DeAngelo Hall ran on the field holding a Michael Vick poster with "MV7" painted under his eyes.
Roddy White pulled up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the handwritten message: "Free Mike Vick."
The Atlanta Falcons wanted to show just how much they missed their disgraced quarterback, but they didn't have to go to such extremes. Their showing against the New Orleans Saints was enough to get the message across.
The Falcons trudged through another dismal performance in a lost season Monday night, getting blown out 34-14 by the Saints on the same day that Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for dogfighting.
"Not a good day," Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino said.
Indeed. The Falcons awoke to news that No. 7 had completed his stunning downfall from franchise player to federal inmate, then took their fourth straight double-digit loss against a Saints team that showed no signs of a hangover from its devastating loss to Tampa Bay the previous week.
"You try to ignore it," Atlanta quarterback Chris Redman said. "But it's hard."
With Reggie Bush watching from the sideline and reportedly out for the year with an injured left knee, Drew Brees passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns, and third-string back Aaron Stecker rushed for 100 yards.
"When you lose a guy like Reggie Bush, everybody has to step up," said David Patten, another of those who did just that for the Saints (6-7).
Patten had nine catches for 122 yards, including an acrobatic 25-yard touchdown grab for New Orleans' first score. Marques Colston also had nine catches, for 92 yards and two TDs.
Brees shredded the Falcons' defense with four scoring drives that covered at least 75 yards, including a 99-yarder. He should've had a fourth TD pass, but Eric Johnson dropped a throw in the back of the end zone with no one around.
"Throughout this season, we have shown signs of greatness," Brees said. "We had to start some drives deep in our own territory, but we stuck with it. We had to earn every one."
As for Hall and White, both are likely to be fined by the NFL for their public show of support for Vick. They didn't seem to mind.
"The team misses him and we really need him this season," said White, who flashed his shirt after catching a 33-yard touchdown pass that briefly tied the game at 7.
At the management and coaching level, the Falcons (3-10) say they're moving on without Vick. The guys on the field know it's not that easy.
"I don't want to say this franchise doesn't want to acknowledge the situation, but that's kind of the way you feel," Hall said. "All his pictures are gone, no more jerseys, no more nothing. We just wanted to let him know we're still thinking about him."
The Saints vowed not to play timid after botching a trick play late in their game against the Bucs, who recovered and drove for the winning touchdown with 17 seconds remaining to take firm control of the NFC South.
Coach Sean Payton lived up to his word on his team's very first possession, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 33. Brees was stuffed for no gain, but that was about the only thing that didn't go right for the Saints. The defense held and forced the Falcons to punt.
winning, New Orleans stayed in the midst of the wild-card race and prevented Tampa Bay from clinching the division title.
"We are an aggressive team offensively," Brees said. "That is what we are. That is why we're successful."
The Falcons are a mess offensively. Trying their third different quarterback of the post-Vick era, Atlanta gave Redman his first start in more than five years.
While Redman's journey was inspiring &
he was out of the league the last three seasons and selling insurance a year ago &
his appearance did little to spark one of the NFL's most anemic offenses.
Redman threw for two touchdowns and a career-best 298 yards, the second-highest total this season for a team that also has used Joey Harrington and ron Leftwich. But the Saints built a 17-7 lead by halftime and blew it open with two more touchdowns early in the third quarter.
New Orleans took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by Brees' 2-yard touchdown toss to Colston.
Two snaps later, Redman threw a pass that went right through the hands of receiver Michael Jenkins. Roman Harper picked off the wobbly ball at the Atlanta 31 and didn't stop running until he was in the end zone.
In a final indignity for Redman, Jason Craft delivered a block on the quarterback right at the goal line that sent him sprawling.
Notes: The Saints rushed for 145 yards overall. ... Jenkins tied his career high with nine receptions, accounting for 83 yards. ... Falcons rookie Laurent Robinson had a 41-yard catch, the longest of his young career.
Saints manhandle hapless Falcons as injured Bush looks on