ATLANTA — If you’re lucky enough to play quarterback in the NFL as long as Drew Brees has, you’re inevitably going to have a game or two like the one he had Thursday night.

The numbers that mattered most in the New Orleans Saints’ 23-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons were these:

  • 5 — Interceptions thrown by Brees, a career-high for the 12-year veteran.
  • 0 — Touchdowns for Brees, who saw his NFL-record 54-game streak with at least one scoring pass snapped by the Falcons.
  • 37.6 — Passer rating for Brees, the lowest since joining the Saints in 2006 and an alarmingly low number for a six-time Pro Bowl pick whose rating in his first 106 games with the team was 98.5.

It was bad, real bad, and no one had to tell him.

While he could hardly be blamed for everything that contributed to the Saints’ second loss in five days, a setback that all but knocked them out of the race for a wild-card playoff berth, Brees had no problem throwing himself under the Saints’ egg-splattered bus.

Even though two of the interceptions were tipped, Brees took it harder than most of the other 42 losses he’s started in his time with the Saints even as teammates tried to take some of the heat off their captain.

“It doesn’t really matter how they happened because the responsibility is mine,” said a sullen Brees, who’s actually thrown seven picks in the last two games. “It’s the first time it has ever happened to me (five interceptions in a game) and it’s extremely disappointing.

“I pride on being a great decision-maker and the guy that is going to help us win the game, and not be a detriment and turn the ball over like that.”

After all, this is Drew Brees. Not some of the wayward passers of the Saints’ past like Dave Wilson, Danny Wuerffel, Heath Shuler, Aaron Brooks or Billy Joe (take your pick) Hobert or Tolliver.

“A couple of critical mistakes today ended up costing us the game,” Brees said. “I’m OK saying that because I have to hold myself accountable. I’ve made some critical mistakes in the last few weeks and they have cost us dearly.”

Brees was perhaps down on himself more for a play at the end of the first half that didn’t result in an interception.

The gaffe, however, cost the Saints, who got only two plays off in the final 45 seconds, a field goal or a touchdown that could have come in handy in the second half.

Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said the mistakes, how uncharacteristic as they were, are a byproduct of Brees’ competitiveness.

“When you have a great quarterback on your team, great quarterbacks don’t have a conscience,” said Vitt, who’s been in the NFL for 34 years.

“They’re going to stick tight throws (in there) and make great plays. Those great plays that great quarterbacks make take great courage, and that’s just the truth.

“When you’re on a little bit of a dry spell and wish you had a throw back or two, potentially bad things happen.”