NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees passed for 357 yards and two scores and the New Orleans held on for a 23-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons to give Saints coach Sean Payton a triumphant return from his bounty ban.
Roman Harper intercepted a tipped fourth down pass in the end zone with under a minute left.
Brees connected with Marques Colston for a 25-yard touchdown pass during which the receiver also set a franchise mark for catches with 533. Brees also hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 7-yard score in the third quarter.
Matt Ryan passed for 304 yards and touchdown passes to Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones. He also drove Atlanta to the Saints 3 in the final minute before falling just short.
– QB Matt Ryan drove the offense 77 yards on 10 plays in the final 3:12 of the game, but his bid for a 23rd fourth-quarter comeback win fell short after the six-year signal caller’s fourth down pass was intercepted in the endzone.
– Ryan threw for 304 yards on 25 of 38 passing with two touchdowns, one interception and a 96.8 passer rating. Sunday marked his 18th 300-yard game and the 39th multi-touchdown game of his career.
– TE Tony Gonzalez caught his 104th career touchdown pass when he pulled in a seven-yard pass from QB Matt Ryan in the first quarter. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Gonzalez became just the third player in NFL history to catch a touchdown pass in 17 different seasons. He joined Jerry Rice (19) and Irving Fryar (17).
– Gonzalez finished the game with three catches for 36 yards (12.0 ypc) and one touchdown. He has now caught at least one pass in 196 straight games which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
– Gonzalez leads all active receivers with 14,304 yards, while RB Steven Jackson is the NFL’s leading active rusher with 10,215 yards. The Falcons are the first team to have the leading active rusher and leading active receiver since the Green Bay Packers in 1941 with Clarke Hinkle (3,467) and Don Hutson (3,566).
– Ryan threw his 128th and 129th career touchdown passes on Sunday. He currently ranks second on the franchise’s all-time list behind QB Steve Bartkowski, who threw 154 TD passes between 1975 and 1985.
– WR Harry Douglas turned in one of his best performances as a pro, hauling in four catches for a game-high 93 yards while averaging 23.3 yards per reception. Douglas posted a 50-yard catch-and-run that helped set up Atlanta’s first touchdown. The 50-yarder was his longest reception since pulling down a 69-yard catch against the Carolina Panthers (11/23/08) as a rookie.
– WR Roddy White played in his 129th consecutive game on Sunday, tying Bob Whitfield for the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. White has played in every game since entering the League in 2005, while Whitfield played in 129 straight games from 1992 to 2000.
– Gonzalez and White each extended their streaks for consecutive games with at least one reception. Gonzalez has now caught at least one pass in 196 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. Meanwhile, White has recorded at least one catch in 101 consecutive games.
– Jackson paced the Falcons running game with 77 yards on 11 carries, including a 50-yard scamper that setup the Falcons second touchdown of the game. His 50-yard run was his longest rush since breaking a 58-yarder in 2009. Jackson also showed his versatility, catching five passes for 45 yards (9.0 ypc).
– Defensively, the Falcons were led by LB Akeem Dent who tallied a game-high 11 tackles (five solo) with two tackles for loss. Atlanta’s defense finished the game with seven tackles for loss, including an 11-yard sack by DT Corey Peters. Peters also added six tackles (three solo).
– Rookie CB Robert Alford recorded his first career interception, picking off QB Drew Brees in the third quarter. Alford added one tackle and two passes defensed in his NFL debut.
– Alford’s interception marked the 17th time the Falcons defense has picked off Brees in 11 meetings since Mike Smith was named the Falcons head coach in 2008.
– Fellow rookie CB Desmond Trufant logged five tackles (four solo) with a key pass breakup on a third-down play in his first NFL start.
– K Matt Bryant connected on his only field goal attempt of the day, hitting a 23-yard field goal on Atlanta’s third offensive possession. Bryant has made 95 field goals since joining the Falcons in 2009. He trails Jay Feely (98) for third on the club’s all-time made field goals list.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.