It wasn't the best 60 minutes of football the New Orleans Saints have played this season but it was good enough to defeat the New York Jets 31-19 on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and stay on top of the NFC South with two games left in the season.
The Saints (10-4) were far from sharp as three turnovers, third-down struggles (3 of 10) and penalties (eight for 92 yards) kept them from pulling away from the Jets (5-9), who were playing with backup quarterback Bryce Petty. But the Saints made enough plays to stay on top of the NFC South standings with the Carolina Panthers (10-4), who defeated the Packers on Sunday. The Saints own the tiebreaker with the Panthers as they swept the season series.
The Saints will host the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) next Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome before playing at Tampa Bay on Dec. 31. The Buccaneers (4-9) and Falcons play Monday night.
The Saints scored on their first three possesions to take a 17-7 lead but a Brees interception deep in Saints territory and two fumbles after the catch by receiver Brandon Coleman prevented New Orleans from pulling away. The first Coleman fumble ended a great scoring chance set up by a Craig Robertson interception and 20-yard return.
The Saints defense played well, limiting Petty and the rest of the New York offense for most of the game. Defensive end Cameron Jordan had another outstanding game with pressures and batted passes (four), including one on the Jets' 2-point conversion attempt with 1:51 to play. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore ended the game with his team-leading fourth interception.
New Orleans took control of the game when Brees hit receiver Michael Thomas with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 7:39 to play and then Mark Ingram II's 50-yard touchdown run ended any doubt with 1:33 to play.
Thomas moved over 90 receptions and 1,000 yards for the season Sunday, joining Odell Beckham as the only receivers to have 90 receptions in each of their first two seasons. Thomas had two other touchdowns overturned on replay Sunday.
Ingram, who also scored on a 1-yard run in the first half, moved past the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second consecutive season. Ingram now has a career-high 11 rushing touchdowns this season.
Brees, who passed for 285 yards, is 35 yards away from 70,000 yards passing in his career.
The Saints' other points came on a 10-yard TD reception by Alvin Kamara and a 23-yard Wil Lutz field goal.
Saints tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left the game with a concussion in the first half and guard Larry Warford was injured on the Brees interception. The Jets lost star defensive lineman Leonard Williams to a head injury.
The Saints improved to 6-1 at the Superdome this season with just the Christmas Eve game with the Falcons left on the home regular-season slate.
New Orleans Saints key stats
Drew Brees, 26 of 36 for 285 yards with two TDs and one interception
Mark Ingram, 12 carries for 74 yards with two touchdowns
Michael Thomas, nine catches for 93 yards with one touchdown
New York Jets key stats
Bryce Petty, 19 of 39 for 179 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown
Bilal Powell, 13 carries for 44 yards with one touchdown
Robby Anderson, five catches for 40 yards