Saints whip Falcons to clinch first-round playoff bye

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Drew Brees passed for three touchdowns as the undefeated New Orleans Saints clinched a first-round playoff bye with a 26-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Garrett Hartley kicked a 38-yard field goal with 4:42 to play to ensure the win for the NFC South champion Saints (13-0).

Atlanta (6-7) had tied the score at 23-23 with back-to-back touchdowns after New Orleans had grabbed a 23-9 third quarter lead.

Reggie Bush caught two of Brees' passes for touchdowns as New Orleans and the Indianapolis Colts remained the NFL's only undefeated teams.

Brees completed 31 of 40 passes for 296 yards, throwing six and 21 yards to Bush and three yards to Marques Colston for touchdowns.

Atlanta, who played without quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner, scored on a 50-yard pass from Chris Redman to Michael Jenkins and Jason Snelling's four-yard run.

The Falcons drove to the Saints 46-yard line with 1:12 to play before New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma, who earlier had an interception, stopped Jason Snelling after a short pass on fourth down to end Atlanta's bid.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina. Editing by John Mehaffey)