ATLANTA (AP) — An Atlanta Falcons team looking to snap a three-game losing streak and remain in contention in the NFC South wasn't going to be picky about how it won a game.
“However it came, good, bad or ugly, go out and get a win,” said quarterback Desmond Ridder.
The Falcons checked all those boxes as Ridder overcame two interceptions by throwing a touchdown pass to Bijan Robinson in the fourth quarter and the Falcons moved into a first-place tie in the woeful division by beating the New Orleans Saints 24-15 on Sunday.
The Saints (5-6) were limited by injury problems at wide receiver after losing Chris Olave (concussion) and Rashid Shaheed (thigh) only days after Michael Thomas was placed on injured reserve. New Orleans still outgained the Falcons 444-396 as Derek Carr passed for 304 yards, but the Saints had to settle for five field goals by Blake Grupe.
The Falcons (5-6) ran for 228 yards. Robinson ran for 91 yards with a touchdown, but shared carries with Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson and Ridder.
“They did a good job of blocking us up front,” said Saints coach Dennis Allen. “We will look at schematically what we can do to be better there. That was a big factor, them winning the line of scrimmage.”
The effective ground game helped Atlanta control the clock late in the game and end the Saints' comeback hopes.
“That was encouraging,” said Falcons coach Arthur Smith. “That's where we need to be to close out game.”
Smith said the Falcons' six remaining games “will feel like six lifetimes” in the league's only division where no team has a winning record.
Atlanta led 14-12 before Ridder lofted the 26-yard scoring pass to Robinson. The rookie ran out of the end zone and into the tunnel.
“I really don't know what I was doing,” Robinson said. “I just kept running, trying not to slip.”
Grupe's first field goal gave New Orleans a 3-0 lead before Jessie Bates stepped in front of a pass intended for Shaheed and returned the interception 92 yards for a touchdown. It was Atlanta's first pick-6 of the season.
“He was playing single high and he left his responsibility,” Carr said of Bates. “You don’t expect him to do that. For that route, that should have been a good decision. He made a great play.”
Bates produced another big play late in the third quarter when his hit on Taysom Hill forced a fumble that was recovered by Atlanta defensive lineman Albert Huggins at the Atlanta 5.
The turnover came after Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu's second interception of the game.
The Falcons were trying to increase their 14-9 lead late in the first half when Ridder's high pass for Robinson was picked off by Mathieu at the New Orleans 1.
Ridder's interceptions were disappointing in his return as a starter after playing behind Taylor Heinicke the past two games. Ridder completed 13 of 21 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“What you like about him is the way he came back,” said Smith of Ridder. “He doesn't flinch. He's resilient and we'll keep working.”
The Saints' offensive frustrations continued in the third quarter when they moved 65 yards on 14 plays before Falcons linebacker Arnold Ebiketie sacked Carr on a third down play. The sack set up Grupe's fourth field goal, a 45-yarder, to cut Atlanta's lead to 14-12.
Grupe's fifth field goal, a 39-yarder, trimmed Atlanta's lead to 21-15. The Falcons answered by holding the ball for almost five minutes before Younhoe Koo's 39-yard field goal extended the lead to nine points.
NEW LOCATION FOR RAGONE
Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone moved to the press box instead of working the game from the sideline in a change discussed in the bye week.
Smith said he believed Ragone “could help (Ridder) with what he sees up top. I thought it worked well today."
LONGEVITY RECORD FOR MATTHEWS
Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews started his 155th consecutive game, setting a team record with the NFL's longest active streak. Quarterback Matt Ryan started 154 consecutive games from 2009-19.
Olave had team-high totals of seven catches for 114 yards before leaving in the third quarter. Shaheed was escorted to the locker room late in the second quarter. Shaheed's injury came after Thomas was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. TE Juwan Johnson, WR Lynn Bowden and C Erik McCoy also were evaluated for injuries. ... Falcons cornerback Mike Hughes returned after leaving with a hand injury in the first quarter.
The Saints begin a stretch of three consecutive home games when they host the Detroit Lions next Sunday.
The Falcons visit the New York Jets next Sunday.
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