The Saints erased the sting of its Week 10 defeat to the Falcons with a hard-earned 26-18 victory over Atlanta on Thanksgiving night to claim the NFC South title.
New Orleans (10-2) took its largest lead of the game after Wil Lutz’s fourth field goal made the score 26-9. The Falcons (3-9) weren’t done, though. Atlanta found its way into the end zone with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Russell Gage. The score gave the Falcons life after a flurry of empty possessions and turnovers.
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Following an unsuccessful two-point conversion, Atlanta recovered an onside kick and marched into New Orleans territory, setting up a 43-yard Younghoe Koo field goal to make it a one-possession game with just under two minutes remaining.
Even more drama ensued. Koo got a friendly hop on another onside kick and the Falcons recovered, igniting the Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd that had been kept in check for most of the night.
This time, though, the Saints had the answer. Ryan, who finished the night with two interceptions and a lost fumble, was sacked for the ninth time on a do-or-die fourth-down attempt from the Saints’ 44, sealing the New Orleans victory.
Sporting News tracked live updates, highlights and score changes for Saints vs. Falcons.
Saints vs. Falcons score
Saints vs. Falcons live updates, highlights
(All times Eastern)
11:34 p.m.: Cameron Jordan gets his way into the pocket to sack Ryan on fourth down to put the wraps on the Thanksgiving win.
11:32 p.m.: The Saints sack Ryan on third down but get an illegal hands to the face penalty. First down for Atlanta in Saints territory.
11:29 p.m.: Younghoe Koo delivers yet again with his third (successful) onside kick. The Falcons will have a chance to tie things up.
11:28 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, FALCONS. Atlanta opts to bring out eh field-goal unit on first down to make it a one-possession game and Koo delivers. Saints 26, Falcons 18.
11:26 p.m.: Atlanta is down to the Saints 25 at the two-minute warning.
11:20 p.m.: The Falcons recover the initial onside kick but are called for an offsides penalty. Atlanta tries again and is successful again.
11:17 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, FALCONS. Ryan hits Russell Gage in the end zone after he beat his defender for a 13-yard score. Atlanta’s two-point conversion is no good for Cameron Ridley. Saints 26, Falcons 15.
11:11 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, SAINTS. Add another three points to the Saints’ total via Lutz’s 45-yard kick. Saints 26, Falcons 9.
11 p.m.: Another Matt Ryan turnover. He tries to scramble for the first down but fumbles and the Saints are on it.
10:54 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, SAINTS. Lutz drills another kick, this time a 42-yard field goal. Saints 23, Falcons 9.
10:45 p.m.: Ryan is picked off again, this time by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. He returns it 28 yards to the Falcons 29.
End of third quarter: Saints 20, Falcons 9
10:35 p.m.: New Orleans’ drive goes backward and the Saints punt it away.
10:33 p.m.: Ryan’s pass is intercepted by Saints defensive lineman Shy Tuttle who stiff arms Ryan on his way to the Falcons 49.
10:22 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, SAINTS. Lutz’s 47-yard field goal is through the uprights and good. Saints 20, Falcons 9.
10:12 p.m.: Ryan goes down on third down by the Saints pass rush and the Falcons will boot it away.
10:08 p.m.: New Orleans punts after five plays.
10:03 p.m.: Saints start the second half with the ball.
Halftime: Saints 17, Falcons 9
First downs : Falcons 13, Saints 9
Total yards : Saints 198, Falcons 171
Passing yards : Saints 147, Falcons 130
Rushing yards : Saints 51, Falcons 41
Penalties : Falcons 2-10, Saints 3-72
Possession : Falcons 18:04, Saints 11:56
9:46 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, FALCONS. Koo shakes off the early jitters and drills a 45-yard attempt to cut into the lead shortly before the half. Saints 17, Falcons 9.
9:36 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, SAINTS. Taysom Hill strikes yet again. He takes the direct snap and scores a 30-yard touchdown for his second score of the night. Saints 17, Falcons 6.
9:30 p.m.: Younghoe Koo’s 42-yard attempt sails left of the uprights and is no good. He’s left four points off the scoreboard already.
9:18 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, SAINTS. Jared Cook is unable to bring in a would-be touchdown grab so the Saints have to settle for a 22-yard Wil Lutz field goal. Saints 10, Falcons 6.
9:06 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, FALCONS. On the next play following the Saints penalty, Ryan slings it to Jaeden Graham for an 18-yard touchdown. The extra-point is wide left. Saints 7, Falcons 6.
9:05 p.m.: Ryan underthrows Calvin Ridley deep but Eli Apple is again called for pass interference and the Falcons will have another opportunity in the red zone.
9 p.m.: New Orleans quickly goes three-and-out and the Falcons will start their next drive with good field position.
8:57 p.m.: Ryan’s slant pass is off the mark and Atlanta turns it over on downs at the Saints 2.
End of first quarter: Saints 7, Falcons 0
8:51 p.m.: Matt Ryan takes a shot downfield to Calvin Ridley but Eli Apple is called for pass interference, setting the Falcons up at the Saints 11.
8:44 p.m.: The Falcons force a Saints punt and the Atlanta offense is back on the field.
8:37 p.m.: Atlanta punts it back to New Orleans after six plays.
8:29 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, SAINTS. Drew Brees delivers a pop pass to Taysom Hill who punches it in for a touchdown. Saints 7, Falcons 0.
8:26 p.m.: The Saints force a three-and-out and then block Atlanta’s punt, setting up great field position for their first drive.
8:23 p.m.: Falcons win the toss and will receive.