AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Tuesday 13 November 2012
Last update 13 November 2012 6:35 am
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana: The New Orleans Saints handed the high-flying Atlanta Falcons their first defeat of the NFL season on Sunday, the Saints defense holding firm in the waning minutes of a 31-27 triumph.
The Saints stopped Atlanta twice in the closing minutes to stun their National Conference South division rivals.
Atlanta, who fell to 8-1, trailed by four at 31-27 when quarterback Matt Ryan led the Falcons to the Saints’ one-yard line with two minutes remaining. The Saints kept them out of the end zone, but Atlanta got the ball back one more time with 37 seconds remaining, and again were unable to score.
“Big win for our football team — we played a heck of a team in Atlanta,” said Saints coach Joe Vitt.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 21-of-32 passes for 298 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in guiding New Orleans to their second straight victory.
“I felt like this was a very hard-fought football game in terms of the effort,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We made way too many mistakes.”
In San Francisco, David Akers and Greg Zuerlein both missed field goals in overtime and the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams played to a 24-24 tie, the first tie in the NFL since November of 2008.
The 49ers’ Akers had sent the game into overtime with a 33-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation. His overtime effort was wide left.
Zuerlein initially nailed a 53-yard attempt on St. Louis’ ensuing series, but a delay of game penalty was called. The rookie kicker then missed from 58 yards.
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith ended the game on the sidelines, throwing for 72 yards and a touchdown before departing with a concussion late in the first quarter.
Chicago and Philadelphia also saw their signal-callers exit early with concussions.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler took a hard hit to the head in the second quarter and didn’t come back after halftime in a 13-6 loss to Houston — who improved to 8-1 with the victory.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick departed with a concussion in the second quarter of a 38-23 loss to NFC East rivals Dallas.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant made a spectacular touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter.
Dwayne Harris then returned a punt 78 yards for a go-ahead score 1:25 into the fourth, and Brandon Carr picked off a pass by back-up Falcons quarterback Nick Foles and returned it for a touchdown.
The victory allowed the Cowboys to gain on division leaders the New York Giants, who were stunned 31-13 by the Cincinnati Bengals.
In Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson ran for 171 yards and a touchdown as the Minnesota Vikings posted a 34-24 victory over NFC North division rivals Detroit.
The Baltimore Ravens set a new club record for points scored in a game with a 55-20 triumph over Oakland.
New England continued their home dominance of Buffalo with a 37-31 victory.
Tom Brady threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots, who won their third straight game and their 11th straight against the Bills at Gillette Stadium.
In other games, Tennessee thumped Miami 37-3, Denver downed Carolina 36-14, Tampa Bay beat San Diego 34-24 and Seattle beat the New York Jets 28-7.