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John DeShazier: C.J. Spiller gives Saints first taste of his game-changing ability

80-yard catch-and-run for TD wins game for New Orleans

It wasn't a ruse, misdirection, okey-doke or deception.

It wasn't smoke for the opposition to consume to have it chasing a mirage.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton was cold-sober serious when he said he would get C.J. Spiller more snaps and touches. Good thing for New Orleans that he was.

Spiller's seventh touch was heavenly for the Saints on Sunday night, an 80-yard, catch-and-jet touchdown pass from Drew Brees that was the 400th of Brees' career, and handed New Orleans a 26-20 overtime victory over Dallas in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The win ended at six New Orleans' home losing streak, which dated to last season, and extended to eight the Saints' streak of winning Sunday night home games.

Brees connected with Spiller on a quick vertical route, Spiller stiff-armed one defender and easily outran another down the right sideline to the end zone, and most of the 73,009 fans in attendance gave their deafening approval as the Saints (1-3) ended the first quarter of the season with their first victory, over the Cowboys (2-2).

"When we called it and I lined up and I saw they were having a problem, I kind of figured there would probably be one guy to make miss," Spiller said. "Fortunately enough, I was able to do that. I looked up at the Jumbotron and made sure there was nobody coming."

No matter how quickly they were coming, Spiller was going faster. And for the Saints, perhaps, it was an especially gratifying ending.

They scored 13 seconds into overtime, on second-and-10 following an incompletion, after failing to close the deal in regulation when Zach Hocker's 30-yard field-goal attempt caromed off the left upright with 12 seconds left.

"You get the two-minute drive and you move yourself into position and you're not able to hit the field goal, that can take the wind out of your sails. I'm proud of our guys for the win," Payton said. "It wasn't a perfect or clean game by any means and yet, we made enough plays.

"One of the challenges with their defense is they do a good job of getting into a down-safety defense. We caught them in a man-to-man on the last play. I think they just, in a way, struggled getting aligned and Drew was smart enough to snap it quickly.

"We were in a four-vertical route, it's kind of a play that stems off of one we had run earlier. The tackle (Spiller) breaks against the safety was huge. It was a great play."

It was the kind of play the Saints envisioned Spiller making when he signed as a free agent after spending his first five seasons with Buffalo. Game-altering plays – as a runner, receiver or returner – were Spiller's forte then, and now.

"That was one where we had a vertical route called for C.J. and felt like if we caught them in a man (-to-man coverage) again, if there was any confusion, we'd have a big play," Brees said. "And sure enough, we did.

"Just tried to keep the safety in the middle of the field, put it up to C.J. and let him go do the rest. If C.J. gets behind anybody, he's the fastest guy on the field so no one is going to catch him."

Brees was just as masterful as Spiller was sudden, carving up the Cowboys as if he hadn't missed the previous game due to a bruised right rotator cuff. He completed 33 of 41 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. And in addition to throwing his 400th touchdown, his 399th touchdown – a 3-yarder to tight end Josh Hill in the first quarter – was his 5,000th career completion.

The final connection with Spiller (five catches for 99 yards and the touchdown, and two carries for 10 yards) gave the Saints at taste of what they routinely hope to consume.

"You keep putting a guy in position to utilize his strengths and eventually, one hits," Brees said. "I think that's about being patient. You're not going to call it and it works every time, there are times where there's one or two. But if he's drawing a lot of attention there are other places to go."

Said Spiller: "I wasn't worried about how many times I was touching it throughout the game. I was just making sure that I was keeping my legs loose, and also encouraging (fellow running backs) Mark (Ingram) and Khiry (Robinson) and the other guys."

Spiller gave the game-winner – No. 400 – to Brees.

"I ran up to him, I said, 'This is your ball, brother. You deserve it,' " Spiller said. "He's probably the best teammate that I've ever played with, just from his work ethic, his preparation, the way that he believes in his guys, the way he goes out and competes each and every play."

None of the Saints could afford to lose their competitive fire Sunday night.

The Saints led 20-13 on Robinson's 1-yard touchdown run with 7:58 left and forced Dallas into a three-and-out on the Cowboys' next possession. But after the Saints were forced to punt and Hocker's 43-yard punt pinned the Cowboys at their 9 (Saints punter Thomas Morstead was injured in the first half), Dallas used nine plays and tied the score on Brandon Weeden's 17-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams with 1:51 left.

New Orleans then drove from its 20 to the Dallas 12 in seven plays before Hocker missed the potential game-winner.

"We're fortunate to avoid losing a game like that when you miss a pretty makeable field goal," Payton said. "We're setting it up to get it on the left hash, all the spots that we feel we're comfortable kicking.

"We've got to clean up that operation, because it's three now – snap one time, hold one time, kick. Or we're going to have to start going for two when it comes to PATs. We'll look at that when we get started up this week."

Brees, though, considered the miss to be an opportunity.

"As that ball is kind of bouncing off the left upright, I'm thinking to myself, 'This is not the way that God has intended us to win this game,' " Bree said. "He's got another plan, but I know we're going to go here and win it.'

"Before we went out, I did kind of think to myself – and this rarely happens – but I did think to myself, 'Maybe God intended No. 400 to be the one that wins this game.' And thanks to C.J. Spiller, that happened."

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