The New Orleans Saints defense came up with two critical stops of the rival Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 17-13 win on Thursday night.
The victory by the Saints (9-2) sets up a critical matchup with the Seattle Seahawks (10-1) next Monday night for control of the NFC in the race for the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Falcons moved inside the Saints’ 30-yard line twice on their last two full possessions of the game but were turned away without points on both occasions.
Trailing 17-13, Matt Ryan led the Falcons to the Saints 22-yard line. Darius Johnson was stripped by Keyunta Dawson on a quick screen and New Orleans recovered to turn away the threat.
Atlanta held defensively and drove again into Saints territory. Cameron Jordan sacked Ryan, the Saints fifth sack of the night, to back the Falcons up. Facing a 4th and 15, the Falcons elected to settle for a 52-yard field goal attempt from Matt Bryant with three timeouts to attempt to get the ball back. The Saints called a timeout to ice Bryant and it actually worked. Bryant had made his first attempt after the timeout was called but pulled his second attempt wide left to keep the score at 17-13 with 2:19 left to play.
The Saints were able to run out the clock except for one desperation multi-lateral attempt at the end of the game that was unsuccessful.
Drew Brees surpassed Warren Moon to move into fifth place all-time in career passing yards. He finished the game 23 of 33 for 278 yards and two touchdowns.