Saints Return to Playoffs

The Saints are back in the playoffs. That hasn’t happened in back-to-back seasons since 1991-92.

The defending Super Bowl champs served noticed to the Falcons and the rest of the NFL that they are still a force to reckoned with, still a team on a mission.

Drew Brees, bouncing back from two confounding fourth quarter interceptions, led the Saints on a 13-play, 90-yard game-winning drive. He completed six straight passes, including a laser to tight end Jimmy Graham from six yards out for the go-ahead points. It was vintage Brees.

“It feels good,” Brees said during his postgame news conference. “You just want to punch your ticket to the big show, and we’ve done that.”

The Saints clinched at least a wild card berth and at the same time planted doubts in the Falcons’ heads should the Saints revisit the Georgia Dome in three weeks. Atlanta is 19-3 at home under Mike Smith. The Saints are responsible for two of the losses.

The Falcons’ offense looked out of sorts much of the night thanks to the Saints’ multiple defensive looks. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed just 15-29 passes for 148 yards. Running back Michael Turner was limited to 48 yards on 17 carries. Loquacious wide receiver Roddy White caught three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown and was irrelevant in the second half. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who typically has good days against the Saints, was held in check. He had two catches for 12 yards.

The Saints defense won this game, and if the team is forced to go on the road for three games to earn a return trip to the Super Bowl, the defense will have to play like it did Monday night.

“We don’t want to feel this way the rest of the season,” Ryan said.

The Saints may get a chance to do it again.

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