Saints Falcons Football

New Orleans Saints outside linebacker A.J. Klein is helped after injury against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of Thursday's game.

Associated Press photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA — The injury bug took its first bite out of the New Orleans Saints less than five minutes into the Thursday night's game.

Apparently, it liked the New Orleans cuisine.  

It just kept biting and biting.

The line at the medical tent on the Saints sideline was as long as the lines at the portable toilets at Jazz Fest.

First it was rookie sensation Alvin Kamara, who left the game on the Saints' opening drive after getting tackled by former Jesuit and LSU star Deion Jones. Kamara didn't return after being evaluated for a possible concussion.

This was supposed to be Kamara's homecoming, a return to the city where he starred in high school, playing in the state championship game his senior year just across the street where the now-demolished Georgia Dome once stood.

Kamara, who has been Brees' go-to man all season, finished with one rush for 2 yards and three catches for 25 yards.

His injury was just a sign of things to come.

Rhythm and Bruise — the nickname Advocate reader suggested this week for Mark Ingram and Kamara — suddenly became Rhythm and Bruised.

Linebacker A.J. Klein injured his groin nine plays later after Kamara's injury.

Defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson added his name to the list with an ankle injury.

Offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, who was starting in place of injured Andrus Peat, left with a concussion, too.

Kenny Vacarro re-injured his groin.

Josh Hill headed to the locker room to get checked on.

Michael Thomas got looked at briefly before returning.

Oh, and all of those injuries were in the first half.

Ingram got hurt late in the game but came right back.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Sean Payton. 

It was a case study of sorts on why so many NFL players dislike Thursday night games in the first place.

The three-day recovery time for a Thursday game simply isn't enough after the wear and tear NFL players put on their bodies on a Sunday. It's even worse for the visiting team, which has to use one of those days for travel.

"It's 100 percent a product of playing on Thursday night," quarterback Drew Brees said. "Do you understand what a guy's body goes through during a game? And you turn around four days later and to play?!"

The number of players injured in Thursday night games this season reads like an NFL Who's Who list: Richard Sherman, Eric Berry, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Odell Beckham and  J.J. Watt are among the many on the list.

Expect the list to keep growing as the Thursday night games continue.

Bodies weren't the only things dropping on this night, though.

Penalty flags were also sprinkled all over the field on this night.

Officials flagged the Saints 11 times for 87 yards, many of those leading to automatic first downs.

Despite the injuries, and despite the penalties, the Saints somehow found a way to keep this one close.

But in the end, it was New Orleans native Jones who ruined the Saints' night.

Jones intercepted a Brees' pass in the final two minutes that sealed the 20-17 victory and handed the Saints their third consecutive loss to the Falcons.  

A night that started with the Saints having a chance to almost assure itself a playoff spot ended with an "L" — and a slew of injuries.

The Saints get 10 days off before hosting the New York Jets.

They'll need the extra time to recover. 

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.