A sackby LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar at the New Orleans eight-yard line of Titans QB Jake Locker as time expired, sealed a 22-17 win by the Saints to improve their record to 10-3.
Dunbar's game-winning QB takedown caped off a dramatic back-and-forth contest that had the Saints leading 6-3 at halftime.
"Hard fought game. I thought both teams played hard. It was a gut-check win for us," said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.
Additionally, with the Broncos' 13-10 win over the Bears the Saints secured a playoff berth for the third straight season and fourth time in Payton's six-year tenure.
QB Drew Brees finished the day completing 36 of 47 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Brees has thrown a touchdown in 40 straight games, the second longest streak in NFL history behind Johnny Unitas (47).
RB Chris Ivory led the Saints in rushing with 53 yards on 13 carries (4.1 avg.).
RB Darrens Sproles finished with 151 all-purpose yards (33 receiving, 58 rushing, 18 punt return yards, 42 kickoff return yards.)
WR Marques Colston caught both of Brees' touchdown passes and finished with seven receptions for 105 yards. Graham posted 55 yards on five receptions.
S Malcolm Jenkins led the Saints in tackles with 10 (eight solo).
Following a touchback on the opening kickoff, New Orleans would open with a ten-yard run up the middle. Following a Brees pass to FB Jed Collins for a three-yard gain and a run by Thomas for two, Brees found WR Robert Meachem on a pass play for a 15-yard gain at midfield.
Ivory then ripped off a 25-yard run. Following a 14-yard rush by Sproles, Brees found WR Lance Moore for a one-yard gain. On the next play, T Jermon Bushrod was flagged for an illegal formation penalty. Following the penalty two downs later, the Saints would be forced to settle for a field goal.
With Tennessee Starting at their 17, following a holding penalty on the kickoff, Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck found RB Chris Johnson for a 14-yard gain. However on the next play, the signal-caller handed off to Johnson, who was stopped by DE Will Smith for a one-yard loss. Following a two-yard completion to Johnson and a neutral zone infraction penalty on DE Cameron Jordan, a pass intended for Titans TE Jared Cook was dropped sending the Titans punt unit out.
Following a holding penalty on the punt return, New Orleans started at their ten-yard line, Ivory took a carry up the middle, but was stopped for no gain. On second down, Brees threw to Colston, who gained seven yards. On third-and-three, a throw by Brees to Graham for a six-yard gain converted the first down.
A throw to Thomas resulted in a one-yard gain before he was pushed out of bounds by Titans S Michael Griffin. Brees then found his tight end up the middle for an eight yard gain before he was tackled by Titans TE Chris Hope. Ivory took a carry up the middle for a three-yard gain and the first down. With a fresh set of downs at the 35, Brees completed a pass to Collins, who was forced out of bounds by Tennessee CB Cortland Finnegan for a one-yard gain. Sproles then took a carry for a four-yard gain.
On third and five, Moore made a sure-handed grab at the 47, that resulted in another first down where he was tackled by Titans CB Chris Hawkins. With the fresh set of downs, Brees tossed an incomplete pass intended for Graham who was in coverage. A screen pass for Sproles out of the backfield, would have resulted in a move into Titans territory, but Meachem was assessed a holding penalty. On second and 16, Finnegan had his fingertips on a pass but it was dropped.
On third and 16, a throw to Sproles was for a nine-yard gain and got them back to the Saints 49, but short of the first down, forced the punt unit out. P Thomas Morstead booted a 40-yard punt that was called for a fair catch by Titans PR Marc Mariani at the Titans 11-yard nine.
Johnson was handed the ball and gained two yards in the final play of the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Hasselbeck completed a timing route to Tennessee WR Nate Washington for a 13-yard gain and the first down. However, part of the gain was negated where on the next play, Titans LG Leroy Harris was flagged for a false start penalty.
Johnson carried and was tackled by CB Jabari Greer after gaining four yards. On second-and-12, Hasselbeck dropped back and completed a pass to Johnson for a seven-yard gain before he was tackled in the open field by Dunbar. On third-and-seven, Hasselbeck threw an incomplete pass under pressure, but S Roman Harper was called for a personal foul penalty on the pressure. With the Titans now at the 45, T Michael Roos was called for a false start penalty negating five yards of what was a big gain.
On first-and-15 from the 40, Hasselbeck handed off to RB Javon Ringer, but Harris was called for a holding infraction, moving the Titans back to the 30, setting up first and 25. In what was then a pass out of the backfield to Ringer that looked like a long gain, ended with another 15-yard infraction on Harris for an illegal block in the back. On first and 35, a throw by Hasselbeck was tipped in the air by DT Shaun Rogers.
On the play, the Titans' signal-caller got hurt with his backup and 2011 first round draft pick Jake Locker being inserted into the game. On his first play, he completed a throw to Hawkins for a gain of nine, setting up third and 26. He then completed a throw to Ringer, but would not be enough to move the chains, forcing the punt unit out. Sproles called a fair catch at the 19-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, Brees was assessed a false start penalty. Ivory carried, but was stopped for a loss of two. A Brees pass intended for Graham was broken up in the middle of the field by Titans S Jordan Babineaux. Facing third-and-17, a throw to Graham was bobbled by the tight end, sending the punt unit out. Mariani fielded the punt at the 33 and was brought down by WR Courtney Roby at the 43-yard line.
Locker immediately got to work, completing a long throw to Titans TE Craig Stevens for a 31-yard gain to the New Orleans 26. Johnson then took a handoff, but was stuffed by Harper for a one-yard loss. Johnson took another handoff and gained two yards before being tackled by Rogers and LB Will Herring. On third-and-ten, Locker scrambled and threw in the end zone, but a throw intended for Washington was broken up by Greer, sending Titans K Rob Bironas out to hit a 43-yard field goal.
Following the kickoff, New Orleans would have starting position at their 18. Ivory carried up the middle for a gain of four yards before being tackled by Titans LB Colin McCarthy. Brees then completed a throw to Graham for a gain of two yards. On third-and-five, Hope was called for an illegal contact penalty, when a hit on Moore made it impossible for him to catch the ball. On first-and-ten at the 29, Brees handed off to Ivory, but Collins was called for a holding penalty. On first and 20, Brees was forced to throw the ball away. On second-and-20, Ivory carried for a one-yard gain before he was stopped by Hope. On third-and-19, Brees completed a throw to Thomas, but it was 14 yards short of the first down marker, forcing the punt unit out. Morstead booted a punt for 54 yards, which Mariani returned for eight yards to the 30-yard line before being tackled by DE Jeff Charleston and S Jonathon Amaya.
On his first attempt of the drive, a pass by Locker intended for Williams hit the ground. A second down throw intended for Stevens was defended. Locker completed a throw to Johnson for a 12-yard gain, but it was three-yards short of the third down marker. Sproles fielded the punt at the 16-yard line and returned it to the 31-yard line for a 15-yard return.
Brees then completed a throw to his running back in the middle of the field, and he ran for a big gain, resulting in 20 yards to the Tennessee 49. A throw to Colston, then brought the Saints to the 40 with a nine-yard gain. Brees then found Sproles on another throw, but T Jermon Bushrod was called for a holding penalty. Following the two-minute warning, Brees attempted a long throw to Moore. On third-and-11, Brees found Colston to move the chains at the 36-yard line.
He then completed a throw to Graham, who rambled to the five-yard line for a gain of 33 yards. Following a timeout by the Titans, on first and goal from the five, Brees was sacked by Titans DT Karl Klug for a seven-yard loss. On second and goal from the 12, Brees completed a short throw to Sproles, but he was tackled by Titans CB Alterraun Verner after gaining only one yard. On third and 11, following a New Orleans timeout, the field goal unit would come out after a pass play between the signal-caller and Moore in the end zone was ruled incomplete. Kasay booted a 15-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left in the first half.
The Titans started the second half at their 26 and following successive runs by Johnson for nine-and two-yards and an incomplete throw, Locker threw to Titans WR Lavelle Hawkins, who caught a pass and broke a tackle to advance to the Saints 48. Johnson took another handoff and gained four yards before being tackled by Smith. A second down pass intended for Hawkins caught him sleeping though and Greer nearly stepped in front of it. At third-and-six from the 44, a throw to WR Damien Williams was broken up by CB Patrick Robinson, sending the punt unit out.
Starting at the ten, Brees completed a pass to Thomas for a gain of six yards. He then handed off to Ivory, who was tackled by Titans LB Will Witherspoon after gaining only one yard. On third-and-three, Brees and Colston converted on a pass play for a gain of four yards. Ivory then carried up the middle for two yards. Brees then completed a throw to Colston for a gain of 11 yards for the duo to move the chains for the second time on the drive.
A pass to Thomas was snuffed out by Griffin though for a loss of two. On second down, Sproles ran right for a gain of three yards before he was stopped by McCarthy. Brees converted again though for the third consecutive third down, on a 19-yard throw to WR Devery Henderson. Ivory then carried, but was stopped for no gain by Titans LB Akeem Ayers and DE Dave Ball, with the rookie linebacker shaken up on the play. Brees then took his time and completed a pass to Thomas who rambled for a 23-yard gain to the Titans 23. Sproles then took a handoff for a 13-yard gain to the ten.
Thomas took a carry up the middle for a gain of three. A completion to Sproles, advanced the Saints to the four-yard line, setting up third-and-goal. Graham caught Brees' throw in the end zone and he was ruled out of bounds, but Payton challenged the ruling, but following replay review, it stood. Kasay kicked a 22-yard field goal to put the Saints up by six.
The Titans would have starting position at their 22-yard line. A throw intended for Williams was broken up at the line of scrimmage by Jordan. On second-and-ten, Locker took the carry before he was forced out of bounds by S Malcolm Jenkins at the 35.
Locker then made a long throw intended for Stevens, that was short under pressure. His second down throw was dropped by Johnson in the flat. A throw was then completed in the flat to Williams for a long gain, before he was dropped by S Roman Harper, who was also assessed a personal foul facemask penalty to place the ball at the New Orleans six-yard line.
Locker then rolled out and hit the pylon for a six-yard touchdown run to give Titans their first lead of the contest following the extra point.
Sproles would run the kickoff out of the end zone to the 23-yard line. Following a Titans offsides penalty, New Orleans would begin at their 28.
Brees started the drive with a completion to Moore to the 35, before he was pushed out of bounds by Verner after a seven-yard gain. On second down, Thomas gained only two yards before he was tackled by Griffin. Brees sneaked for the first down.
With a fresh set of downs at the 39, Brees completed a pass to Henderson for a gain of 12 to the Tennessee 49. A completion to TE John Gilmore in the first play of the fourth quarter resulted in nine-yard gain. Thomas then took advantage of a solid effort by the Saints offensive line to push the pile for the first down at the 39.
Sproles then took a carry and was tackled by Ball for a loss of two at the 41. On second-and-12, Brees completed a throw to Graham at the 35-yard line before he was tackled by Finnegan. On third-and-six at the 36-yard line, Brees found a wide open Colston in the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown.
Following a three-and-out, helped by a sack by Smith, New Orleans would start at midfield following the punt, but would be pushed back to the 40, by an offensive pass interference penalty. A completion to Sproles for a 12-yard gain, would set up second-and-eight.
Brees then completed a throw to Thomas for another three yards. Henderson then caught a pass for a five-yard gain to move the chains at the 39. Thomas, Brees and Ivory each had successive carries to convert another first down at the 28. The signal-caller then completed a 28-yard throw to Colston in the end zone. Thomas failed to convert the two-pointer on the rush, giving New Orleans a 22-10 lead.
The Titans would move to within five points quickly on a three-play, 65-yard drive, engineered by Locker, ending with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Washington.
New Orleans would start at their 20 and Brees would immediately get to work with a six-yard completion to Moore before he was forced out of bounds by Finnegan. A second down pass attempt to Henderson was incomplete, followed by a sack by Klug, sending Morstead and the punt unit out. Following the punt, the Titans would have starting position at their 35.
Locker scrambled when he didn't find anything downfield on first down and gained two yards before he was chased out of bounds by Dunbar. On second down, he completed a crossing route to Washington, who was pushed out of bounds by Jenkins at the New Orleans 45. A pass intended for Williams was broken up by Dunbar. A second down throw intended for Williams, was incomplete, broken up by Robinson. On third-and-ten, a throw was completed to Washington, who was tackled by Greer and LB Jonathan Vilma at the 35-yard line, setting up fourth-and-one. Johnson took the handoff and carried to the 33 for the first down before he was forced out of bounds by Jenkins. On the next play, Locker was hit by CB Tracy Porter and it appeared he had fumbled and was recovered, but following a Tennessee challenge, it was ruled an incomplete pass. Locker was hurt on the play and Hasselbeck was taped up and forced to return to the contest. The signal-caller completed a screen to Johnson who gained nine yards, setting up third and one, before he was tackled by Jenkins. Hasselbeck then overthrew Washington on third down, setting up fourth and one. Locker returned to the game and tried the quarterback keeper, but was stopped by Rogers up the middle, giving New Orleans the ball back.
Following a 14-yard run by Ivory, New Orleans failed to convert and the Titans called two timeouts, giving Tennessee first-and-ten at their 20 with 1:40 left. Locker quickly completed throws to Washington and Hawkins for first downs, but Johnson then took a carry and was stopped for no gain.
However, Locker then completed a 40-yard throw to Washington, setting up first and goal at the five. Following the spike, there was second down and goal at the five with seven seconds left. A quick throw by Locker intended for Mariani was broken up by Porter. On the final play of the game, Locker was sacked by Dunbar to end the contest.