ATLANTA — One down, 11 to go.
The Saints (10-2) beat Atlanta 26-18 just 18 days after their stunning 26-9 loss in the Superdome to these same Falcons (3-9).
As of now, the Saints are the 15th team to clinch a division title in Week 13 or earlier since the league went to eight divisions in 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only one of those teams went on to win a Super Bowl, and that team was the 2009 New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans will have a chance to improve its playoff seeding next week, with a critical home date against the 49ers.
The Saints built an early lead thanks to their swiss-army backup quarterback, Taysom Hill, who deflected a punt, caught a 3-yard touchdown pass and ran for a 30-yard score in the first half. Hill’s four TD catches this season are more than that of Odell Beckham Jr. and Davante Adams combined, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Then the Saints’ defense closed out the game with a pair of second-half interceptions by rookie defensive tackle Shy Tuttle and rookie safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and a forced fumble by defensive end Marcus Davenport.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees had a quiet night, completing 18 of 30 passes for 184 yards. But his pass to Hill tied him with Tom Brady for second in NFL history with 532 TD passes as they race to break Peyton Manning’s record of 539.