Final

Falcons 25

(8-5, 3-4 away)

Saints 29

(7-6, 6-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 7, 2008

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 0 14 3 825
NO 7 9 0 1329

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 315 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: P. Thomas (NO) - 16 CAR, 102 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: R. White (ATL) - 10 REC, 164 YDS

Thomas' big game on ground carries Saints to win

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton pounded his fist into the Louisiana Superdome turf after Pierre Thomas bowled over him for a first down.

The game-sealing carry provided the perfect punctuation for the Saints' undrafted, second-year running back following the most important performance of his young career.

Fast Facts

• For the first time since a 21-19 win over the Jets in Week 12 of the 2005 season, the Saints won a game in which they trailed after three quarters (17 straight regular-season games).

• NFC South teams are a collective 23-2 at home this season.

• Pierre Thomas rushed for 102 yards -- the first 100-yard rushing game by a Saint this season.

• Falcons rookie Matt Ryan passed for a season-high 315 yards.

• Drew Brees has 4,100 passing yards through 13 games, 230 more than Dan Marino had through 13 games in 1984 when he set the single-season passing yards record with 5,084.

-- ESPN research

• Rapid Reaction

Thomas rushed for 102 yards and scored two touchdowns, helping New Orleans keep alive slim playoff hopes with a 29-25 victory over division rival Atlanta on Sunday.

"He's a great young talent. He comes up big for us when need be," Saints fullback Mike Karney said. "He had to earn his way and get a feel for what's going on. He's done that and the coaches are going to him."

Thomas scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard screen early in the fourth quarter. He powered in for the winning touchdown on a 5-yard toss sweep, bouncing over offensive lineman Carl Nicks as he stretched for the goal line. Thomas also set up that last score with an 88-yard kickoff return after Matt Ryan's 12-yard scramble had given the Falcons a 25-22 lead with 7:51 to go.

New Orleans needed a clutch carry from Karney on that drive as well. Saints coach Sean Payton decided against trying a tying field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 7. The 5-foot-11, 255-pound Karney pushed the line of scrimmage for 2 yards.

"The line did a great job up front and I was able to ride the wave and get that yard," Karney said.

Reggie Bush added 80 yards rushing, including a career-long 43-yard run that set up his 5-yard touchdown catch.

Drew Brees was 18-of-32 for 230 yards and two TDs in one of the most balanced performances this season by New Orleans' normally pass-heavy offense. The Saints (7-6) finished with a season-high 184 yards rushing.

The Saints rushed 18 times for only 44 yards in a 23-20 loss at Tampa Bay a week earlier. Payton pledged more balance against Atlanta (8-5).

"We wanted to make that a point, that we could run the ball on these guys," Thomas said. "[Payton] had faith in us to run the ball hard. We took it to 'em."

Late last season, Thomas made his first start in his hometown of Chicago (where New Orleans also plays on Thursday) and became the only Saint to eclipse 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. That was in a loss that formally eliminated New Orleans from the playoffs.

Thomas didn't rush for 100 yards again until Sunday's win.

Ryan was 24-for-33 for 315 yards, one touchdown and an interception by Jason David, whose 23-yard return to midfield led to Bush's TD in the first quarter.

"I can't make those kind of mistakes when we're moving the ball and about to score points," Ryan said. "Obviously we're frustrated with the outcome. But this team hasn't given up all year. ... We still have everything that we want in front of us. We're capable of getting into the playoffs."

Ryan connected 10 times with Roddy White, who finished with a career-high 164 yards receiving, including a 59-yard catch in the second quarter that set up Michael Turner's 5-yard touchdown run.

New Orleans Saints Atlanta Falcons

NFL.com Video

Watch highlights from the New Orleans Saints' 29-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints' defense, bolstered by a court ruling allowing end Will Smith to play, limited Turner to 61 yards on 18 carries and held Atlanta to 99 yards rushing as a team.

Friday's ruling also allowed Saints running back Deuce McAllister to suit up. The players, and Minnesota defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, had been suspended for the final four regular-season games for violating the NFL's anti-doping policy. The NFLPA sued, however, and a judge temporarily blocked the suspensions while the case proceeds.

Smith was in on six tackles, including one for a 5-yard loss. McAllister entered the game in the second quarter on third-and-1, drawing cheers from the crowd. He was stopped for no gain, leading to Garrett Hartley's 26-yard field goal for a brief 10-0 lead before Turner's TD.

Hartley later added a 46-yarder, but Atlanta responded with a 77-yard drive for a 14-13 lead. Ryan completed five passes for 64 yards, the last a 2-yard pass that Brian Finneran caught acrobatically along the sideline. Payton compounded the damage for New Orleans with a failed challenge, which left the Saints with no timeouts for the final 2:13 of the half.

New Orleans drove to Atlanta's 7, but had to settle for Hartley's 25-yard field goal for a 16-14 lead as the half ended.

Game notes


Saints CB Randall Gay left in the first quarter with a concussion. ... Kickoff returner Courtney Roby left with a right ankle injury in the third quarter. ... Thomas took kickoff returns in the fourth quarter, but credited blockers on his long return, adding, "If Roby was in there it would have been a touchdown. I'm a little too slow." ... Hartley has made all 11 field goal attempts since joining the Saints five games ago. ... NFC South teams are 23-2 overall at home and 9-0 in home divisional games. The Saints are 6-1 at home, including their victory over San Diego in London as the designated home team ... The Falcons have yet to win a game (0-4) in which they failed to score first.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
Atlanta
New Orleans
1st Downs2224
3rd down efficiency
7-124-10
4th down efficiency
0-01-1
Total Yards414414
Yards per play6.66.7
Total Drives34
Passing315230
Comp-Att
24-3318-32
Yards per pass
9.57.2
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks-Yards Lost
0-00-0
Rushing99184
Rushing Attempts
3030
Yards per rush
3.36.1
Penalties5-343-30
Turnovers10
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
10
Possession32:5227:08

Passing Leaders

ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Ryan24/333159.5110-0
NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees18/322307.2200-0

Rushing Leaders

ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner18613.4126
Norwood5183.6011
NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Thomas161026.4118
Bush10808.0043

Receiving Leaders

ATLRECYDSAVGTDLG
White1016416.4059
Jenkins56913.8021
NORECYDSAVGTDLG
Henderson37224.0036
Shockey56412.8021

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERATLNO
TD08:29Reggie Bush 5 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick) 07
SECOND QUARTERATLNO
FG12:05Garrett Hartley 26 Yd 010
TD09:55Michael Turner 5 Yd Run (Jason Elam Kick) 710
FG06:10Garrett Hartley 46 Yd 713
TD02:13Brian Finneran 2 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Jason Elam Kick) 1413
FG00:00Garrett Hartley 25 Yd 1416
THIRD QUARTERATLNO
FG03:06Jason Elam 23 Yd 1716
FOURTH QUARTERATLNO
TD12:55Pierre Thomas 7 Yd Pass From Drew Brees (Two-Point Run Conversion Failed) 1722
TD07:51Matt Ryan 12 Yd Run (Matt Ryan Pass To Michael Jenkins For Two-Point Conversion) 2522
TD05:47Pierre Thomas 5 Yd Run (Garrett Hartley Kick) 2529