New Orleans –QB Drew Brees, for the second time this season, threw five touchdown passes, all to different receivers, and the Saints downed the New England Patriots, 38-17, at the Superdome.
Brees, who completed 18-of-23 passes for 371 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions, racked up a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the first time in his career he has accomplished the feat, as the Saints improved to a perfect 11-0 for the first time in team history. The Saints and Indianapolis Colts, also 11-0, represent the two lone undefeated teams in the NFL through NFL week 12.
The Saints pounded out 480 yards of offense, while the defense held the Patriots to 366 yards, but more importantly, also intercepted QB Tom Brady twice and the Saints made the most of a 21-point second quarter and traded punches with Patriots early in the third quarter before landing a knockout blow on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brees to WR Marques Colston early in the fourth quarter.
"This is a big, big win," Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said after the game. "Obviously all of us in this organization have a lot of respect for the things the Patriots have accomplished. We knew this was going to be an electric atmosphere we were playing in and I'm certainly glad we had the crowd behind us, they were awesome."
Payton lauded quarterback Brees, saying, "Drew was special. Let's just say he's playing really well. It was a great job by him. Magnificent."
Payton also gave high praise to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the Saints' defensive staff, stating, "we were banged up, particularly at cornerback and we had guys like Courtney Roby/Mike McKenzie.aspx">Mike McKenzie, Malcolm Jenkins and Chris McAlister step up against a very explosive offense. Gregg did a little juggling with some calls and personnel to keep things different and it paid off, particularly with the turnovers. My hat's off to our defense."
Patriots Head Coach QB Tom Brady stated after the game, "they (the Saints) played really well and they played well as a team. We obviously didn't play up to their level. They played a great game and we didn't play so well. There's a big gap between us. It wasn't as competitive as everyone expected. But that's what happens when you don't play very well against a good team on the road."
The Patriots won the opening kickoff and deferred the decision to accept the kickoff to begin the second half, and the Saints capitalized with an opening scoring drive. New Orleans opened the scoring with a short field goal by John Carney early in the game, but the lead didn't last long, as Brady marched the Patriots on a touchdown drive on the Patriots' opening possession. The Saints were able to scratch their way to a 24-10 lead at halftime, in large part due to the pinpoint passing of Brees, who was 11-of-13 for over 200 yards in first half and three touchdown passes.
Saints K John Carney concluded the opening drive of the game by caroming a 30-yard field goal attempt off the left upright and between the pipes to give the Saints a 3-0 lead. The Saints, who opened the game with a 28 kickoff return by return-man Courtney Roby, hit a big play right off the bat when Brees hit WR Devery Henderson on a 33-yard pass play. The Saints drove as far as the Patriots' 12-yard line, but were stopped on a third-and-four after a three-yard gain by RB Pierre Thomas. The Saints' opening drive covered 53 yards in eight plays and took 3:46 off of the clock. The Patriots then drove 80 yards in a 14-play drive that took 7:40 off of the clock and scored the first touchdown of the game via a four-yard touchdown run by RB Laurence Maroney, giving the Patriots a 7-3 lead. It would be the only lead of the night, as it turned out, for the visiting squad.
The Patriots, after taking a touchback on Thomas Morstead's kickoff into the end zone, misfired on their first play from scrimmage, as Brady couldn't connect with WR Randy Moss down the seam. On the next play RB Laurence Maroney found a cut back lane and scampered through a tackle and picked up 22 yards. Brady then hit Maroney for a nine-yard gain on a check down route and then Brady connected with the wily WR Wes Welker on a pass into the flat. The Saints stopped the Patriots on a third-and-one from the Saints' 36 when FS Darren Sharper smacked Moss across the thighs and caused the ball to be dropped before he could haul it in. New England went for it on fourth-and-one and converted it into a first down when RB Sammy Morris ran behind center for a gain of three yards. Brady then hit former LSU product Kevin Faulk for a gain of 19 yards to the New Orleans 13. A run by Maroney picked up five yards, followed by a gain four yards, which brought up a third-and-one from the four. The Saints' Will Smith and Roman Harper stopped then Maroney shy of the first down sticks, but the Patriots again went for it on fourth down and this time converted the fourth down with a four-yard touchdown run by Maroney that gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
The Saints started their second drive at their own 25 and picked up a 15-yard completion from Brees to TE Jeremy Shockey on first down, but two consecutive running plays managed only six yards and Brees' third down deep pass attempt to WR Robert Meachem failed to connect with the third-year speedster out of Tennessee. P Thomas Morstead hit a 41 yard punt that was fielded by Welker at the Patriots' 13. Welker made one move and darted through a hole and raced 41 yards to the Saints' 46 before brought down by Roby.
On the Patriots' next play Brady dropped back and but intercepted by Courtney Roby/Mike McKenzie.aspx">Mike McKenzie, who was re-signed by Saints a week ago. Brady's pass was intended for Moss, but McKenzie undercut the route and returned the ball eight yards to the Saints' 41.
"That was a big play in the game, with Mike reading Brady moving around in the pocket and trying to fit a pass into Moss," Payton said. "I'm happy for Mike. It's been a long road back for him."
RB Mike Bell then bulled his way for a gain of four yards to the 45, and on the next play Pierre Thomas burst through a hole in the offensive for a 26-yard gain to the New England 29 on the final play of the first quarter. Bell took the first carry of the second quarter and picked up one-yard before being dropped. During the tackle it appeared that defensive lineman Ty Warren inadvertently fell across Bell's left leg and the running back out of Arizona needed assistance from the Saints' trainers in getting off of the field. It turned out that, instead, Bell suffered a stinger and would return later in the game. Brees then rolled out to his right and found Meachem for a gain of six yards to the 22. Thomas then picked up one yard before being dropped by NT Vince Wilfork. On a fourth-and-two from the 21, Thomas followed a block by Carl Nicks and picked up three yards and a first down. On first-and-goal from the 18, Brees hit Thomas on a swing pass, and the third-year runner did the rest, weaving his way through Patriots defenders for a touchdown for his seventh touchdown of the season. Following Carney's first extra point of the night the Saints regained the lead, this time for good, 10-7.
The Patriots started at their own 26 and began their third drive of the game with a three yard run by Welker. On second-and-seven Brady hit Welker over the middle for a gain of 10 yards and a first down. Maroney then went over the right side of the New England line for a gain of five yards to their own 43 yard-line. Brady then got to the line of scrimmage and didn't like a look the Saints' defense switched to, and elected to use the Patriots' first timeout of the half. Following the timeout the Patriots, from their own 44, suffered an incompletion when Morris couldn't hang onto a pass in the flat as LB Jonathan Vilma closed in quickly. On third down Brady connected with WR Sam Aiken in the flat but a big open field tackle by McKenzie after a gain of only three yards forced the Patriots to punt. Punter Chris Hanson hit a 39-yard punt to the Saints 14, where WR Devery Henderson fielded it near the sideline and returned the football 11 yards to the Saints' 25 with 10:02 left in the first quarter.
Brees dropped back, looked to his left and pumped faked to Colston, and then looked back to the his right and found a streaking Henderson down the hashmark for a 75-yard scoring strike. The 75-yard pass for a score marked the Saints' longest play from scrimmage this season, and gave the Saints a 17-7 lead just :09 after they took possession of the ball. "It was a busted coverage," Payton said. "Drew looked one way and came back in his progression and found Devery. That was a big play at the time and it was good to get." The score, after Henderson's long grab, was 17-7 in the Saints' favor.
After starting at their own 24, New England started their next drive with a 10-yard run by Maroney. The hard-charging runner our of Minnesota then picked up two yards on the ensuing first down. On a second-and-eight DE Will Smith recorded his fifth sack in as many games (he now has 10 sacks) when he dropped Brady for a four-yard loss. Brady, though, hung in the pocket on third-and-long and found Aiken for a long gain of 33 yards and a first down. The Saints appeared to have the Patriots stopped on a third down after LB Scott Fujita tackled Brady on a scramble, but S Roman Harper was penalized for an illegal contact penalty that gave the Patriots new life. The Saints defense, though, wouldn't allow the Patriots into the end zone and K Stephen Gostkowski booted a 36-yard field goal that made the score 17-10 in the Saints' favor with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.
The Saints then started at their own 24 after a Roby return. Brees hit Pierre Thomas for a gain of three yards, then found Henderson for a first down on an eight-yard gain. Pierre Thomas then added two yards and on the last play before the two-minute warning, Brees faked to both his left and his right before hitting TE David Thomas, a former Patriot, down the middle for a gain of 25 yards. On the play after the timeout Brees dropped back and aired out a perfect spiral to a diving Robert Meachem for a touchdown pass over the shoulder of CB Jonathan Wilhite. Following the extra point by Carney the Saints led 24-10 with 1:50 left in the first half.
The Patriots, starting at their own 20, went to their vaunted passing attack and started with an eight-yard gain to Maroney. Brady's pass was then incomplete on second down, followed by a third down completion to Aiken for seven yards. Brady's first down pass was incomplete, but the Saints were flagged for an illegal contact penalty. On third-and-ten from the Saints' 33 with :23 left Brady tried to connect with TE Benjamin Watson but tight coverage from S Darren Sharper and S Pierson Prioleau caused the pass to fall incomplete. Gostkowki then tried a 50-yard field goal but pull the long field goal wide to the left and the Saints took a knee and ran out the final 13 seconds of the clock with a 24-10 lead at the half.
The Saints kicked off to begin the second half and Morstead hammered his third touchback of the game, thus the Patriots were forced to start at their own 20 to start the half. Maroney caught a pass from Brady and tried to pick up extra yards across the middle of the field but was tackled and stripped of the football by LB Scott Fujita. DT Sedrick Ellis picked up the loose ball at the Patriots' 26 and returned the ball to the 19. Maroney somehow managed to jump into a gaggle of players and strip the football loose from Ellis's grip, which was recovered by Welker at the Patriots' 19. The Saints challenged the ruling but the ruling on the field stood and the Patriots were given a first and ten and the Saints were charged with their first timeout of the second half.
Brady came right back and hit tight end Benjamin Watson for a gain of 11 yards to the 30. Both the Saints and the Patriots were guilty of penalties on the next play and the penalties offset, with the down being replayed. Brady then hit Moss in the flat for a gain of 11 yards. Moss fumbled on the play but recovered his own football and the Patriots had another first down. Morris then added a yard before being stopped by DE Charles Grant. The Patriots were then flagged for an illegal procedure call on second down, which the Saints declined. On third-and-9 from the Patriots 42, Brady found Aiken for a gain of 11 yards and a first down before McKenzie belted him out of bounds. Vilma then hammered Maroney for a two-yard loss. But Brady bought time on second down and after stepping to his left, came back and lofted a pass deep down the sideline for a 48-yard gain to Moss. On the ensuing first down, Maroney waltzed in off the left side of the Patriots' line for a two-yard touchdown run that pulled the Patriots to within a touchdown, 24-17, with 10:24 left in the third quarter.
The Saints wouldn't panic, though.
Starting at their own 26, Brees dropped back and hit Colston on a quick hitter of about 15 yards that Colston turned upfield and then raced 68 yards to the New England 6 yard-line. Bell then smacked off a four-yard gain, then on second down Brees officially welcomed TE Darnell Dinkins to the touchdown club (the 19th different player on the Saints this season to score a touchdown), with a two-yard score. The drive took all of 1:22 off the clock and made the score 31-17 in the Saints' favor.
After a huge hit on the ensuing kickoff by RB Lynell Hamilton, the Patriots tried an end-around by Welker for 11 yards that had 15 yards tacked on by a late hit out-of-bounds by a pursuing Vilma. Morris then picked up six yards. Faulk found his way for 14 yards on the next carry. The Patriots drove into Saints territory and on a third-and-seven from the 33 Brady hit Aiken for a gain of 17 after he broke an attempted tackle by McKenzie. The Saints' defense again tightened and CB Malcolm Jenkins, on a third-and-seven from the 10, drilled Welker over the middle of the field after a gain of three yards. The Patriots, with 4:12 left in the third quarter, came out of the huddle and lined up to go for it on fourth-and-four from the Saints' 10. Brady called a timeout after looking at the Saints' defensive front, the Patriots' first timeout of the second half.
With the Saints home crowd in full throat Brady dropped back and tried to hit Moss on a quick out, but McKenzie broke on the ball and batted it into the sidelines and the Saints possession of the ball at their own 10.
"I thought that we needed more than a field goal the way the game was going," Belichick would say after the game. "McKenzie made a good play over there."
Bell took the handoff and bulled way for a pickup of six yards, followed by a gain of three yards by Pierre Thomas. On a third-and-one from the 19 Bell followed a block by center Jonathan Goodwin through the middle for a gain of six yards. Brees then play-action faked and rolled out and hit Meachem, who made a nifty move in the open field, for a gain of 12 yards and a first down. Brees was then sacked, the only time on the night, by blitzing linebacker Adalius Thomas for a loss of four yards. Pierre Thomas then took a draw for a gain of two yards and the clock ran down and the third quarter expired. On the first play of the fourth quarter, in the face of a fourth-and-ten from the New Orleans 35, Brees tried to connect with Colston but the duo were unable to connect. Morstead came on hammered a high-hanging 50-yard punt that had over five seconds of hang time on it and forced Welker to fair catch the punt and negated any attempt at a punt return like he turned in during the first half.
From the Patriots' 15 Brady tried to hit Aiken down the sideline but overthrew the speedy wide out on first down. Faulk took a handoff on second down but was dropped by Ellis after only a yard. A third down pass from Brady to Welker picked up four yards before Jenkins dropped him after a gain of three yards. Hanson came on to punt and hit a 50-yard punt that Henderson caught and tried to reverse fields on and ended up losing five yards on the play.
Beginning at their own 25 with 13:07 and holding a two touchdown lead, the Saints didn't rest on their laurels, with Brees drilling a pass over the middle to Colston for a gain of 27 yards and took the ball into Patriots territory. Bell then pounded his way over the left side of the line for a gain of five yards to 43. A second down pass was disrupted by a blitz off of the corner by the Patriots, although Brees' sideline armed delivery nearly connected with TE David Thomas. Brees came right back, though, and connected with Meachem for a gain of six yards on a third-and-five. Pierre Thomas then squirted through a hole and picked up five yards to the New England 32 as the clock approached the 10:00 mark. Bell then was stopped for no gain at the 32 by Adalius Thomas. But once again it was Brees and Meachem that connected, this time of the opposite side of the field, for a gain of seven yards and a first down. Bell then smashed his way behind a big block thrown block by right guard Jahri Evans for five yards to the Patriots' 20. On second down Brees dropped back and gunned a pass across the middle to Colston for a 20-yard score, Brees' fifth pass of the night, his second five touchdown performance of the season (6 vs. Detroit) on opening day. The touchdown and extra point put the Saints ahead 38-17 with 7:49 remaining in the contest, a score that would hold up until the final whistle.
New England, starting at their own 20 after yet another Morstead touchback, tried to go deep downfield but was intercepted by Sharper. It was Sharper's 62nd career interception, eighth of the season, and tied him for seventh all-time on the NFL's all-time interception list with Dick LeBeau and Dave Brown. Sharper returned the errant pass 38 yards to the Patriots 25 before being dropped. Two carries by Bell forced a third-and-four from the 19, and Brees very narrowly missed Henderson on a post route. Carney's attempt from 37 yards out missed wide to the right and the Patriots took over from at the Saints' 27 with 5:26 left in the game. It would prove to be one of the few blemishes of the night for the Black-and-Gold.
The Patriots took to the field, minus the services of Tom Brady at quarterback, as rookie Brian Hoyer took over and handed off twice and then threw an incompletion on third down. The Patriots punted, with the Saints' Henderson fair catching the ball at the 22 with 3:58 left. Bell ran off right tackle for a gain of four yards to the 26. Bell then slammed into the middle for another short gain, this time a three-yard gain to the 29. Bell appeared to have the first down, but a holding call on TE Dave Thomas docked the Saints 11 yards. On a third-and-14 from the 18 Pierre Thomas picked up ten yards as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning.
The Saints Morstead then hit a 39-yard punt, and the Patriots were able to get off four plays, with the final play of the night being turned in by Will Smith, who dropped Hoyer for an eight-yard sack.
New Orleans Saints Inactives: K Garrett Hartley, WR Lance Moore, CB Tracy Porter, RB Reggie Bush, CB Jabari Greer, FB Charles Grant/Kyle Eckel.aspx">Kyle Eckel, LB Jonathan Casillas and DT DeMario Pressley. Starting lineup changes for the Saints included CB Randall Gay starting in place of Greer, CB Malcolm Jenkins in place of Porter and RB Pierre Thomas starting in place of RB Reggie Bush.
New England Patriots Inactives: WR Julian Edelman, RB Fred Taylor, CB Kyle Arrington, CB Shawn Springs, LB Junior Seau, OL Rich Ohrnberger, T Sebastian Vollmer and DT Ron Brace. The Patriots lone starting lineup change was CB Jonathan Wilhite starting in place of Shawn Springs at the left cornerback spot…RB Mike Bell suffered a stinger in the second quarter and was listed as probable to return to the game.
World Poker Championship runner-up Darvin Moon, who created a buzz by wearing his lucky Saints cap throughout the recent world championships in Las Vegas, was a guest Saints Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel's at the game.