The Atlanta Falcons avenged their only defeat of the season by downing fierce division rivals New Orleans 23-13 on Thursday, leaving the Saints’ playoff hopes hanging by a thread.
Having lost to the Saints in New Orleans three weeks ago, the Falcons turned the tables on home turf to improve to 11-1 on the season, all but wrapping up the NFC South.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 28 of 50 passes for 341 yards, but was left to rue five interceptions, the most of his career for a single game, as his team dropped to 5-7 with just four games remaining.
It was the first time since week four 2009 Brees failed to throw for a touchdown, leaving his NFL record of consecutive games with a touchdown throw at 54.
Atlanta led 17-0 early in the second quarter, but a Mark Ingram touchdown reduced the lead to 17-7 and it appeared New Orleans would finish the half with more points.
The Saints mismanaged the final drive of the first half, allowing the clock to expire despite being in the red zone, stalling a comeback run.
The Green Bay Packers (7-4), Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5), Minnesota Vikings (6-5), Washington Redskins (5-6) and Dallas Cowboys (5-6) all sit in front of the Saints in the battle for two wild-card berths.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was 18 for 33 for 165 yards and a touchdown.
“Playing New Orleans has been difficult for us the last couple of years, we’ve been in close games, and we just haven’t been able to pull them out. Tonight feels good,” Ryan said. “It was a great game played by our defense. Our defense came out here and created five turnovers. We started off hot on offense and got some points early, kind of struggled the rest of the game, but our defense kept us in it and it was a good team win.”
With the division title just a Tampa Bay loss or another win away, focus is already turning to whether the Falcons can reverse their run of poor playoff performances.
In 2008, 2010 and last year the Falcons bombed out of the playoffs with big losses.
“It’s not something we can worry about right now,” Ryan said. “I think if you’re worried about January in September, October, November and December you’re wasting your time.”
Ryan did admit past disappointment was a big factor in the impressive 11-1 record.
“I think everybody is a little bit hungrier,” he explained.
“We have had some disappointments at the end of our seasons the last couple of years, but I think those disappointments have stuck with everybody and motivated everybody and we have latched on to that momentum and built on it,” he said.
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She