Falcons Pick Off Saints
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) gives a stiff arm to Minnesota Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson (24) in the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall catches a ball during warmups before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws under pressure from New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (98) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)
Atlanta — Drew Brees led two time-consuming field-goal drives before throwing his third of five interceptions to set up an Atlanta field goal that helped the Falcons to a 23-13 win over Brees’ Saints last night.
The New Orleans’ defense held Atlanta without a first down for five straight possessions in a span that began early in the second quarter and carried through most of the third quarter.
Garrett Hartley kicked field goals of 21 and 52 yards in the third quarter for New Orleans.
The Falcons looked dominant while building a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. Brees, who threw two first-half interceptions, regained his touch temporarily as the Saints scored 13 straight points.
The first-down drought for Atlanta ended after William Moore intercepted Brees’ pass late in the third quarter. Matt Ryan then completed an 18-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez and a 20-yard pass to Roddy White to set up Matt Bryant’s 29-yard field goal, pushing the Falcons lead to sevens.
Michael Turner had a 3-yard scoring run in the first quarter, and Ryan threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez early in the second quarter before the Falcons’ offense stalled.
The Falcons, motivated by four straight losses in their NFC South rivalry with New Orleans, took a 17-7 halftime.
Brees had been sharp against the Falcons, averaging 302.8 yards passing as the Saints won 11 of the last 13 in the series, including a 31-27 win in New Orleans on Nov. 11.
Brees threw two interceptions before finally leading a touchdown drive late in the second quarter.
On third-and-9 from the Saints 21, Brees completed a 32-yard pass over the middle to Lance Moore. Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann drew an offside penalty on a third-down play from the Atlanta 26 to keep the drive alive.
Officials initially ruled Pierre Thomas scored on a 10-yard run, but a video review showed his knee was down before he crossed the goal line. Mark Ingram scored from the 1.
Brees led the Saints on another drive but ran out of time. The half ended following Brees’ fourth straight pass to running back Darren Sproles, this one inside the Falcons 5. With the Saints out of timeouts, Brees couldn’t get his team back to the line before time ran out.
The Falcons made a strong statement on their first possession. Atlanta gained 71 yards on five straight running plays after opening the drive with a 9-yard pass from Ryan to Gonzalez. Turner started the spree with a 35-yard run. Jacquizz Rodgers had back-to-back 14-yard gains before Turner stormed in from the 3.
With his touchdown, Turner snapped a tie with former Falcons receiver Terance Mathis to set the franchise career record with 58 total touchdowns. Turner also has the team record with 57 rushing touchdowns. He caught his first career touchdown pass in Week 4 against Carolina.
Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud intercepted a pass from Brees intended for Marques Colston in the end zone to end the Saints’ first possession.
In the second quarter, Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon intercepted a pass off running back Chris Ivory’s hands, setting up Bryant’s 45-yard field goal. The pass from Brees was behind Ivory.
Atlanta cornerback Asante Samuel left the game after aggravating his right shoulder injury. Samuel had been listed as questionable with the injury, and he didn’t make it through the Saints’ opening drive.
Brees completed a 38-yard pass to Joseph Morgan on a third-down play. Samuel, who was covering Morgan, walked off the field with his right arm kept close to his chest.
The Falcons listed Samuel’s status as questionable. Robert McClain and Chris Owens took over for Samuel at cornerback. Atlanta receiver Harry Douglas returned after leaving the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter.
Viagra in NFL?
Chicago — The idea that NFL players might use Viagra to gain an edge on the field left Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs practically in tears — from laughing.
He wasn’t the only one.
Players cracked jokes about it yesterday, a day after Bears star receiver Brandon Marshall said he had heard that some players were using Viagra and hoping it would give them an advantage during games. Punch lines aside, experts say it’s unlikely the erectile-dysfunction drug would help.
“What would that do? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Minnesota Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler said.
Bears defensive back D.J. Moore wondered if Marshall was kidding and said: “I’ve never heard of that.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Viagra is not a banned substance and declined further comment.
Marshall started it all Wednesday when asked about a growing number of suspensions tied to amphetamines, including the ADHD drug Adderall. He said he didn’t know much about Adderall, but suggested Viagra could be viewed by players as a way to boost their energy.
“I know guys, it’s such a competitive league, and guys try anything just to get that edge,” he said. “I’ve heard of guys using Viagra, seriously, because the blood, it’s supposed to thin. I don’t know. Some crazy stuff. It’s kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these things, so you have to be careful.”
But using Viagra for more touchdowns and tackles?
“I didn’t even know people could do that,” New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett said. And his teammate Justin Tuck added: “I can’t imagine why people would take steroids, so I have no comment on Viagra. Besides, my wife would be very upset with me.”
49ers QB Left Wondering
Santa Clara, Calif. — Alex Smith is trying to understand how he lost his job as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers a month after being named the NFC’s offensive player of the week.
It’s not an easy thing for the NFL’s fifth-ranked quarterback to deal with this week, even though Smith already has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his tumultuous career since the 49ers made him the No. 1 overall selection of the 2005 draft.
Smith spoke with the media yesterday for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh made Colin Kaepernick the team’s starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams, a rematch of the last game in which Smith appeared.
Smith is now completely healthy from the concussion he suffered that day and medically cleared to play.