Saints-Falcons Preview

The undefeated New Orleans Saints showed plenty of determination

in their last game, much as they did in their first meeting with

the Atlanta Falcons, whose injuries could be too much to overcome

when the NFC South rivals meet again Sunday.

New Orleans (12-0) clinched the division title and tied a

franchise record for wins in a season with a wild comeback last

week, beating Washington 33-30 in overtime.

“I’ve never been a part of anything so great,” Saints running

back Mike Bell said.

The Saints lost five games by three points or fewer last season.

This year’s team has been much different, posting two significant

comeback victories on the road.

The Saints rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Miami 46-34

in Week 7, and their latest victory was even more exhilarating.

After Washington’s Shaun Suisham missed a 23-yard field goal

with under two minutes to play, New Orleans’ Drew Brees tied the

game less than a minute later with a 53-yard touchdown pass.

Garrett Hartley won it with an 18-yard field goal in OT.

The Saints never led until Hartley’s kick in a game filled with

momentum-changing moments. New Orleans needed a replay reversal to

get a fumble called on Washington’s Mike Sellers that set up the

winning drive.

Late in the first half, a Saints punt hit Redskins cornerback

Kevin Barnes on the back and New Orleans recovered. A few plays

later, Brees was intercepted by Kareem Moore, but New Orleans

receiver Robert Meachem stripped the ball and ran for a TD.

“We find a way to win,” Bell said. “That’s what good teams do,

right?”

The Saints overcame four turnovers to beat Atlanta 35-27 on Nov.

2. Brees was intercepted and lost a fumble, but passed for 308

yards and two scores.

Pierre Thomas lost a fumble for New Orleans, but also scored two

touchdowns as the Saints rushed for 146 yards.

New Orleans, though, struggled to run the ball versus

Washington, finishing with a season-low 55 yards on the ground.

Without Michael Turner, Atlanta (6-6) was held to 61 yards

rushing in a 34-7 loss to Philadelphia last Sunday. Turner was one

of six offensive starters, including quarterback Matt Ryan, to miss

time in that matchup as the Falcons lost for the third time in four

games.

The worst defeat in Mike Smith’s two years as coach left Atlanta

on the fringe of the wild-card race.

“We’ve just got to get everybody together and keep practicing

and go out there and try to fight our way to a victory,” receiver

Roddy White said. “Man, hopefully we get some of our guys back this

week and get everything back together and try to win us a

game.”

Atlanta may have a tough time doing so without Ryan, who

protected his turf toe injury by wearing a walking boot on the

sideline. Ryan, injured in a 20-17 win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 29,

is expected to practice this week.

He was picked off three times in the Nov. 2 matchup with the

Saints.

If Ryan can’t play, Chris Redman will make his second straight

start. He threw two interceptions and had one returned for a TD

against the Eagles.

Turner’s status is also uncertain after hurting his ankle

against the Buccaneers. Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood split

time against Philadelphia, combining for 53 yards on 21

carries.

Receiver Michael Jenkins and offensive linemen Sam Baker and

Harvey Dahl also sat out for the Falcons last week. Center Todd

McClure left with a right knee injury.

“We’ve got an injury list right now that is pretty long,” Smith

said.