New Orleans Saints clinch playoff berth with win over Atlanta Falcons

Michael Tortorich
New Orleans Saints guard Carl Nicks (77) blocks for former LSU star Devery Henderson (19) earlier in the season. Nicks made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

Playoff bound

The New Orleans Saints guaranteed a place in the playoffs with a 17-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Monday night.

New Orleans (11-4) avenged a week three loss to the Falcons (12-3), who remain first in the NFC South.

Atlanta had already clinched a playoff berth prior to the game Monday.

The Falcons had won eight straight prior to the loss.

Another close one

Despite throwing two costly fourth-quarter interceptions, Saints quarterback Drew Brees managed to pull his team through when it counted.

Last year’s Super Bowl MVP directed a 90-yard scoring drive that ended with a touchdown pass to rookie tight end Jimmy Graham with 3:24 remaining.

The Saints went on to gain enough yardage to run out the clock in the end.

Monday night masterpiece

The ESPN “Monday Night Football” broadcast drew a big audience both locally and nationally.

The game attracted 19.1 million viewers on EPSN alone, according to Nielsen reatings.

ESPN reported the game was the most-watched show of the year.

"Monday Night Football" was the most-watched series on cable for a fifth straight year.

Final week

Atlanta can still take the division title and home field advantage through the NFC playoffs with a win over the Carolina Panthers in the final week of the regular season.

New Orleans will close out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan. 2 in the Louisiana Superdome. Kickoff is set for noon.

The Bucs are third in the division with a 9-6 record, while the Panthers are last at 2-13.

Pro Bowl bound

Brees, guard Jahri Evans and guard Carl Nicks have been named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 30 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Teams that earn a berth into the Super Bowl will not send players.

Brees has been honored five times.

Evans has been named to the team two straight seasons, while Nicks has been chosen for the first time in his career.