It was a long wait. And, now it is over.
The Saints clinched their first playoff berth since 2013 with a 23-13 win over Atlanta on Christmas Eve at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Drew Brees threw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn, and Mark Ingram ran 26 yards for a score as the Saints won for the 11th time this season.
But, the story of the game was the Saints defense. The TD pass to Ginn was set up by a bizarre interception. A tipped pass landed on the backside of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who with the help of linebacker Craig Robertson, secured the football. The touchdown pass to Ginn gave the Saints a 13-0 lead.
Head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Manti Te’o talked about the Saints defense.
Atlanta was held to two third down conversions on 13 attempts. The Falcons scored only one touchdown in four trips to the red zone.
One of those trips was in the third quarter. Matt Ryan rolled out and threw a strike to Julio Jones, who caught the ball with his feet in the endzone. But, the line judge ruled that the ball didn't cross the goal line.
The call was upheld on replay.
On the next play, the first of the fourth quarter, Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman was stopped for no gain by Hau'oli Kikaha and Ken Crawley.
The 11-4 Saints can clinch the NFC South title with a win Sunday at Tampa Bay.