Lofton helps Saints to win over former team

NEW ORLEANS — After playing his first four NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton tried to downplay his first game against his old team this week.

It showed again on Sunday afternoon when he quietly tucked a game ball that was sitting in his locker into his bag just before heading to the door for a postgame news conference.

“No, not at all,” Lofton said later when asked if the win was vindication for him. “It wasn’t me versus them. It just feels good to get a win over a divisional opponent.”

Lofton left most of his talking for the field, where he did his part in helping his new team hand the Falcons their first loss of the season.

A goal-line stand in the final two minutes, where the Saints stopped the Falcons’ potent offense on two snaps from the 1 and the final one from the 2, helped preserve a four-point lead in an eventual 31-27 win.

“We just knew that we had to bite down,” said Lofton, who finished with five tackles and broke up one pass. “We can’t be a defense that has to rely on our offense outscoring our opponents. We had to shut them down.”

When Matt Ryan’s fourth-down pass for wide receiver Roddy White was knocked away by cornerback Jabari Greer with 1:42 to play, the Saints did just that.

“That was the key play in the game,” said Lofton. “Everybody did their job, and we executed.”

Of course, he knew what it would take to beat the Falcons after being on their side of it.

The first priority, he said, was to stop running back Michael Turner.

They did that, holding him to 15 yards on 13 carries while limiting the Falcons to 46 yards and a paltry 2.6 average on 18 attempts.

“They key is to make them one-dimensional,” Lofton said. “You have to stop the run, don’t let their play-action get going and don’t let the deep ball get over your head.”

And personally, he knew he couldn’t get caught up in who he was playing.

“Curtis Lofton is a good football player. … Curtis Lofton is the type of professional that does not get caught up with who he is playing and where he is playing,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “He has tremendous pride to put his ‘A’ game on the field each week.”

It showed Sunday.