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Saints Continue an Unlikely March

Victory Over Vick-Less Falcons Is the Team's Third Straight: Saints 26, Falcons 13

By Mary Foster
Associated Press
Monday, December 27, 2004; Page D09

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 26 -- With Michael Vick out for Atlanta, the New Orleans Saints remained in playoff contention.

Aaron Brooks threw for a touchdown and ran for another and the Saints kept their postseason hopes alive with a 26-13 victory over the Falcons on Sunday.


Aaron Brooks, scrambling out of the pocket, is the first New Orleans quarterback to have 20 TD passes in four straight seasons. He finished 12 of 24 for 227 yards. (David Rae Morris -- Reuters)

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Brooks, Vick's cousin, completed 12 of 24 passes for 227 yards. With New Orleans trailing 6-5 in the second quarter, Brooks scored the go-ahead touchdown after New Orleans pulled the kicking team on fourth down and sent the offense back in. His one-yard leap put the Saints up, 12-6, and they never trailed again.

Michael Lewis's 96-yard kickoff return with 5 minutes 32 seconds left in the third quarter put the Saints (7-8) up 26-13, sealing their third straight victory.

The Falcons (11-4) were without Vick, who was resting an injured shoulder, and two other key offensive weapons -- tight end Alge Crumpler and running back T.J. Duckett.

The Falcons could afford to rest the trio. Atlanta already had clinched the division title, and last week wrapped up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

"I told [Atlanta Coach Jim Mora Jr.] thanks after the game," Saints Coach Jim Haslett joked about not facing Vick. "He's a great football player. There's a reason they pay him all that money. But I thought our guys were up to the challenge if Michael would have played."

Vick was replaced by rookie Matt Schaub from Virginia, who completed 17 of 41 passes for 188 yards. He was sacked three times and intercepted twice.

The Saints are tied with the Carolina Panthers for the NFC's final playoff spot. The St. Louis Rams are 6-8 entering their game Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Saints running back Deuce McAllister had 128 yards on 18 carries, making him the third player in franchise history to rush for 4,000 yards.

"It was a disappointing performance for our football team, and that means everyone who got on the plane and came down here," Mora said.

Brooks's touchdown pass made him the first Saints quarterback to post four straight seasons with at least 20 touchdown passes.


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