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John DeShazier: Drew Brees was decisive, surgical in picking apart Jaguars defense

Foot wasn't an issues as Brees threw for more than 400 yards for 13th time

In a span of six days, Drew Brees moved from wearing a walking boot to help stem the pain from a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, to helping the New Orleans Saints step over Jacksonville in their home finale for the 2015 season.

Brees wasn't hobbled, limited, compromised or minimized by the injury, or the abbreviated rehabilitation of it due to a work week that was shortened by a Monday night-Sunday afternoon double.

What he was Sunday, against the Jaguars in a 38-27 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, was precisely what he has been for the overwhelming majority of the 10 seasons he has been a Saint: coolly efficient, bordering on surgical, in the kind of performance Saints fans have come to expect more often than not.

He completed 25 of 36 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, leading the Saints' 537-yard offensive brigade.

New Orleans (6-9) equally was effective defensively early on, forcing two punts and coming up with interceptions by defensive lineman Bobby Richardson and cornerback Delvin Breaux, and a sack by safety Kenny Vaccaro, in Jacksonville's first four possessions.

The Saints held the Jaguars (5-10) to 105 yards in the first half and Breaux (an interception, four passes defensed and four tackles) and Vaccaro (two sacks for minus-21 yards, two tackles for loss, two hurries and three tackles) shone defensively.

On offense, second-year receiver Brandin Cooks caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, and topped the 1,000-yard mark in a season for the first time. And running back Tim Hightower had his second standout performance in three games, with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

But Brees commanded the storyline, much as he had all week while the question centered on whether he would play.

Turns out, the answer was provided much sooner than anyone outside the locker room knew.

"When he practiced on Friday, that was the point when we felt like he was going to be able to go," Coach Sean Payton said. "He took a good portion of the reps. He tried to get in a little bit more of shotgun look."

Sunday, he took aim at Jacksonville's secondary and recorded his 13th game of 400 or more passing yards, tied with Dan Marino for second all-time behind Peyton Manning's 14.

"Things progressively got better as the week of practice went on," Brees said. "A lot of the question was just going to be mobility, how much was I going to be able to move around and avoid and do different things. I felt like, for the most part, the guys up front did a fantastic job. There wasn't a lot required (in mobility).

"The only thing you could really draw a parallel to is when you have one of your senses taken away from you, it seems like all the other senses are heightened. So, like they say, someone who can't see, if you close your eyes all of a sudden your hearing and your sense of smell goes way up. If you can't hear, all of a sudden maybe your sense of sight and certain things go way up.

"You take away something like that, all of a sudden everything else maybe becomes a bit more heightened. I think, two, you have strict parameters as to what you can and cannot do as far as mobility. For me, not that it changes the way you play the game, but it makes things much more defined, it makes you more decisive."

Brees, and the Saints, were extremely decisive.

On the game's opening drive, facing fourth-and-5 from the Jacksonville 43-yard line, he hooked up with Cooks on a 23-yard catch-and-run. To end the drive, he laced a 17-yard, back-shoulder throw to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for a touchdown just 4:27 into the game.

On the Saints' next drive, facing second-and-21 from their own 29 thanks, in large part, to a couple of holding penalties on Hoomanawanui, Cooks took the top off Jacksonville's defense and Brees found him streaking behind the secondary, their 71-yard touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first quarter giving New Orleans a 14-0 lead and its second-longest touchdown of the season.

"A guy like that, if it's not broken, if he can walk he's going to play," Cooks said. "That's just what type of guy he is. I didn't have any other doubt than for him to come out and have a great game the way he did."

The 14-0 lead was carried into the second quarter, where the drive that Jacksonville began in the first quarter ended on Breaux's acrobatic deflection of a Blake Bortles pass intended for Allen Robinson. The carom flew back toward the line of scrimmage, and a hustling Richardson – a rookie free agent – caught it and returned it 13 yards, to the Jaguars' 43-yard line.

Hightower carried three times for 10 yards, the Jags were penalized for lining up offside and after Brees and Hightower combined on a 27-yard screen pass to get the ball to the 1, Hightower crashed into the end zone off right guard for the touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 10:37 left in the first half.

The teams exchanged punts before Breaux ended the Jags' next drive with his third interception of the season and second big play of the day against Bortles, on first-and-10 from the Jacksonville 32-yard line.

The Saints' next drive began at the 46, stalled at the 19 and was cashed in on Kai Forbath's 37-yard field goal with 3:56 left, giving New Orleans a 24-0 lead.

Jacksonville scored touchdowns on two of its next three possessions to pull to within 24-13, only to have the Saints answer the run with a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended on Brees' 44-yard pass to Travaris Cadet.

The 31-13 gap lasted 40 seconds – the time it took for Jacksonville to take a touchback on the kickoff, be penalized 10 yards for holding on first down, and Bortles to find Robinson deep down the left sideline for a 90-yard touchdown connection.

But New Orleans responded again, with its most methodical march of the game – 13 plays, 88 yards, 6:50 in time of possession, ending on Hightower's 5-yard run with 12:59 left.

Now, the Saints prepare for the season finale on the road, against the Falcons (8-7) n the Georgia Dome, with a positive result to build off.

"There are a lot of guys battling stuff," Brees said. "It says a lot about our team, our guys.

"People might say we have nothing to play for as far as playoffs and such, but we've got a lot to play for. I think we're continuing to come together. We're continuing to build what is going to be a great team for years to come."

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