Saints Pound Falcons 28-10

Rookie Deuce McAllister doesn't get a lot of chances to touch the ball. He made the most of them Sunday. McAllister threw one pass. Touchdown. He took one handoff. Touchdown. McAllister's two scores and a dominating performance by the New Orleans defense lifted the Saints to a 28-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. ``Whenever you get a chance to score,'' McAllister said, ``you've got to take advantage of your opportunities.'' Cheered on by thousands of gold-clad fans who turned the Georgia Dome into Superdome North, New Orleans (7-5) came up with a critical victory in the NFC wild card race. The Falcons (6-6) have dropped two in a row at home to cripple their playoff hopes. Atlanta is 2-5 at the Georgia Dome this season. New Orleans was clinging to a 14-10 lead when Aaron Brooks threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn with 12:20 left in the game. McAllister, with his lone carry of the day, finished off the Falcons when he broke free up the middle for a 54-yard touchdown with 8:16 to go _ the first TD of his career. McAllister wound up with more yards on one play than starter Ricky Williams, who was held to 41 yards on 15 carries. The rookie also threw his first touchdown pass, a 12-yarder from the halfback position for the Saints' opening score. Brooks rolled left and made an option-like pitch to his running back, who flipped a pass to Willie Jackson diving in the end zone. ``It was a play we put in earlier this week,'' McAllister said. ``We were close to throwing it out of the playbook. They didn't think I could do it.'' The Falcons couldn't do much of anything against the Saints, who took offense at the way Atlanta gloated after winning at New Orleans on Oct. 21. Chris Chandler was sacked nine times and Maurice Smith was held to 7 yards on 12 carries. Taking offense at the way the Falcons talked after winning at New Orleans on Oct. 21, the Saints sacked Chris Chandler nine times and held Maurice Smith to 7 yards rushing. ``We wanted to pay these guys back,'' said defensive tackle Norman Hand, who had one of the sacks. ``The stuff they said about dominating us hung up all week on our bulletin board.'' It was hardly an inspiring performance for prospective owner Arthur M. Blank, who agreed last week to buy the Falcons for $545 million. ``We're got to regroup,'' coach Dan Reeves said. ``There's still four games left. Anything can happen.''

Atlanta tried all sorts of combinations on the offensive line _ with no success. Not only was Chandler sacked nine times, equaling a season high, he was hit 16 times and forced to hurry 13 throws. The Saints just kept coming, blitzing 16 times. ``We don't control how they rotate their guys,'' Glover said. ``We just reared back and tried to get after Chandler.'' Brooks was 20-of-30 for 279 yards. Horn was his top receiver, hauling in seven passes for 138 yards. During a wild first half, the Saints lost a touchdown through instant replay, and the Falcons had a scoring pass called back by a holding penalty. Atlanta drove 71 yards for a touchdown its opening possession. Chandler went to little-used Brian Finneran for 35-yard pass before Smith finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The Saints matched with McAllister's touchdown pass. Then, 58 seconds later, they scored again. Darrick Vaughn fumbled the kickoff and Steve Gleason recovered for the New Orleans at the Falcons 20. Brooks then went 19 yards to Horn, then handed off to Williams for a 1-yard touchdown run. The Saints appeared to score off another turnover on Atlanta's next possession. Shawn Jefferson lost the ball after catching a 13-yard pass, Fred Thomas picked it up and ran 60 yards the other way to the end zone. The Falcons challenged the call, and referee Johnny Grier ruled that Jefferson didn't have possession. Before the half was over, Atlanta felt the agony of having a touchdown stripped away. Chandler threw a 54-yard scoring pass to Terance Mathis, but the play was nullified by a holding call on Bob Hallen. The Falcons did wind up getting a field goal after Wane McGarity fumbled on a punt return. Jay Feely connected from 22 yards.

Notes:@ The Saints have 17 sacks the last two weeks ... Feely has missed three field goals in the last two games, perhaps hurting the rookie kicker's chances of making it through the season. ... Seven players had sacks for the Saints, led by Jay Bellamy and Willie Whitehead with two apiece. ... Atlanta safety Ronnie Bradford had the second sack of his career. The other came with Denver in 1994.