touchdown. He now has 10,023 pass attempts in his career, which puts him at No. 2 all-time behind Brett Favre (10,169). Running back Alvin Kamara had 11 carries for 61 yards. He also had four catches for 23 yards. Tight end Jared Cook caught three passes for 85 yards. Wide receiver Michael Thomas had six catches for 48 yards. He has 110 catches on the season, which is the most through the first 12 games of a season in NFL history. Defensive end Cam Jordan had four sacks in the game, which gave him a total of 85 for his career. He is now No. 2 on the Saints all-time list behind Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson (115).

Atlanta received the opening kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage, defensive end Marcus Davenport got to Ryan for a sack-fumble but Ryan was able to recover the ball. The Saints defense ended up forcing a three-and-out and then, Hill got a hand on the punt to set New Orleans up at the Atlanta 30-yard line. Just four plays later, Brees tossed a short pass to Hill for a 3-yard touchdown to put the Saints up 7-0 with 11:07 left in the first quarter. Ont the drive, Brees was 3-for-3 for 17 yards.

On the kickoff, Kenjon Barner returned the ball 47 yards to the Atlanta 45-yard line. Despite the good field position, the Saints defense again forced the Falcons to punt. After New Orleans was also forced to punt, Atlanta drove 73 yards down to the New Orleans 2-yard line but on fourth-and-one, the Saints defense stopped the Falcons to get the ball back. On the drive, Jordan picked up his first sack of the game. The Saints were not able to get going and went three-and-out. A pass interference penalty by Eli Apple on a third-and-eight gave the Falcons the ball at the New Orleans 18-yard line and on the very next play, Ryan fired a shot down the middle of the field to tight end Jaeden Graham for a touchdown but kicker Younghoe Koo missed the extra point and the Saints held the 7-6 lead with 12:35 left in the half.

The Saints then went 77 yards in seven plays and got down to the Atlanta 4-yard line but could not punch it in and had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Lutz to go up 10-6 with 9:05 left in the first half. The Falcons then had a nice drive going but it stalled at the Saints 25-yard line. Koo missed a 42-yard field goal and New Orleans was on the march once again. On third-and-one from the Atlanta 30-yard line right after the 2:00 warning, Hill took a direct snap and took it to the house to extend the Saints’ lead to 17-6. The Falcons drilled a 45-yard field goal right before halftime to make it 17-9.

The Saints received the ball first in the second half. A 60-yard kick return by Deonte Harris was negated by a penalty. New Orleans could not sustain the drive and had to punt the ball away. The Falcons weren't able to do anything with it, as the Saints defense forced a three-and-out for the third time in the game. On third-and-six, Davenport got to Ryan again for his second sack of the night. The Saints had another nice drive that stalled but Lutz once again was able to put points on the board with a 47-yarder to make it 20-9 with just under 6:00 left in the third quarter.

On the next drive for Atlanta, Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore went down with an injury and was taken back to the locker room. He had missed the previous two games after suffering a hamstring injury when the Saints and Falcons met in Week 10. Later, as the Falcons were driving, defensive tackle Shy Tuttle intercepted a pass by Ryan and returned it 19 yards. During the run, Tuttle stiff-armed Ryan into the turf to add insult to injury. However, Jordan was called for an illegal block in the back and New Orleans started at the Atlanta 49-yard line. The Saints were not able to get anything going on the drive and punted back to the Falcons.

They were on the move again but Ryan made another mistake and was picked off by safety CJ Garner-Johnson on a pass across the middle. Garner-Johnson returned it 28 yards to the Atlanta 29-yard line. The Saints could not move the ball but a 42-yard field goal from Lutz put them up 23-9 with 10:14 left in the game. On Atlanta’s next drive, Jordan got his second sack of the game. Later, Davenport put a big hit on Ryan when he scrambled out of the pocket and the ball went tumbling on the turf. Safety Vonn Bell scooped it up to give the ball right back to New Orleans at the Atlanta 39-yard line. A 45-yard field goal from Lutz made it 26-9 with 6:27 left in the game.

The Falcons then went 75 yards in nine plays in a drive capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to former LSU wide receiver Russell Gage. The two-point try failed to make it 26-15 with 3:26 left. The Falcons then recovered the onside kick at the Atlanta 41-yard line. On the first play of the drive, linebacker Craig Robertson got to Ryan for a big sack. Koo was later true from 43 yards out to make it 26-18 with 1:56 left. The Falcons then recovered another onside kick. Again, on the first play, Ryan went down. Jordan got to him for his third sack of the game. A couple of plays later, Sheldon Rankins got to Ryan for the sack. On fourth-and-eight, it was Jordan taking down Ryan for his fourth sack of the game.

Gage finished with five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. Former LSU linebacker Deion Jones led the Falcons in tackles with nine total, seven of them solo. He defended one pass and had a sack.

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