The Atlanta Falcons raced to a 17-0 lead and the defense made it stand up, picking off five of Drew Brees’ passes and ending his NFL-record touchdown streak with a 23-13 victory Thursday night.
The Falcons moved to the brink of clinching the NFC South and dealt a big blow to the Saints (5-7) and their fading playoff hopes. William Moore had two of the five interceptions, which were the most of Brees’ career and came four days after he had two passes picked off and returned for touchdowns in a loss to San Francisco.
Brees had thrown a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games.
He had an apparent scoring pass to Darren Sproles late in the first half, but it was nullified by a penalty.
Brees had a couple of games with four picks, but nothing like this. He finished 28 of 50 for 341 yards.
The defending NFC South champion Saints lost their second in a row and will likely have to win out to have even a faint hope of making the postseason during a tumultuous year that was marred by a bounty scandal and a season-long suspension for coach Sean Payton.
• The San Antonio Spurs will be punished by the NBA for their decision to send four top players home and not make them available to play in Miami against the Heat on Thursday night.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the decision to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green — the core of the Spurs — was in the team’s best interest. The league wasn’t happy about it, and Commissioner David Stern promised that San Antonio would be penalized.
“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
Stern’s statement was released roughly the same time as tip-off in Miami for a nationally televised game.
Before the game, Popovich said he decided to sit his core when he saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team. Thursday’s matchup ended a six-games-in-nine-nights swing for the Spurs, who won their first five on the trip.
“Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing,” Popovich said before the game.
• The NHL, the players’ association and now even federal mediators agree on one thing: The bickering sides are nowhere near a deal that would put hockey back on the ice.
The league and the union wrapped up two days of talks Thursday in New Jersey, with help from mediators, but moved no closer to a solution to save the season that has already been delayed and shortened.