Saints take charge of the NFC South
MIAMI - Reuters
Atlanta Falcons Michael Turner (C) is hit by New Orleans Saints Malcolm Jenkins (L) and Roman Harper in the two teams’ NFL game in Atlanta, Georgia. REUTERS photo
John Kasay’s overtime field goal gave the New Orleans Saints a 26-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons as the visitors capitalized on a failed gamble by the home team to take control of the NFC South on Nov. 13.
In other NFL action, the San Francisco 49ers picked up their seventh straight win with a 27-20 victory over the New York Giants, while the Pittsburgh Steelers got back on track with a 24-17 victory over Cincinnati.
Early season pacesetters, the Detroit Lions, saw their overall record slip to 6-3 with a punishing 37-13 defeat to NFC North rivals the Chicago Bears.
The main talking point in Atlanta will be home coach Mike Smith’s decision to go for a fourth-down on his own 29-yard line, a move which failed and allowed the Falcons’ divisional rivals to win the game with Kasay’s 26-yard kick.
The Falcons had rallied in the fourth quarter with Tony Gonzalez collecting on a 20-yard Matt Ryan touchdown pass and then Matt Bryant’s 27-yard field goal leveling the scores.
Smith’s decision to run the ball with only inches needed to make a first down did not come off when Michael Turner failed to advance and that gave Drew Brees the ball, knowing only a little forward progression was required to get within field goal range.
A 12-yard pass to Jed Collins was followed by a six-yard run from Mark Ingram to set up Kasay for the decisive kick. Brees passed for a total of 322 yards and two touchdowns.
The 49ers (8-1) offered another reminder of their post-season credentials with a statement victory over the Giants in a clash of NFC divisional leaders.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who engineered a last-minute victory over New England a week ago, was foiled in another comeback attempt when his pass was batted down by defensive tackle Justin Smith, ensuring New York’s three-game winning run came to an end.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford had only thrown four interceptions all season prior to the trip to Chicago but he hurled four more at Soldier Field, two of which were run back for scores early in third quarter by Charles Tillman and Major Wright.
There has been plenty of praise for Cincinnati’s rookie quarterback Andy Dalton in recent weeks but he had a tough day against the Steelers, throwing two interceptions as Pittsburgh improved to 7-3.
Rashard Mendenhall ran in two touchdowns for the Steelers, who ended the Bengals’ five-game winning run, although Cincinnati showed spirit and Dalton quality as they fought back from 14-0 in the first quarter.
Dalton’s one-yard pass to Jermaine Gresham in the third made it 17-17 before Mendenhall’s second touchdown, on a nine-yard run, restored the Steelers advantage and the game was Pittsburgh’s after Dalton was picked off by William Gay.
The Baltimore Ravens failed to follow up on last week’s win over Pittsburgh, falling to a 22-17 loss at Seattle as Steven Hauschka converted five field goals while the Seahawks defense forced three turnovers.
Tony Romo led the Dallas Cowboys to an easy 44-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, the quarterback’s three touchdown passes leading Dallas to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter which they never looked back from.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow only attempted eight passes all game against Kansas City and completed just two, but one of those was a 56-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker in the fourth quarter which secured his team a 17-10 win.
Tebow had opened the scoring in the first quarter with a seven-yard run and while his numbers look bizarre, given the amount of times the team ran, he has now led the Broncos to wins in three of their last four games.
The increasingly impressive Houston Texans moved to 7-3 with a 37-9 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Matt Schuab threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns while the Texans’ ability on the ground was evident again with Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward all running in touchdowns.