How the Saints defeated the Falcons 20-17

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A quarter-by-quarter look at the New Orleans Saints’ 20-17 victory against the Falcons before 69,699 fans on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

FIRST QUARTER

Big play: On third-and-10 from the Falcons’ 48-yard line, tight end Jacob Tamme reached out with one hand to haul in a pass that was thrown behind him for a 12-yard gain to keep the opening drive moving. Shayne Graham’s 51-yard field goal capped a 12-play, 56-yard drive that took 5:51 off the clock.

Turning point: The Falcons had the Saints stopped on their second drive after Vic Beasley batted down a Drew Brees pass. But his arm hit Brees on the helmet during his follow through and he was called for roughing the passer. Two plays later, Saints running back Tim Hightower scored from a yard out to make it 7-3

Takeaway: Falcons running back Devonta Freeman had six rushes for 25 yards on the opening drive to surpass the 1,000 yard rushing mark. Freeman became the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Michael Turner rushed for 1,340 yards in 2011.

Score: Saints 7, Falcons 3.

SECOND QUARTER

Big play: Tight end Ben Watson, the Saints’ hero of the previous meeting, caught a 13-yard touchdown pass over Falcons safety Charles Godfrey. The pass was originally ruled incomplete, but was reversed by replay. The score put the Saints up 14-10.

Turning point: With the Saints looking to take a 21-10 lead, on fourth-and-1 from the Falcons’ 17, cornerback Robert Alford stopped Saints wide receiver Willie Snead for a no gain to end the scoring threat.

Score: Saints 14, Falcons 10.

THIRD QUARTER

Turning point: On third-and-10 from the 23, Brees’ pass intended for wide receiver Brandin Cooks was incomplete with cornerback Desmond Trufant in coverage. The Saints were forced to kick a field goal. Kai Forbath’s 41-yard field goal tied the game at 17.

Takeaway: Falcons linebacker Justin Durant continued to struggle in coverage.

Score: Saints 17, Falcons 17.

FOURTH QUARTER

Big play: The Falcons’ old friend, the red-zone turnover, cropped up. Freeman fumbled after being hit by Saints defensive tackle John Jenkins, a former Georgia player. Jenkins recovered the loose ball.With the Saints driving for a score, Falcons safety Charles Godfrery forced Saints running back Tavaris Cadet to fumble. Cornerback Robert Alford recovered at the 1.

Turning point: On third-and-9 from New Orleans’ 34, a personal foul was called on Falcons left guard Andy Levitre to nullify a 6-yard reception by wide receiver Justin Hardy. The penalty took the Falcons out of field goal range and they were forced to punt.

Takeaway: The Falcons must clean up their turnover and penalty problems over the offseason. Forbath’s 30-yard field goal won the game after Ryan’s late-game interception.

Score: Saints 20, Falcons 17.

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