ATLANTA — Drew Brees didn’t flinch because Drew Brees doesn’t flinch.
Even after making one of the worst imaginable football plays.
Even after following up that boneheaded play — and boneheaded is a kind, gentle description — with a play that only was slightly less odorous.
Even after throwing his 20th and 21st interceptions of the season — adding to his career season-high total — and extending to 11 the number of consecutive games in which he has thrown at least one pick.
After watching yet another interception returned for a touchdown this season, and barely avoiding a fifth because he managed to tackle the pilferer, Brees bounced back Monday night against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome, bounced back like there never was any doubt the New Orleans Saints could pull out a 17-14 victory over Atlanta and keep alive their hopes of winning the NFC South and home-field advantage.
The best quarterback in franchise history only played like it when he absolutely had to, after it appeared he carelessly might have flipped away the game and handed Atlanta the division title as a belated Christmas gift.
“Obviously, it was a hard-fought game,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “We were fortunate to overcome the turnovers and come up with enough points to win.”
They were fortunate, because Brees was steely.
As frivolously as he ceded the lead, he defiantly snatched it back by directing a 13-play, 90-yard drive that concluded with his 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Jimmy Graham with 3:24 left.
That winning play erased Atlanta’s 14-10 lead and allowed Brees to lift himself off the hook for what would have been a disheartening loss, considering the way the Saints had maintained control all night.
Because the Falcons (12-3) never might have taken a lead against the Saints (11-4) if the player the Saints implicitly entrust to do the right thing hadn’t done a terribly wrong one, if he hadn’t gone Brett Favre one too many times Monday night and eschewed discretion over boldness.
In the fourth quarter of a game his team led 10-7, on first-and-10 from the Saints’ 33-yard line, Brees refused to eat the ball while under heavy pressure from Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. Rather, while being tackled, Brees tried a backhand flip that only he and Favre might’ve attempted under the circumstances, with a deflating result.
Defensive end Chauncey Davis intercepted the gift — he almost had no choice, since the ba