Falcons 23, Saints 13: I'll admit, I wasn't too high on the Falcons coming into tonight's contest, which seemed not like the typical "trap game"—the Saints are way too talented to catch anyone off guard in such a respect—but it just felt like perhaps the Falcons were ripe for a reality check, having won seven games this season by seven points or less. And even though the Saints defense, which had been giving up over 500 yards a game, allowed only 283 to Matt Ryan & Co., Michael Turner finally remembered he was Michael Turner (83 yards rushing and a TD) and the Falcons defense picked off five passes to outlast New Orleans under the lights of the Georgia Dome and run their record to an impressive 11-1.
Even more notably, however, future Cash Cab host Drew Brees failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 54 regular-season games. Not since a 24-10 win over the Jets on October 4, 2009 has Brees failed to toss one into the end zone. If you include the four playoff games he's played over the period of time (which adds in another eight TDs to the overall total), Brees threw 145 touchdown passes (an average of 2.5 per game) over 17,922 yards heading into tonight. It's not that the Saints didn't have opportunities—Brees threw five picks, including one in the end zone, and then there was the botched clock management at the end of the first half that took at least three and possibly seven points off the scoreboard when they were down—but rather that the execution was so utterly un-Saints-like. In fact, the only other Saints quarterback with five picks in a game is Archie Manning, who did it twice. Whatever the reason for such lackadaisical offensive play, it doomed New Orleans on this night. This ugly, inexplicable pick with three to play pretty much sealed the deal.
The Saints, now 5-7, have 10 days to figure out what went wrong before they venture to MetLife Stadium to take on the Giants. The Falcons, meanwhile, have basically clinched the NFC South and next face the Carolina Panthers on the road.