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 host Falcons (11-1) 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' NFL career and came four days after he had two passes picked off and returned for touchdowns in a loss to the 49ers.
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.
"I didn't realize that until we walked off the field," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "That's an unbelievable streak. Drew Brees is an outstanding quarterback. The way the defense played tonight speaks volumes."
Michael Turner scored on Atlanta's opening possession, Tony Gonzalez hauled in a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan, and Matt Bryant booted three field goals, including a 55-yarder.
The Falcons defense did the rest.
Thomas DeCoud, Sean Weatherspoon and Jonathan Babineaux also had interceptions
Brees had a few games with four interceptions, but nothing like this. He finished 28 of 50 for 341 yards.
Steelers: Injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he's still in significant pain from the sprained right shoulder and dislocated ribs that have forced him to sit out Pittsburgh's last two games. He said "there's always a chance" he could play against Baltimore on Sunday but isn't sure his injured arm will cooperate. When asked if the issue is pain or arm strength, Roethlisberger said "both."
Vikings: Wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) did not practice, and coach Leslie Frazier said he'd need to see progress during practice on Friday to feel good about dressing him against Green Bay on Sunday.
Jets: Tim Tebow was limited in practice again with two broken ribs, leaving the backup quarterback's status uncertain for the team's game Sunday against Arizona. Coach Rex Ryan said the team will continue to "monitor his situation." Greg McElroy would be the backup to Mark Sanchez if Tebow can't go.
Packers: Cedric Benson will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season after having surgery on his sprained left foot. The running back was placed on the injured reserve but designated to return list Oct. 10 and could have played as early as Dec. 9. The news comes in the same week that Greg Jennings, Green Bay's No. 1 receiver, prepares to return after missing the last seven games with a torn muscle in his abdomen.
Bears: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall says he has heard of players using Viagra in an effort to gain an edge on the field. He made the comment when he was asked about a growing number of suspensions tied to amphetamines, including the ADHD drug Adderall. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Viagra is not a banned substance and declined further comment.
Cowboys: Cornerback Mike Jenkins was fined $7,875 for pushing Pierre Garcon to the ground well after the Washington receiver crossed the goal line on a 59-yard touchdown last week. Jenkins was penalized for unnecessary roughness on Thanksgiving.