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Around the NFC South: Saints go deep

Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood and Drew Brees of the Saints

The last time the New Orleans Saints lost a game was Week 1 – when they lost at home to the Buccaneers.

In their second home game against an NFC South this season, on Thanksgiving, New Orleans feasted on the Falcons – and there was plenty of room at the table for everyone.

SAINTS: Tommylee Lewis. Austin Carr. Dan Arnold. Keith Kirkwood.

Stars of the must-see movie of the holiday season? Actually, they were the co-stars of the latest Drew Brees production in New Orleans’ 31-17 victory as the Saints became the first team in the Super Bowl era to have four undrafted players record a touchdown reception in the same game.

Lewis, a third-year wide receiver, has made an intermittent impact for the Saints but had been out since suffering a knee injury in Week 2. Carr and Kirkwood are reserve receivers pressed into action with rookie Tre’Quan Smith out with a toe injury. Arnold is a third-string tight end. Before Thursday, the quartet had two career touchdowns.

In the process, Brees tied an NFL record for the most different receivers catching a touchdown pass in a given season with 13. It was previously accomplished in 2016, by Matt Ryan.

Four NFL teams haven’t yet reached 13 touchdown passes for the season.

The Saints will play on a Thursday for the second consecutive week, putting their 10-game winning streak on the line at a Dallas team that has won three in a row to claim first place in the NFC East.

FALCONS: Atlanta was already in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs before succumbing to the Saints. The Falcons have now lost three in a row for the second time this season, having bounced back from a 1-4 start to stand even at 4-4, only to now tumble to 4-7.

The Falcons pretty much need to win out to even have a shot at returning to the playoffs, an effort they kick off this week by hosting the Ravens. In the final month they face two other teams needing to win almost all their games to possibly make the postseason – the Packers in Week 14 and the Panthers in Week 16. Atlanta is on the road for both.

BUCCANEERS: The one team to beat the Saints this season did so by a 48-40 count back in Week 1. That was the last time a Tampa Bay quarterback didn’t throw an interception - before this past week.

Jameis Winston returned to the starting lineup and didn’t turn the ball over in a game for the first time all year to lead the Buccaneers to a 27-9 victory over the visiting 49ers. Tampa like Atlanta is now 4-7.

In addition to avoiding turnovers on offense, the Buccaneers forced two turnovers on defense – their first defensive takeaways in eight games. Tampa’s win is the only one for an NFC South team not named New Orleans since Week 9.

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