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Defense Missles Ground Jets in Saints 24-10 Win at Dome

    <span style="">New Orleans – The New Orleans Saints improved to 4-0 in a battle of unbeatens by virtue of strong performances across the board from all three phases of the game as they downed the New York Jets, 24-10, in front of a packed Superdome crowd.  

"We knew going into the game that this was going to be just this kind of game," Head Coach Sean Payton said. "We knew it was going to be physical and we challenged the team to rise to the challenge. I think we did that this afternoon."

"Give all the credit to our defense," said QB Drew Brees. "We wanted to run the ball effectively, keep our defense on the sideline and manage the ball and not turn it over. We were balanced and did what we needed to do to win the ballgame."

Two touchdowns by the New Orleans Saints' defense, including a 99-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Darren Sharper and a Remi Ayodele fumble recovery in the end zone sparked the Saints in the first half, with the Saints taking a 17-3 lead into the half. "Those were outstanding and, quite obviously, very big plays," Payton said. "The defense was outstanding."

The Saints limited the high flying Jets to 244 yards of offense, while the Black-and-White fought hard for every inch of the 343 yards they racked up, and put together a drive reminiscent of their conquering march in the fourth quarter of the 2006 NFC Championship game when they mounted an 11-play, 74 yards that bled more than six minutes off the clock and open up the game from a one touchdown affair to a two score ordeal that the Jets would not be able to come back from.

The Saints won the opening coin toss and elected to receive with the Jets electing to defend the Superdome's south end zone. New Orleans accepted the opening kickoff and began at their own 24 yard-line after a 26-yard kickoff return by return specialist Courtney Roby. On the second play of the game, WR Robert Meachem picked up 13 yards on an end around, which set up the Saints for a 13-play, 60 drive that culminated with a 34-yard field goal by John Carney, which gave the Saints a 3-0 lead after 8:06 in the first quarter. Saints QB Drew Brees nearly threaded a third down pass into Reggie Bush in the end zone, but a diving effort by Jets FS Kerry Rhodes resulted in the ball being knocked down at the last instant.

"We knew they were a tough and physical defense," said RB Pierre Thomas, who had over 100 yards from scrimmage for the second week in a row. "We matched their intensity and can keep our chins up, we stepped up."

Thomas Morstead boomed his kickoff into the end zone for a touchback and the Jets set up at their own 20 for their initial possession of the game. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez completed his first two passes of the game, including an 11-yard slant to WR Jerricho Cotchery on the second play from scrimmage. Saints CB Tracy Porter was flagged for a personal foul penalty that moved the football into Saints' territory. CB Jabari Green turned in the Saints' first big play of the day defensively when he ripped the ball away from Cotchery on a slant on a third down, forcing the Jets to punt and forego the long field goal try. Former Saints punter Steve Weatherford pinned the Saints deep in their own territory at their Saints' four-yard line.

LB Bart Scott stopped RB Pierre Thomas for a two-yard loss on first down, which moved the ball back closer to the Saints' end zone. On second down Brees picked up four yards with a completion to TE Jeremy Shockey. On third-and-eight from the Saints' six yard-line the Jets sent S Eric Smith on a blitz that forced Brees to scramble and was unable to connect with WR Devery Henderson. Morstead hit a 43-yard punt that was not returned.

The Jets began their second drive at the Saints' 49 and received a big play when WR Brad Smith, one of the team's options when they went to their Wildcat formation, took an end around for 18 yards. The Jets converted their first third down of the game when Sanchez found Cotchery over the middle for a gain of nine-yards to the Saints' 17. The first quarter ended after Smith picked up two-yards to the Saints' 15.

Sanchez dropped back to pass on a play-action and tried to find TE Dustin Keller in the end zone, but FS Darren Sharper swept in and snared Sanchez's pass and raced untouched 99-yards for the interception score. On the return Sanchez dove at LB Jonathan Vilma's knees and was flagged for a personal foul. The interception return for a touchdown was Sharper's second of the season (at Philadelphia week two), which tied a team-record (Courtney Roby/Mike McKenzie.aspx">Mike McKenzie) and set the team's all-time mark for longest interception return for a touchdown (99 yards). The interception was Sharper's tenth career interception returned for a touchdown and the 58th of his career. The Saints led 10-0 after Sharper's return.

"I think this is a good fit" Sharper said of his addition to the Saints. "The scheme allows us to make plays. It starts up front with our pass rush and those guys got there four times today and we were able to make plays. I sensed where he wanted to go with the ball and was able to get a good break on it."

Roman Harper ended the Jets' next drive with a thunderous hit on Keller in the flat that forced the second-year product to drop the pass that would have been short of the first down marker, regardless. Saints safety Chris Reis nearly blocked Weatherford's punt, but LB Troy Evans was flagged for an illegal hands to the head penalty and the Saints were docked, in essence, a 28 yards and the Saints started at their own 35.

Reggie Bush shook free from a gaggle of defenders at the line of scrimmage and ripped off a 12-yard run, picking up a block from Brees on CB Dwight Lowery along the way. Brees also found Thomas on a screen that went for 35-yards to the Jets' one, but the Saints couldn't punch it into the end zone against the Jets, who stopped the Saints' first and second down rushing attempts, then pressured Brees into incompletions on third and fourth downs.

Thomas Jones tried the middle of the Saints' line and managed two yards. On the next play Smith dropped back and tried to wait for a route to open, but DE Will Smith drilled Sanchez and stripped him of the ball, which DT Remi Ayodele pounced on in the end zone, giving the Saints a 17-0 lead with 9:00 remaining in the second quarter.

The Jets came out and seemed to make a commitment to establishing the running game and perhaps settle Sanchez down. Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene took turns grinding away on carries, with a few of the runs coming out of the wildcat. Sharper stopped Washington on a third-and-two at the Saints' 30, which set up a fourth-and-one, which the Jets' elected to go for and Sanchez picked it up with a bootleg off the left side for a four-yard pickup before Harper pushed him out of bounds. Two three yards plays by the Jets brought up a third-and-four from the Saints' 20. Once again it was CB Jabari Greer who made a big play, this time deflecting a pass intended for Smith away in the end zone, and the Jets settled for a 38-yard field goal, which made the score 17-3 in the Saints' favor.

The Saints started at their own 20 with less than two minutes remaining and with one timeout and picked up a big 17-yard completion on a third-and-five between Brees and Colston but the Saints bogged down near midfield with :43 left and called on Morstead, who hit a high 38-yard punt that was fair caught by S Jim Leonhard at the Jets' 25. The Jets appeared to have ambitions of trying to move the ball, but Charles Grant had other thoughts when he drilled Sanchez for a six-yard sack on first down.

The second half of the game began with the Jets accepting the opening kickoff and the Saints' Roby raced down and dropped Washington at the Jets' 14. DE Charles Grant picked up where he left off with a five-sack sack on Sanchez on first down, the first time in his career he has had back-to-back two sack games. Sanchez play-actioned and found Keller down the seam for a 17-yard gain and Sharper was hit with a 15-yard personal foul penalty for illegal contact (helmet-to-helmet contact). Greer, once more, batted a pass away intended for Cotchery on third-and-seven and forced the Jets to punt, with the ball being fair caught by Bush at the Saints' 14.

The Saints were locked up by the Jets' aggressive defense, batting away two passes intended for Saints receivers downfield and thus were forced to punt on their first possession of the second half.

New York took over at their own 43 yard-line with 11:43 left in the third quarter. Jones picked up six yards on an inside handoff and managed three more on second down. Two Jones runs picked up nine yards and once again the Saints buttonholed the Jets, this time as CB Randall Gay blanketed WR Chansi Stuckey on third down, which forced an incompletion and the Jets to punt. This time, however, the Weatherford punt bounced into the end zone and the Saints started out at their own 20.

The Saints were flagged for a 10-yard holding call on first down but Brees came right back and found Shockey for a gain of 20 yards and a first down. Bush picked up four yards but coughed up the football that was recovered by the Jets at the Saints' 34.

Charles Grant had a pass defensed on first down, followed by a run by Jones. The Jets converted the third down with a quick hitch to Washington in the flat and the fleet-footed product of Florida State picked up 15 yards. On the next play Jones burst through a hole and into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown run that closed the Saints' lead to 17-10 after the extra point.

The Saints' next drive started with runs of 18, seven and 18 yards by Pierre Thomas, which took the ball from the Saints' 20 to the Jets' 45. A five-yard completion between Brees and Shockey picked up five more yards, but the Jets' defense buckled up and stopped the Saints shy of the first down, including a fourth down effort by Thomas on a fourth-and-one. Weatherford hit a 51-yard punt that Bush returned 22-yards.

The Saints picked up a first down when Brees scrambled for a gain of seven yards on a second-and-six. The Saints could not drive past the Jets' 47 and were forced to punt, with Morstead pinning the Jets down at their own 10 with a 36-yard punt.

The Saints then halted the Jets to a three-and-out, courtesy of a huge third down stop by Scott Fujita and DE Bobby McCray on Thomas Jones that forced the Jets to punt. New Orleans took over, leading 17-10, at their own 26 and started with a two yard carry by Thomas. Brees, under duress from the Jets' pass rush hit Bush for a gain of two yards. Then Brees, on a third down, timed a pass in the face of a heavy blitz and found TE Dave Thomas for a gain of 18 yards to the Saints' 48. Thomas then picked up seven yards up the middle, followed by a gain of one yard. On a third-and-two Brees hit WR Lance Moore for a gain of one, as he was stopped shy of the first down markers by a Jets defender. The Saints quickly huddled and appeared to have the first down but the Jets called a time out, their first of the second half. The Saints once again lined up to go for it on fourth down, but Brees drew NT Kris Jenkins off-sides with a hard count and the Saints were awarded the first down, with the ball being advanced to the 37. On second down FB Heath Evans muscled his way for six hard earned yards to the Jets' 31, and after the clock ticked down to 7:41, the Saints took a timeout, their first of the second half. On third down Brees fired a waist-high rocket to Robert Meachem, who darted 19 yards to the Jets' 12. On the next play Brees found Evans in the flat and the Auburn product made a one-handed grab and took the ball down to the Jets' one. On the next play Thomas thundered over the right side of the Saints' line and widened the margin to 24-10 after Carney's extra point.

Sanchez came out firing and hooked up with Cotchery on two intermediate routes, but a huge sack by Will Smith on second down stymied the drive, and Sharper put the nail in the coffin with his second interception of the day when stepped in front of Sanchez's pass at the New York 32.

Thomas went right back to work and pounded out yards and time off the clock. The two-minute warning sounded with the ball at midfield and the crowd roaring their approval.

Randall Gay added a late interception and the Saints simply took a knee to run out the clock and improve to 4-0.

Notes: Inactive players for the Saints were: WR Rod Harper, RB Mike Bell, CB Malcolm Jenkins, LB Robert Meachem/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Remi Ayodele/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Jo-Lonn Dunbar, DT Will Smith/Kendrick Clancy.aspx">Kendrick Clancy, T Jermon Bushrod and TE Darnell Dinkins.

For the visiting Jets: QB Erik Ainge, QB Kevin O'Connell, CB Lito Sheppard, CB Donald Strickland, LB Ryan Fowler, G Matt Slauson, DE Ropati Pitoitua and DT Howard Green.

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