Falcons edge Saints 20-17, keep NFL division hopes alive


Washington (AFP)

Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones intercepted a Drew Brees pass with less than two minutes to play on Thursday as the Falcons held on for a 20-17 NFL victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Matt Bryant provided the winning margin with a 52-yard field goal with just under four minutes remaining as the Falcons kept their hopes of capturing the NFC South division title alive.

The Falcons improved to 8-5, moving within one game of the 9-4 division leaders New Orleans.

After Jones' interception, Atlanta ran out the clock -- aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Saints coach Sean Payton.

Atlanta won despite three interceptions thrown by quarterback Matt Ryan, who connected on 15 of 27 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown.

Saints signal-caller Brees completed 26 of 35 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns before the costly interception.

The pressure was on Brees after rookie running back Alvin Kamara suffered a concussion on the game's first series.

Kamara didn't return after a hit from Jones.

With less than 10 minutes to play, the Falcons forged a 17-17 tie on Ryan's eight-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu. The scoring pass capped an 11-play, 69 yard drive that took more than seven minutes.

The Saints had taken a 17-10 lead early in the third quarter when Ryan's first pass of the second half was intercepted by Chris Banjo and New Orleans then cashed in with a one-yard scoring pass from Brees to Michael Thomas.

Breese also connected with Tommylee Lewis with a 26-yard TD pass in the second quarter, knotting the score at 10-10 after Devonta Freeman's one-yard touchdown plunge had put the Falcons up 10-3 in the third.