Drew Brees on Thursday threw four touchdown passes as the New Orleans Saints fortified their grip on the National Football Conference (NFC) South with a 31-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints extended their winning streak to 10 straight games with the convincing win that eliminated the Falcons from contention in the division.
“It is about managing the game in the best way I can,” Brees said. “If we get opportunities for big plays we make them. We have got to possess the ball so we can put together good drives and go score points.”
Photo: Jerome Miron, USA Today
Brees’ four touchdown passes were all to inexperienced receivers, as Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis snagged their second career touchdown passes and Dan Arnold and Keith Kirkwood caught their first.
“We love coming to work every day,” Brees said. “We love having a good time, but we also know when it is time to get down to business. The bottom line is we love being around each other.”
The mistake-prone Falcons dropped to 4-7 in the season after losing three fumbles inside New Orleans’ 20-yard line.
The Saints’ rock-solid defense made the Falcons pay for their errors as they finished with a season-high six sacks.
“Our offense is a juggernaut, but our defense has to match that intensity,” said Saints Cameron Jordan, who delivered two sacks.
Brees completed 15-22 passes for 171 yards and had one interception.
Elsewhere, Amari Cooper had a 90-yard touchdown catch as the Dallas Cowboys clawed their way back into the playoff hunt with a 31-23 win over the Washington Redskins.
Cooper finished with 180 receiving yards, boosting the Cowboys to their third-straight win. They moved into a tie with Washington for first place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys and Redskins have a long history of clashing on Thanksgiving Day, and the latest version was one of three NFL contests on the holiday.
Dallas beat Washington for the eighth time in nine Thanksgiving games.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for 121 yards with a touchdown as the Cowboys improved to 6-5 in the season.
“Everyone jumped off the bandwagon, of course, at 3-5,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You expect that. I can tell you who didn’t doubt ourselves. As long as we locked arms, we stayed tight, we knew we could do this and we can do more.”
The Redskins dropped to 6-5, losing for the third time in four games as quarterback Colt McCoy made his first start in four years.
McCoy got the call after starter Alex Smith received a season-ending leg injury on Sunday last week.
In the other game, Chicago quarterback Chase Daniel engineered his best-ever pro game by setting career highs for passing and touchdowns in the Bears’ 23-16 win over the Detroit Lions.
Making his first NFL start in nearly four years, backup Daniel finished with 230 passing yards and two touchdowns while filling in for the injured Mitchell Trubisky.
Daniel’s air attack included throws to eight different receivers.
“You don’t know when these opportunities will come,” the 32-year-old said after making the third start of his career. “You just have to make the most of them.”
The Bears won their fifth straight to improve to 8-3 and are now in the driver’s seat in the NFC North.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 28-38 passes for 236 yards and teammate LeGarrette Blount rushed for 88 yards on 19 carries.
Week 12 continues tomorrow with 11 games, including several that have huge playoff implications, including Seattle at Carolina and Miami at Indianapolis.
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