Saints shredded by Falcons’ running game on first drive

ATLANTA – After rushing for just 46 yards in a 31-27 loss to the Saints on Nov. 11 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Atlanta Falcons needed just three attempts to top that total Thursday night.

The Falcons got a 35-yard run from Michael Turner on their second play from scrimmage, then got a 5-yard pickup from Turner before backup Jacquizz Rodgers had a 14-yard burst on the next play.

That gave the Falcons 54 yards and they eventually rolled up 71 rushing yards on five carries on their 80-yard drive that was capped by Turner’s 3-yard touchdown run.

ANOTHER 300: Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 341 yards against the Falcons, snapping a streak of five straight games in which he failed to reach 300.

It was Brees’ 63rd 300-yard game of his career, which broke a tie with Brett Favre for third place on the NFL’s all-time list and moved him into a tie with Hall of Famer Dan Marino for second place.

Peyton Manning holds the record with 68 300-yard games.

STRIEF RETURNS: The Saints had veteran right tackle Zach Strief in the lineup for the first time since injuring his groin in a Nov. 5 game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Strief, who missed three games after having a procedure to repair a core muscle injury on Nov. 9, returned to the starting lineup for the game with the Falcons and was backed up by William Robinson.

THOMAS SITS OUT: Saints tight end David Thomas was one of the Saints’ seven game-day inactives because of a knee injury.

Thomas was injured in Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers and was limited in the only two practices of the week on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Michael Higgins, who was signed from the practice squad on Tuesday, joined starter Jimmy Graham on the field in two-tight end sets.

INACTIVES: The other Saints inactives were DE Junior Galette (ankle), T Charles Brown (knee), DT Tom Johnson (back), S Isa Abdul-Quddus (concussion), WR Courtney Roby (shoulder/ankle) and LB Scott Shanle.

Galette missed his fourth consecutive game, while Brown was out for a second straight week.

The only inactives of note for the Falcons were DT Peria Jerry (quadriceps) and S Charles Mitchell.

INJURIES: Falcons CB Asante Samuel, who didn’t practice this week because of a shoulder injury, apparently re-injured it on the Saints’ first drive and did not return. … WR Harry Douglas left with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return.

STILL ROLLING: Former Central High and LSU offensive lineman Todd McClure played in his 194th NFL game and started for the 191st time on Thursday night.

The 35-year-old McClure was chosen in the seventh round of the 1999 draft by the Falcons with the 237th overall pick. Despite his low draft status, he’s started every game that he’s been healthy for — 184 of them — since 2001.

LAGNIAPPE: The Saints are now 33-35 in primetime games. … Because Tom Johnson was inactive, rookie defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, a New Iberia native who played his college football at Tulsa, was active for the first time this season. … Grambling coach Doug Williams was a press-box visitor before the game Thursday night. … Fellow Baton Rougean Warrick Dunn, a former Falcons running back and minority owner of the team, was spotted on the sideline during pregame warmups.