x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

NFL: New Orleans Saints end Atlanta Falcons' unbeaten run

New York Giants suffered their second consecutive loss, this time from unfancied Cincinnati, while the St Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers played out a rare draw in the NFL.

New Orleans Saints' Chris Ivory breaks past Atlanta's Asante Samuel on his way to a touchdown.
New Orleans Saints' Chris Ivory breaks past Atlanta's Asante Samuel on his way to a touchdown.

The Atlanta Falcons surrendered the last remaining unbeaten record in the NFL with a dramatic 31-27 defeat at the New Orleans Saints.

The Falcons had been 8-0 coming into the game and raced into a 10-point lead, but the Saints are much improved after losing their first four games this season.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passed for three touchdowns and 411 yards, but tight end Jimmy Graham had a stellar day for New Orleans with two touchdowns and 146 yards on seven receptions while quarterback Drew Brees threw for three touchdowns and 298 yards.

Atlanta were foiled at the end by two strong stands from the oft-criticised Saints' defence with the game saved by brilliant defensive work from cornerback Jabari Greer.

Atlanta had fourth and goal from the Saints' two-yard line with 1:46 on the clock when Ryan passed the ball towards receiver Roddy White in the middle of the end zone but Greer threw himself at the ball and batted it away.

"It's very frustrating," said Mike Smith, the Falcons coach, who is 2-7 against the Saints.

"We were close. This will be something we will learn from."

The Saints can even their record with a win at Oakland next weekend.

"That's something we feel like we're capable of and we envisioned being able to do that, because we know the type of team we have," Brees said. "We knew we dug ourselves a hole. We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we also knew we have the right type of people."

While the result will change little in the NFC South standings, the game showed the Saints have fully recovered from their 0-4 start and the Falcons (8-1) may have some work left to do if they are to be a real threat in the playoffs.

The New York Giants suffered their second successive loss, and their defeat to the unheralded Bengals will cause much more concern than last week's defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tom Coughlin, the Giants' coach, will be glad for the upcoming bye-week to fix his team's troubles after a game in which New York quarterback Eli Manning threw two interceptions which led to Bengals touchdowns.

"No, I'm not worried," Manning said afterwards.

"Over the years, we've gone through stretches where we haven't played our best football and we've been able to bounce out of that, and that's what's going on right now."

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had four touchdowns passes for the first time in his NFL career, starting off with a 56- yard connection to the impressive A.J. Green and ending with a 10-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu.

The Giants risked going without a touchdown until Andre Brown scored from two yards in the fourth quarter.

"I just told the team that we certainly got into this mess together, and we've got to find a way to get out of it together," Coughlin said following the game.

"I don't have anything I can really say I was pleased with."

Questions will remain about the New England Patriots' defence despite their narrow victory over AFC East rivals Buffalo although Devin McCourty's quick-witted interception at the end saved the game.

Stevan Ridley put up 98 rushing yards for the Patriots with Tom Brady throwing for 237 yards and two touchdowns but their defence was exposed by Bills running back Fred Jackson who had two touchdowns and 80 rushing yards.

The Bills had 481 yards total offence and enjoyed 6.8 yards per offensive play - numbers that will concern Patriots head coach Bill Belichick despite his team leading the AFC East with a 6-3 record.

The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers played the NFL's first tie game in four years as both team's kickers missed overtime field goals in a 24-24 final on Sunday.

Greg Zuerlein kicked a 53-yarder, but the Rams were penalised 5 yards for delay of game. He tried again from 58 as coach Jeff Fisher played for the win, and missed wide right with 2:42 left in OT.

San Francisco's David Akers missed wide left on a 41-yard attempt that could have sealed it for the NFC West-leading 49ers (6-2-1), who lost quarterback Alex Smith to a first-half concussion.

On the first play of OT, Sam Bradford completed an 80-yard pass to Danny Amendola that took St. Louis (3-5-1) to the 2, but the play was called back for an illegal formation penalty. Some 49ers fans got up to leave, then returned to their seats.

It was just the 18th tie since the NFL introduced regular season overtime in 1974.

There were no such problems for the Baltimore Ravens, who thrashed the hapless Oakland Raiders 55-20.

Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 341 yards and three scores as Baltimore set a club record for points scored to improve to 7-2, scoring on six of their first seven possessions.

Jacoby Jones also returned a kick-off 105 yards and punter Sam Koch joined the party with a seven-yard touchdown run on a fake field goal.

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos also enjoyed a relatively comfortable win with a 36-14 victory at the Carolina Panthers.

Manning threw for 301 yards and a touchdown to move into a second-place tie with Dan Marino on the NFL all-time list with 420 passing TDs while his opposite number Cam Newton was sacked seven times and threw two interceptions.

The Minnesota Vikings' (6-4) impressive season continued with Adrian Peterson rushing for 171 yards in a 34-24 win over the Detroit Lions. Peterson set up the victory with a 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick suffered a concussion and was taken out of the game against the Dallas Cowboys early in the second quarter.

The Cowboys went on to a 38-23 win and in an unusual fourth quarter they scored touchdowns on a punt return, interception return and fumble recovery.

The Seattle Seahawks move to 6-4 after a comfortable 28-7 win over the fading New York Jets who fall to 3-6, while the Houston Texans ran out 13-6 winners over the Chicago Bears.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enjoyed a third successive win with a 34-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Leonard Johnson returned an interception 83 yards in the fourth quarter for the decisive score.

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