- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jordan's showcase: Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan has started to get a lot of well-deserved national attention this year for his continued development. Thursday's game might have been his signature performance, though -- perhaps the one that punches his ticket to the Pro Bowl.
Jordan had 2.5 sacks, including a huge one after the Falcons reached the Saints' 29-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Atlanta wound up settling for a missed 52-yard field goal attempt on that drive. Jordan's other 1.5 sacks came back to back on a third-quarter drive. He also forced a holding penalty and pressured Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan into an incomplete pass on third down, among other highlights during the Saints' second-half shutout. Jordan now has 9.5 sacks on the season.
Bend but don't break: The Falcons started out much stronger than the Saints on both sides of the ball, forcing a three-and-out, then churning out a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive featuring running back Steven Jackson. Atlanta followed with two long field goal drives on its second and third possessions. Then the Falcons were shut out the rest of the way.
Atlanta won the time of possession battle by more than seven minutes, thanks to a lot of midrange passes -- many picking on new Saints starting cornerback Corey White. But the Saints never let the ball get behind them for big gains. And they eventually came up with big stops. The biggest was end Keyunta Dawson's forced fumble inside the red zone early in the fourth quarter. The Saints also had five sacks -- four in the second half.
"A coach told me very early in my career that it's very hard for a team to drive 80 or 90 yards without any big plays or any penalties," Saints cornerback Chris Carr said. "They might score once or twice -- they scored the opening drive that way. But if you don't give up any big plays or penalties, it's going to be very hard for a team to beat a good defense."
Thomas creates balance: The Saints' pass-run balance keeps getting stronger each week, thanks almost solely to dual threat Pierre Thomas. New Orleans counted on Thomas in a big way, especially with Darren Sproles out with injury, and he delivered with 10 carries for 73 yards and five receptions for 57 yards. He broke big gains on three third-down conversions in the first half.
Graham creates imbalance: The Saints' other big offensive weapon was tight end Jimmy Graham. (What's new?) He caught five passes for 100 yards -- the biggest play coming when he made safety William Moore stumble with a double move on a 44-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Graham then yanked down the left side of the goal post with a celebratory dunk that required some immediate maintenance.