The New Orleans Saints didn't make it pretty, but they ultimately came out on top against Atlanta Falcons, 17-13, on Thursday night. The offense was unable to capitalize on long drives in the second half, but the defense stepped up and applied constant pressure on Matt Ryan, stifling the Falcons' offense and allowing Drew Brees and Co. to get away with a win despite a relatively quiet performance.
The Saints took a 14-13 lead at halftime. They could have taken a deficit into the locker room, but the Falcons settled for field goals on long drives to the 21- and 6-yard lines, respectively. The Saints were able to finish on their two long drives. Drew Brees had two touchdown passes in the first half, finding Benjamin Watson in the end zone on a one-yard toss and Jimmy Graham for a 44-yard score.
In the second half, neither team had much offensive success. The Saints kicked a field goal at the end of a 55-yard drive in the third quarter, and those three points remained the only scoring in the half. The Saints offense didn't need to do much more than eat clock, however.
The Saints defense turned the heat up on Ryan in the second half, sacking him four times to stall promising drives. A five-yard sack forced the Falcons into a 3rd-and-15 just before the two-minute warning. They failed to convert, then Matt Bryant missed a 52-yard field goal attempt to solidify the Saints' 17-13 lead.
The Saints improved to 9-2 on the season, while the Falcons fell to 2-9. The game was closer than the records suggest, but the Saints stay alive in their quest to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Fantasy studs and duds
Drew Brees didn't put up astronomical numbers, but he still managed 278 yards and two touchdowns. Jimmy Graham was once again his biggest beneficiary, catching five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Ryan played well, passing for 297 yards, but his lack of scores kept his fantasy day from becoming great.
Did they cover?
The Saints were 9.5-point favorites at kickoff, according to Odds Shark. They won by four, so they did not cover.
Atlanta at Buffalo, Sunday, Dec. 1, 4:05 p.m. ET
New Orleans at Seattle, Monday, Dec. 2, 8:40 p.m. ET