Saints Rough Up Emotional Falcons 34-14

Tuesday, December 11th 2007, 7:25 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ With Reggie Bush watching from the sideline, Drew Brees passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns as the New Orleans Saints bounced back from a devastating loss with a 34-14 rout of Atlanta on Monday night.

The Falcons (3-10) showed just how much they miss Michael Vick, who was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison about 10 hours before his ex-teammates kicked off another game in a lost season.

Even though Bush wasn't able to play because of a partially torn knee ligament that reportedly will keep him out the rest of the season, the Saints (6-7) had no trouble getting over the disappointment of their last-minute loss to Tampa Bay a week earlier.

Brees shredded the Falcons' defense for four scoring drives that covered at least 75 yards, including a 99-yarder that used up nearly the entire field. He opened with a 25-yard touchdown pass to David Patten, hooked up with Marquis Colston on a pair of shorter TD throws, and would have had another score if Eric Johnson had not dropped a pass in the end zone.

Two Falcons tried to show their solidarity with Vick, sending messages that almost surely will draw fines from the image-conscious NFL.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall ran on the field during pregame introductions holding up a Vick poster and had ``MV7'' painted beneath his eyes. Roddy White hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass that briefly tied the game at 7, then pulled up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt that said ``Free Mike Vick.''

Hall and White can only hope Vick didn't have cable TV in his jail cell, because this was another ugly performance by the team No. 7 put in such a bind with his off-the-field troubles.

The Saints vowed not to play timid after botching a trick play late in their game against the Bucs, who recovered and drove for the winning touchdown with 17 seconds remaining to take firm control of the NFC South.

Coach Sean Payton lived up to his word on his team's very first possession, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 33. Brees was stuffed for no gain, but that was about the only thing that didn't go right for the Saints. The defense held and forced the Falcons to punt.

By winning, New Orleans boosted its wild-card hopes and prevented Tampa Bay from clinching the division title.

The Falcons long ago gave up on the playoffs. Trying their third different quarterback of the post-Vick era, Atlanta handed journeyman Chris Redman his first start in more than five years.

While Redman's journey was inspiring _ he was out of the league the last three seasons and selling insurance a year ago _ his appearance did little to spark one of the NFL's most anemic offenses.

Redman threw for 298 yards, the second-highest total this season for a team that also has used Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich, but the Saints built a 17-7 lead by halftime and blew it open with two more touchdowns early in the third quarter.

New Orleans took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by Brees' 2-yard touchdown toss to Colston.

Two snaps later, Redman threw a pass that went right through the hands of receiver Michael Jenkins. Roman Harper picked off the wobbly ball at the Atlanta 31 and didn't stop running until he was in the end zone.

In a final indignity for Redman, Jason Craft delivered a block on the quarterback right at the goal line that sent him sprawling.

The Saints, who already lost Deuce McAllister to a season-ending knee injury, didn't miss a beat at running back. Third-stringer Aaron Stecker took over for Bush and rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries.