At­lanta ‘D’ comes up big in vic­tory

Jones gets in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone as Fal­cons hold on to beat Saints

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY PAUL NEWBERRY

AT­LANTA — Deion Jones made a leap­ing in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone with 1:25 re­main­ing and the At­lanta Fal­cons held on for a cru­cial 20-17 vic­tory over the New Or­leans Saints on Thurs­day night, set­ting up a three-way race for the NFC South ti­tle.

Matt Ryan shook off three in­ter­cep­tions to guide the Fal­cons to Matt Bryant’s 52-yard field goal with 3:49 to go, snap­ping a 17-all tie.

The Saints (9-4) were in po­si­tion to pull out the vic­tory, driv­ing to the At­lanta 11 af­ter Drew Brees con­verted on fourth-and-1 with a quar­ter­back sneak. On sec­ond down, Brees at­tempted to hit tight end Josh Hill in the back of the end zone.

Jones had other ideas. He soared to make the pick , land­ing flat on this back but hold­ing on to the ball while his team­mates mobbed him.

The Fal­cons (8-5) climbed within one game of the di­vi­sion-lead­ing Saints with three weeks to go, as New Or­leans squan­dered a chance to build a three-game lead on the de­fend­ing di­vi­sion champs. At­lanta is back in the race and gets another crack at New Or­leans when the teams meet in the next-to-last week of the reg­u­lar sea­son at the Su­per­dome.

The Carolina Pan­thers (8-4) are also right in the thick of things.

Ryan had three in­ter­cep­tions in a stretch of nine plays at the end of the first half and the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond. But he tied the game with an 8-yard touch­down pass to Mo­hamed Sanu with 9:55 re­main­ing , fin­ish­ing 15 of 27 for 221 yards.

Brees was 26 of 35 for 271 yards and two TDs, but he was kick­ing him­self for try­ing to force one at the end.

On the open­ing pos­ses­sion, New Or­leans lost half of its dy­namic 1-2 punch in the back­field when rookie Alvin Ka­mara took a shot to the hel­met and stag­gered off with a con­cus­sion.

Ka­mara was av­er­ag­ing 7 yards per carry and pro­vid­ing a huge weapon in the pass­ing game, av­er­ag­ing 10.2 yards on 60 re­cep­tions. When he went out, Mark In­gram was left to carry the load as the “Boom and Zoom” duo be­came sim­ply “Boom.”

In­gram was held to 49 yards on 12 car­ries as the Saints largely aban­doned one of the league’s top rushing at­tacks. Michael Thomas had 10 catches for 117 yards and a TD .

CUR­TIS COMP­TON/AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL CON­STI­TU­TION VIA AP

At­lanta’s Deion Jones (45) in­ter­cepts a pass in the end zone late in the fourth quar­ter of the Fal­cons’ win over the Saints Thurs­day.

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