REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS
C -- Aaron Brooks didn't have his best day, but his performance was still passable. After going 3-of-10 for 35 yards in the first period, he was 9-of-14 for 192 yards the rest of the day. He hit on 12 of 24 passes for 227 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Brooks was sacked four times and his passer rating was 62.3. As a team, the Saints averaged a healthy 18.9 yards per catch as Joe Horn had five receptions for 76 yards and Donte Stallworth caught two balls for 62 yards -- including a 39-yard TD in the third quarter.
A -- The Saints gained a season-high 160 yards on 40 attempts as Deuce McAllister piled up 128 yards on 29 carries. It was the most productive day of the season for McAllister, who had a long run of 25 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt. Backup Aaron Stecker added 20 yards on five tries with a long run of 15 yards.
A -- The defense got a belated Christmas gift as Michael Vick and Alge Crumpler were held out of the game because of injuries, but the Saints still had to take advantage of the situation. They limited rookie quarterback Matt Schaub, who completed 17 of 41 passes, to 188 passing yards -- including just 80 in the second half. He was sacked three times and intercepted twice by cornerback Mike McKenzie and had a passer rating of 35.4. Other than a 59-yard screen pass to running back Warrick Dunn, the Falcons' long pass play was 18 yards.
B -- Once again, the NFL's 32nd-ranked rush defense did a decent job. The Falcons gained 93 yards on 24 attempts and averaged just 3.9 yards per try. With Vick out, the main goal was to keep Dunn under control and they did that by holding him to 52 yards and a 2.9 average on 18 carries. Schaub managed to gain 21 yards on four attempts, but the Saints still did their job for most of the day.
A -- The Saints had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Michael Lewis and the cover teams did a good job on Allen Rossum, holding him to 10 yards on one punt return and a 22.0 average on five kickoff returns. On the other hand, the Saints averaged 8.0 yards on punt returns and 36.0 yards on four kickoffs. Mitch Berger punted seven times for 43.7 yards and finished with a net average of 39.4. John Carney converted his only field-goal attempt of the day, a 22-yarder, and made all three of his extra-point tries.
A -- Once again, the Saints' coaches had their team ready to play and the result was a third straight win for the first time since early in the 2002 season. Their late-season surge has the Saints in line to gain a playoff berth with one more victory, which was the last thing anyone envisioned when they were 4-8 after a 32-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 5.
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