The Saints (5-5) put together their most dominating performance on offense, defense and special teams to produce their fifth victory in the last six games and their third straight win, defeating the Oakland Raiders 38-17, at the O.co Coliseum. The win – delivered by the club's most efficient effort to date in all three phases – improved the Saints to 5-5, pushing New Orleans into the thick of the NFC playoff race after opening the 2012 season at 0-4.
They return to the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on one of the NFC's best and hottest teams: the 7-2-1 49ers, the club that defeated the Saints in the 2011 playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship. The 49ers have also come on lately, not having posted a loss in their last four contests to lead the NFC West. On Monday night, San Francisco surged past the Chicago Bears in a 32-7 romp at Candlestick Park.
"At 0-4 our team stuck together," said Saints assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt. "They worked hard every day and never pointed fingers. They just continued to try to improve every day. It's paying dividends for us now as we continue to look forward."
Last Sunday's win featured another balanced performance on offense with no turnovers. The running game put up 153 yards on the ground led by RB Mark Ingram, who carried 12 times for 67 yards (5.6 avg.) with a 27-yard TD. QB Drew Breeswas nearly flawless, completing 20-of-27 passes for 219 yards with three TDs and a 134.6 passer rating. Two of his touchdowns went to WR Lance Moore, while the third went to TE Jimmy Grahamin the first quarter to stake out an early 7-0 lead they held.
The defense harassed Oakland QB Carson Palmerall afternoon, forcing him to throw two interceptions and sacking him three times. S Malcolm Jenkinspicked off a Palmer pass and returned it 55 yards for a TD. S Roman Harperlater recorded a pick in the end zone, as New Orleans made another impressive stop of an opponent inside the ten-yard line. Harper led the defense with 11 stops (nine solo). DT Tom Johnson, DE Will Smithand LB Jonathan Vilmaalso each recorded one sack apiece.
New Orleans special teams were also nearly flaw-less. RB Travaris Cadethandled brought back a kickoff 75 yards to open the second half, setting up Ingram's 27-yard touchdown run one play later. The coverage units were outstanding, as WR and special teams captain Courtney Robymade a season-high three tackles.