Oh so close

Atlanta had a chance to beat New Orleans, but fell a yard short of gaining a crucial first down and lost a heart-breaker to the Saints 26-23 at the Georgia Dome.

Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but it was LB Jonathan Vilma's huge stop late the sealed the win, allowing New Orleans to continue on as one of the two undefeated NFL teams.

The Falcons, missing two of it's most important offensive players -- QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner both sat out with injuries -- still managed to put up 392 yards while backup QB Chris Redman out-dueled Brees, as far as yards are concerned, by throwing for 303 yards and one touchdowns along with an interception.

Atlanta actually led at the end of the first quarter as K Matt Bryant hit two -- one from 36 and one from 30 -- while New Orleans' Garrett Hartley nailed a 33-yarder and the Falcons had an early 6-3 lead.

That's when Brees caught fire, hitting Reggie Bush for a six-yard touchdown pass and ethen following up near the end of the first half by hitting WR Marques Colston for a three-yard score.

Bryant added his third field goal of the day, this one coming from 27 yards out, to send the teams into the locker room with the Saints leading 16-9.

Bush then caught his second touchdown of the day midway through the third quarter, a 21-yard pass and catch, to give the Saints a 23-9 lead, but the Falcons wouldn't go away as Redman came back on the next drive and hit WR Michael Jenkins for a 50-yard touchdown pass in which the sixth-year wideout beat a helpless Darren Sharper deep, bringing the score to 23-16.

The Falcons then tied things up as they drove 79 yards on 11 plays with RB Jason Snelling plunging into the endzone from four yards out, knotting the score at 23 apiece.

Hartley added a 38-yard field goal to give the Saints a 26-23 win after the Saints ate up 8:14 of game clock on a 16-play, 48-yard drive and the Falcons were unable to answer as, on fourth-and-two from the New Orleans 46, Redman hit Snelling out of the backfield and LB Jonathan Vilma stepped up to stop him a yard short of the first down to seal the win.

Jenkins had three receptions for 82 yards and the long touchdown while Snelling hauled in four passes for 65 and TE Tony Gonzalez had a team-high six receptions for 50 yards.

WR Roddy White, playing on a gimpy knee, only had two receptions for 41 yards and was largely a non-factor in the game.

Defensively, linebackers Stephen Nicholas (nine tackles) and Mike Peterson (eight) led the Falcons in slowing down an offense that led the league in scoring averaging 36.7 points per game.

The Falcons have now lost six of their last eight games and will head on the road to take on the surging New York Jets who downed Tampa Bay 26-3 on the road.

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