What it means: This was survival, plain and simple. The Saints didn't necessarily look “sloppy” or “sluggish” on this Thursday night as they did in the same situation last year. Their offense and defense came up with plenty of big plays throughout the night. But New Orleans obviously had to slug this one out against a Falcons team that came out with more energy to start the game.
The Saints will gladly take it. From the day the schedule first came out, they knew this short-week game on the road at Atlanta would be one of the toughest tests of the entire season. And they'll take the win any way they could get it.
Stock watch: It didn't seem like defensive end Cameron Jordan's stock could get much higher during this breakout season. But he was the biggest difference-maker on the field with 2.5 sacks on a night when the Saints needed him badly. Jordan's final sack stalled a Falcons drive after Atlanta had crossed midfield late in the fourth quarter. Jordan now has 9.5 sacks this year and should have punched his ticket to the Pro Bowl on Thursday night.
Go-to guys: In the process, Jordan stole top billing away from two Saints offensive standouts, tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Pierre Thomas. Graham caught five passes for 100 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown (when he burned safety William Moore on a double move, then dragged him into the end zone the final few yards). This was Graham's sixth 100-yard game of the season, which is tied for most in franchise history, tied for most by any tight end in NFL history and tied for most by any player in the league this year.
The underrated Thomas, meanwhile, was a go-to guy all night with 10 carries for 73 yards and five catches for 57 yards. In the process, he moved into fourth place on the Saints' all-time rushing list with 3,460 yards, moving ahead of Rueben Mayes and Chuck Muncie.
Over the Moon: Saints quarterback Drew Brees was more solid than spectacular, but he was certainly good enough to earn the win. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. In the process, Brees passed Warren Moon for fifth place on the NFL's all-time passing yardage list. He now has 49,566 yards in his 13-year career.
Up next: The big one! The Saints will take their best shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a Monday night showdown at the Seattle Seahawks (10-1). Seattle is always a tough place to play -- especially on a Monday night in early December when weather could be a factor. Not to mention, the physical Seahawks running game and monster defense. Should be a great clash of styles.