Falcons intercept Brees five times in win over Saints

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The Atlanta Falcons intercepted quarterback Drew Brees five times on Thursday night as the Falcons improved to a league-leading 11-1 with a 23-13 win over Saints.

Atlanta’s defense helped snap Brees’ streak of 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. It was the first five interception game of Brees’ career and his first game without a touchdown pass since Oct. 4, 2009 against the New York Jets.

The loss drops the Saints to 5-7 and puts their chances of rallying to a Wild Card berth in serious peril.

The Falcons jumped on top quickly as they relied on the running game to take the early lead. The Falcons went 80 yards on six plays for the opening score as quarterback Matt Ryan threw just one pass on the opening series. Michael Turner scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to give Atlanta the early 7-0 lead.

Matt Ryan then connected with tight end Tony Gonzalez for a 17-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 14-0. A 45-yard field goal from Matt Bryant gave the Falcons a 17-0 lead before the Saints finally got on the board late in the first half.

Mark Ingram scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with three minutes to play in the first half to cap an 11-play, 80-yard drive to get New Orleans on the board. The Saints had a chance for more points before the half but badly botched their handling of the game clock and ended the half without getting any points.

Brees’ touchdown streak would have continued if not for a costly gaff by receiver Lance Moore in the third quarter. With the Saints trailing 17-7, Moore dropped a Brees pass in the end zone that hit him directly in the hands. The drop lead to the Saints having to settle for a 21-yard Garrett Hartley field goal. A 52-yard field goal from Hartley on the next Saints drive pulled New Orleans within 17-13 late in the third quarter.

Another Bryant field goal, this one a 29-yard try, gave the Falcons a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Saints looked to be putting together a promising drive after a 25-yard completion to tight end Jimmy Graham moved the Saints into Falcon territory. After a quick screen to Darren Sproles netted nine yards, the New Orleans drive stalled. William Moore stopped Pierre Thomas for a 4-yard loss on 2nd and 1 and John Abraham came up with a sack of Brees to push the Saints out of field goal range.

Ryan led the Falcons into Saints territory and Bryant connected on a 55-yard field goal to take a 23-13 lead. Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown.

Rafael Bush stripped the ball from Turner’s hands on the next drive to give the Saints another opportunity to close the gap and for Brees to extend his streak.

But Brees was intercepted for a second time by Moore to seal the end of the streak and the win for the Falcons. Brees completed 28 of 50 passes for 341 yards and the five interceptions.