THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Brees leads Saints past Falcons, 35-27

By Brett Martel
Associated Press / November 3, 2009

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NEW ORLEANS - The Saints have tied their best start ever.

Drew Brees had 308 yards passing, Pierre Thomas scored two touchdowns, and Jabari Greer returned an interception for a score to help the Saints improve to 7-0 with a 35-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons last night. Only the 1991 Saints began with as many wins.

Greer’s touchdown was the Saints’ fifth score on an interception this season, tying a season franchise mark set in 1998. Tracy Porter also had an interception on the Saints 1-yard line on a pass tipped by Jonathan Vilma in the fourth quarter, preserving a 28-24 lead.

Atlanta’s Matt Ryan was intercepted three times, the third straight game he’d been intercepted at least twice.

Still, the Falcons stayed in it until the end, getting a 40-yard field goal from Jason Elam with 28 seconds left, then recovering an onside kick. Ryan only had time for a desperation heave in the final seconds, and Darren Sharper turned it into his seventh interception of the season.

Sharper’s interception also was the Saints’ 16th overall this season, surpassing New Orleans’s total of 15 last season. The Saints have at least one interception in every game this season.

Brees hit Marques Colston for an 18-yard score. Thomas scored on a 22-yard run in the first quarter and on a 1-yard catch out of the backfield with 3:03 to go, flipping backward over a tackler into the end zone, making it 35-24.

Reggie Bush added a 1-yard touchdown late in the first half, giving the Saints a lead they would not relinquish.

Roddy White beat Greer on a 68-yard scoring pass from Ryan early in the third quarter, and the Falcons pulled to 28-24 on Elam’s 25-yard field goal with 11:33 to go in the game.

That field goal, however, came only after Saints coach Sean Payton sprinted down the sideline and launched his red flag about 20 yards just in time to challenge what had been ruled a game-tying catch by White in the back of the end zone. Replays showed White allowed the ball to touch the turf as he bobbled it.

The loss, Atlanta’s second straight, dropped the Falcons (4-3) three games behind the Saints in the NFC South. It marked the first time the Falcons had lost two straight under second-year coach Mike Smith. It also squandered Michael Turner’s best game of the season. He had 151 yards rushing, including a 13-yard touchdown.

The Falcons’ defense also produced a score. Thomas DeCoud’s jarring sack on a delayed blitz up the middle dislodged the ball from Brees and Kroy Biermann returned it from the 4-yard line, giving Atlanta a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.

Brees came back strong from the turnover, leading the Saints 80 yards on 12 plays to tie it at 14 on his TD pass to Colston, who outjumped cornerback Tye Hill. Colston finished with 85 yards on six catches.

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