ATLANTA — Deion Jones made a leaping interception in the end zone with 1:25 remaining and the Atlanta Falcons held on for a crucial 20-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, setting up a three-way race for the NFC South title.
New Orleans, which entered the night one game behind the Eagles and Vikings in the NFC playoff race, fell to 9-4.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion.
Kamara was hurt when he caught a pass for a 4-yard loss and hit helmet to helmet with Jones, the Falcons second-year linebacker and native of New Orleans.
Without Kamara, the Saints lost a runner who entered Thursday's game with seven touchdowns and a 7-yard average on 86 attempts. In the passing game, Kamara was averaging 10.4 yards on 59 catches. He was missed.
Matt Ryan shook off three interceptions to guide the Falcons to Matt Bryant's 52-yard field goal with 3:49 to go, snapping a 17-all tie.
The Saints (9-4) were in position to pull out the victory, driving to the Atlanta 11 after Drew Brees converted on fourth-and-1 with a quarterback sneak. On second down, Brees attempted to hit tight end Josh Hill in the back of the end zone.
Jones had other ideas. He leaped high to make the pick, landing flat on this back but holding on. The Falcons (8-5) climbed within one game of the division-leading Saints with three weeks to go. The Carolina Panthers (8-4) are also right in the thick of things.
It was a brutal night for the Saints, which is sure to raise more questions after the health risks of playing on Thursday nights.
In addition to Kamara's injury, New Orleans lost another offensive guard and three starters on defense.
Guard Senio Kelemete, filling in for injured starter Andrus Peat (groin), left with a concussion. That forced the Saints to go with Josh LeRibeus, the backup center.
On defense, the Saints lost linebacker A.J. Klein in the first half with a groin injury. Starting defensive end Trey Hendrickson left with an ankle injury and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro was sidelined with a groin injury.