The New Orleans Saints started out the season 0-4 and many thought a season filled with suspensions and bad press was doomed to be a throw away year. Sunday the Black and Gold won their third game in a row to reach the .500 mark. At 5-5, the Saints are now just one game out of the last spot in the NFC playoff race.
"We’re on our way," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said following the team's 38-17 win. "I think had you told us or anybody that after 0-4 we would be looking at 5-5 at some point, winning five of six with that schedule that we had in front of us, a lot of people might have looked at that and said that’s pretty unrealistic. But here we are."
Brees was 20 of 27 for 219 yards to go with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Backup Chase Daniel entered late in the game and completed his only pass for a final tally of 28 pass attempts.
The Saints ground game up 153 yards on 28 carries led by Mark Ingram’s 67 yards on 12 carries. Ingram a 27-yard touchdown to open up the second half and was the only back to reach the end zone. “I feel good. The running game’s getting going, drawing up a lot of different looks for the running game so it’s just a team effort," said Ingram. "The line’s doing a great job, coach is doing a great job calling the runsChris Ivory rushed eight times for 37 yards. Pierre Thomas had 30 yards on five carries and Daniel scrambled three times for 19 yards."
Wide receiver Lance Moore hauled in two of Brees’ touchdown throws with tight end Jimmy Graham catching the other. Eight different Saints caught at least one pass in the game led by receiver Marques Colston who had 69 yards on four catches. A 15-yard catch in the fourth quarter was Colston’s 500th of his career. He is now the third player in franchise history to reach that mark, joining Eric Martin (532) and Joe Horn (523).
Moore finished with 53 yards on two grabs with Graham catching six balls for 29 yards. Thomas had three catches for 28 yards, running back Travaris Cadet caught two for 25 yards. Full back Jed Collins caught two for 21 yards and receiver Devery Henderson and running back Mark Ingram caught a pass.
Cadet, playing the role of running back Darren Sproles who the team chose to sit and let his broken hand continue to heal, had a nice game. Cadet returned three kicks totaling 123 yards highlighted by taking the opening kickoff of the second half 75 yards down the field. The play led to the Ingram 27-yard touchdown a play later.
The Saints defense sill gave up over 400 yards of offense, 404 to be exact. Their performance however was one that continues to show the improvement we’ve seen over the last three games. Safety Malcolm Jenkins highlighted the defensive effort with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Fellow safety Roman Harper also had an interception, his coming in the end zone off of a tipped ball that came from a Raiders receiver.
“I feel better than where we were and we’re making plays now," said Harper after the game. "We’re making turnovers and big plays, and not allowing big plays. I hate that we gave up that last touchdown on the two minute drive. But overall, I liked our effort today. We got to eliminate these long drives that we have been giving up, and we are playing faster. We got to tackle better than what we did overall, we allowed some leaky yardage, but overall, I really liked our effort today.”
Defensive end Will Smith, defensive tackle Tom Johnson, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma each sacked Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer once. The Saints have nine pass defenses, and hit Palmer four times.
There are six games remaining in the season and five of those will be against teams that at least five or more wins and are standing in the way of a possible post season spot. Essentially the Saints have the unique ability to hold their future in their hands.
New Orleans will face San Francisco, Atlanta, the New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Carolina the rest of the way. The Panthers are the only team not in the playoff picture.
It should be a fun finish now that the Saints are looking more like the Saints we expected at the beginning of the season. "Again today, great all around team victory; very balanced on offense, defensively coming up with a big turnover resulting in points, another one that took points away from them. Just playing good football," summed up Brees of Sunday's win and how the team is playing as of late. "So as I look at our team and just the way that we’re building and the way that we’re winning, we’re doing it the right way.”
Right tackle Charles Brown went down in the first half with right knee injury. Brown following the game told reporters that he probably sprained the MCL ligament in his right knee and left the locker room in crutches.
NOT MARCHING IN
The Saints inactives on Sunday were WR Greg Camarillo, CB Corey White, LB Scott Shanle, RT Zach Strief, DT Tyrunn Walker, and DE Junior Galette.
The Saints are back in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are 6-2 heading into Monday night’s game against Chicago.