|It was a Sunday afternoon for the ages for the Saints with another close call, but another victory, this
time a 26-23 decision over the pesky Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
They earned a victory thanks to two huge defensive plays by linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Drew
Brees' three touchdown passes.. Reggie Bush scored two touchdowns and Marcus Colston got the
other one. But Garrett Hartley's kicked a 38-yard field goal with 4:452 remaining to give the Saints the
lead over the Dirty Birds.
The victory revealed a panorama of missions accomplished for the Saints:
They have clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs and moved a step closer to ensuring to ensuring
home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
They have won 13 games for the first time in the 43-year history of the franchise.
Quarterback Drew Brees completed 31 of 40 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns and a
passer rating of 122.5, he now has 28 TD passes this season, tied with his 2007 total for the second
highest in club history. He owns the record with 34 TD passes in 2008.
One afternoon, one game. Yet so much there for the taking.
The Saints appeared to be pulling away when Brees threw a 21-yard TD pass to Bush early in the
second half to push the Saints' lead to 23-9. But the Falcons bounced back with Michael Jenkins
hauling in a TD pass from Chris Redman, and the Falcons forced the Saints lone punt of the game
and Jason Snelling powered in from the 4 to tie the game at 23 with 12:36 remaining.
Back came the Saints, looking as though they intended to run out most of the clock, but they put
together the longest drive of the game, a 16-play, 63-yard drive that finally stalled at the Atlanta 20 after
ran intentional call on Brees.
Hartley, who has missed an extra point earlier, knocked through his second field goal to put the Saints
ahead for good.
Vilma intercepted a Redman pass late in the fourth quarter and then stopped the Falcons near
midfield when he decked Snelling after a short completion on a fourth and two and stopped the
running back from getting the first down.
"Those two defensive plays were important," said Saints coach Sean Payton in his pot-game
discussion. "They helped ensure the victory. Even though we struggled at times, those plays
combined with our offense's ability to score the touchdowns earlier in the game helped the lead to
"It's never easy winning in this league. It's always a tough game when you play Atlanta. They fought
really hard and had great effort. We were fortunate to make the plays when we needed them the most."
"Credit the corners and the safeties, they looked locked down the outside options and my read took
me me to the guy coming out of the backfield and I was able to time the hit as soon as he caught it,"
explained Vilma of his stop on Snelling.
Vilma has seven tackles and the interception. Randall Gay had a team-high eight stops, including a
12-yard tackle for a loss in the fourth quarter on an ill-advised run out of the wildcat.
The Saints running backs worked hard to to manage 95 yards on 26 carries. The Saints controlled the
clock for a season-high 36:44 in time of possession, but couldn't put the Falcons away until the final
The Saints next play the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised by NFL