Photo gallery: Saints vs. Falcons _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) fumbles at the goal line, scooped up by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36), during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints lost 30-14.

Jimmy Graham couldn't hang on, and neither could his New Orleans Saints to a potential playoff berth.

Graham was stripped of a potential touchdown late in the third quarter of Sunday afternoon's 30-14 loss to Atlanta, a score which could have allowed the Saints to rally from a dismal three quarters of play at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in an NFC South showdown full of playoff implications.

Instead, officials refused to change the call, allowing Kemal Ishmael's strip of Graham inside the 1-yard line to stand.

"After reviewing the play... the ruling on the field stands."

From Mike Pereira, rules analyst at FOX Sports and former vice president of officiating for the NFL via Twitter: "Re Graham play: Again, I thought there was enough to overturn. But if there's any element of doubt, the stats show calls won't be overturned."

Drew Brees' second interception, a pass thrown behind Nick Toon with less than three minutes remaining, sealed the loss. Robert McClain made the play for Atlanta, setting up Matt Bryant's 32-yard field goal.

Time expired as Osi Umenyiora scored after recovering a sack-fumble of Brees on the game's final play from scrimmage.

The Saints, which end their regular season next Sunday at Tampa Bay, lost their five consecutive home game for the first time since 1980.

On an afternoon where neither offense looked crisp, it was the Falcons (6-9) which did enough to take the lead in the division, thanks to a sweep of the Saints (6-9) in 2014.

Matt Ryan threw for 322 yards and one score, Matt Bryant converted two field goals (44, 50) and in the third quarter, Devonta Freeman's 31-yard TD run through the middle of the Saints defense created a 20-7 deficit.

Graham's 13-yard reception offered the Saints a chance to rebound from their previous blunders. But the Falcons defense, ranked last in the NFL, played far above the rating, sacking Drew Brees five times, rushing and knocking him to the turf many more times.

Brees finished with 309 yards on 29-of-46 passing.

Atlanta entered Sunday with a league-low 16 sacks.

With 5:48 left, Graham scored on a four-yard TD, trimming Atlanta's lead to 20-14, but the Saints were short on scores and time.

Jalen Saunders gave the Saints plenty of momentum to start Sunday's game, returning the opening kickoff 99 yards. On the next play, Mark Ingram scored from one yard.

The Saints would not score again until the fourth quarter.

Still, it wasn't enough. Too little, way too much Falcons.