But a one-yard touchdown dive by Drew Brees gave the Saints life, hope and all sorts of momentum. The Saints scored 37 points in the second half, including two interception returns, one by Darren Sharper early in the fourth quarter and a late interception return by Tracy Porter iced the sixth win of the season for the Saints.
Drew Brees overcame three interceptions and a fumble to lead to the Saints to the largest comeback since 1987 when they also came back from a 24-3 hole. This time Brees and every Saint contributed mightily in the team's thrilling, and un-probable victory. Brees was just two yards shy of a 300-yard game, but it was the Saints' defense and rushing attack that saved the day for the Black-and-Gold.
"There were a lot of things that we didn't do well in the first half," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "But that's because Miami did a lot of things and played very well in the first half. We talked at halftime about playing four quarters. I was proud of the way we responded."
"It was the first chance for us to play from a deficit and I was encouraged with how we responded," Payton added.
LB Scott Shanle, who had six tackles and a key fumble recovery in the second half, added "I think it's a testament to the character of this team. We never quit, we just kept fighting and believed we could win the game. Things didn't look good there but we kep battling. It's a good win."
RB Mike Bell was a catalyst in the second half, with 12 carries for 80 yards, while Jeremy Shockey had his biggest day as a Saint with four receptions for 105 yards. Brees added two rushing scores, Reggie Bush one and Marques Colston also had one for the Saints' offense, while Darren Sharper and Tracy Porter each had one for the defense, and the Saints figured out the wildcat formation and forced Chad Henne into having to try to make plays to win for the Dolphins.
The Saints accepted the opening kickoff and despite starting the drive with a 14-yard completion from Brees to Marques Colston, the Saints' drive stalled near midfield, in large part due to an illegal procedure infraction on a third down.
Miami started their initial drive with advantageous field position at their own 30. QB Chad Henne came out and connected on a six-yard pass to WR Ted Ginn. Roman Harper came up in run support on second down and met RB Ronnie Brown for no gain. Henne converted his first third down with an eight-yard completion to WR Davone Bess. The pass was ruled a completion directly in front of Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, who immediately challenged the ruling, saying that the football was moving as Bess landed on the field. Referee John Parry said the instant replay system was malfunctioning and thus the play could not be challenged despite replays that were shown in the stadium that clearly showed the football hitting the turf.
Miami employed the Wildcat formation on back-to-back downs and picked up nine yards, and converted a third-and-one on a short yardage run by FB Lousaka Polite. Henne hit RB Ricky Williams for a short completion in the flat before being slung out of bounds by LB Scott Shanle. Second and third down pass attempts were incomplete and the Dolphins were forced to punt.
The Saints started their second possession of the game at their own seven yard-line but were victimized by a false start infraction before they could even get started and then were hit with a delay of game penalty that moved the ball back to the Saints' two yard-line. A first down pass to TE Dave Thomas didn't connect and a second down run by FB Pierre Thomas/Heath Evans.aspx">Heath Evans picked up two yards. On a third-and-13 from the four Brees was intercepted by S Tyrone Culver, who returned the football 23 yards to the Saints' 4.
On the next play, Williams, running out of the Wildcat formation, went over the right side of the Dolphins' line for the opening score. The score marked the first time that the Saints trailed in 2009, a streak that lasted 307:40 minutes.
Return man Courtney Roby ripped off an 87-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff, very narrowly getting tripped up by a diving Dolphins special teammer. The Saints lost five yards on a screen pass to Evans on first down and Reggie Bush picked up two yards on second down trying the left side of the line. Brees was sacked by a blitzing Yeremiah Bell on third-and-long, which prompted John Carney to hit a 46-yard field goal. The field goal gave Carney 2,000 career points and he became just the fourth-player in NFL history to reach the milestone. The score at the time was 7-3.
Miami widened the lead to 14-3 when Williams took a toss over the left end and found a crease and raced 68 yards for a touchdown, the longest touchdown run of his Dolphins career. The first quarter concluded with the Dolphins in control of the football on the Saints' 38 and with a first-and-ten. LB Jonathan Vilma raced into the backfield and dropped QB Pat White for a three-yard loss, but Henne came back and found WR Greg Camarillo for a 24-yard completion on second down. Vilma tackled Brown for a three-yard loss on first down, then a host of Saints defenders stopped Brown for another loss on second down and the Saints halted the Dolphins on third down and forced a 32-yard field goal attempt by Dan Carpenter, which he converted to increase Miami's lead to 17-3 with 11:21 left in the second quarter.
The Saints again were victimized by a turnover when Brees' third down pass from his own 22 with tipped and intercepted by LB Reggie Torbor at the Saints' 19. Miami ran three consecutive plays and took a 24-3 lead on an eight-yard touchdown run over the right side of their line by RB Ronnie Brown.
The Saints picked up 15 yards combined by two runs by Pierre Thomas and then Brees found Colston for a gain of 24 yards, taking the ball into Miami territory. Brees, however, was sacked on a second down by DE/LB Jason Taylor, although C Jonathan Goodwin recovered the ball at Miami 41. Carney came on to try a 50-yard field goal but pulled it left and the Dolphins took possession at their own 40 with 5:13 left in the first half. The Saints defense stopped the Dolphins on three downs and forced the Dolphins to punt.
The Saints couldn't do anything with the ball, once again succumbing to a safety blitz by Yeremiah Bell on third down that forced the Saints to punt. The Saints' forced their first turnover of the game when Roman Harper stripped Bess of the ball and it was recovered by Scott Shanle at midfield.
Brees hit WR Lance Moore for a seven-yard gain on first down then picked up a first down with a quick out to Reggie Bush on third down. Brees then hit TE Jeremy Shockey on a crossing route for a gain of nine yards to the Miami 25, where they called their last timeout with :35 remaining in the half. On a third-and-six from the 21, Brees hit Colston at the goal line with :05 left for a gain of 20 yards and despite originally being ruled a touchdown by the side judge, instant replay said that the ball was down at half yard line. The Saints' field goal unit was on the field prepared for the clock to be set and the Dolphins quickly called their final timeout. The Saints then sent their goal-line package into the game and Brees scored his first rushing touchdown since November 25, 2007 at Carolina for just his second rushing score as a member of the Saints. The score at the half was 24-10 in favor of the Dolphins.
Tracy Porter tipped a third down pass from Henne intended for Camillaro and Darren Sharper raced in to grab the ball out of the air and bolted down the sideline for a touchdown (42 yards return). The Dolphins' coaching staff challenged whether Sharper retained possession of the ball as he crossed the goal-line. After the review the ruling on the field stood for Sharper's 11th career interception return for a touchdown and the Saints were within seven points, 24-17, with 13:56 left in the third quarter. Sharper's 42-yard interception was the sixth of the season for Sharper, his 60th career interception and moved him past Deion Sanders on the all-time interception return list.
The Saints, behind Hargrove's second sack of the day, stopped the Dolphins on a three and out and forced the home team to punt, with the Saints taking over at their own 35. A run by Reggie Bush for three yards began the drive, then two plays later Brees found time to step up in the pocket and hit WR Devery Henderson for a 35-yard completion to the Miami 25. A first down incompletion and a loss of one yard brought up a third-and-11 and Brees appeared to find Colston at the goal-line, but a nifty play was turned in by CB Nathan Jones, who was able to strip the ball from Colston as the receiver was falling to the ground for a touchback and Miami started at their own 20.
The Saints snuffed out the Wildcat when Vilma and Grant stopped Brown on a third down and forced the Dolphins to once again punt. The Saints took over at their own 20 with 8:12 left in the third quarter, trailing 24-17.
Brees was sacked by a host of Dolphins defenders on second down and then was stripped of the ball on a third down scramble in the pocket which the Dolphins recovered at the Saints' 16. The Saints defense didn't allow a yard, though, and the Dolphins were forced to convert a 33-yard field goal by Carpenter that gave them a 27-17 lead with 5:59 left in the third quarter.
Mike Bell entered the game for the Saints and ripped off a 35-yard run, then followed it up with a hard-charging tackle breaking five yard run. Henderson took a end around for 13-yard to the Miami 29 and then Thomas picked up six yards behind left guard. Brees found Lance Moore in the flat for a gain of 11 yards to the Miami 12. Thomas then plied the middle of the line for a gain of two yards on first down and a pass to Bush on second down didn't pick up a yard. On third down Brees rolled to his right and found Colston wide open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, that brought the Saints to within a field goal, 27-24. The extra point by Carney moved him into sole possession of third place on the NFL's all-time scoring list (2,003 points).
The Dolphins turned in a big play of their own when Henne found rookie WR Brian Hartline for a 67-yard completion on a quick slant and one play later Ricky Williams scored a touchdown from four-yards out. Following Carpenter's extra point the Dolphins lead 34-24.
Brees hit Shockey for a 66-yard gain, as Shockey got into the open field and proceeded to stiff-arm a would be tackler down the numbers to the Dolphins 23. On the next play the Saints hit the Dolphins on a double-reverse with Bush taking the ball 10 yards into the end zone and closing the score to within 34-31 in the Dolphins' favor.
The Saints' defense stopped the Dolphins on a three-and-out after Bush's score and forced a Miami punt. The Saints started at their own 40 with 12:52 left in the game, trailing by three points. Bell worked through the left side of the offensive line for a four-yard gain then came right back with a cutback run that picked up seven yards and a first down at the Dolphins' 49. Brees then used a play-action fake to find Shockey over the middle for a gain of 16 yards and another first down at the Miami 33. Bell was stopped after a gain of two yards and on second down and long Brees found Shockey for a gain of 14 yards, which put Shockey over the 100-yard mark for the afternoon, his first 100-yard game as a Saint. Bell then picked up seven yards and Brees hit Pierre Thomas/Heath Evans.aspx">Heath Evans for a gain of eight yards to the Miami two and a first down. Evans was shaken up on the play and walked to the sideline gingerly. On the next play Brees, without a nose tackle, took the snap and dove into the end zone. Carney's extra point was errant, as it appeared that Brunell had an issue getting the long snap down. The Saints led 37-34, their first lead of the game, with 8:35 left.
The Saints' defense once again stopped the Dolphins on a three-and-out, with the Dolphins throwing three incompletions in a row. The home team punted the ball away, which Bush fielded and returned to the Saints' 34 with 8:01 left in the game.
Bell burst through the middle for a gain of four yards, which LB Joey Porter helped out with by getting docked 15 yards for a personal foul penalty. Following another Bell run, Brees spotted Henderson in single coverage for a gain of 21 yards to the Miami 23. Bell then hammered it over the right side for a gain of six yards. A second down pass just nicked off of Shockey's fingertips. On third down Brees was pressured and found Bush in the flat, who jitterbugged his way for an 11-yard gain to the six. On the next play Bell returned to action and pounded his way to the two for a four-yard gain. Bell was stacked up on the next play for no gain and the Saints let the clock tick down to 3:31 before calling their first timeout. Brees and Colston couldn't quite connect on third down and the Saints called upon Carney to boot a 20-yard field goal that widened the Saints' lead to 40-34 with 3:23 left.
Miami took over at their own 20 and picked up a third down conversion when Henne hit Camillaro for a 14-yard gain. On the next play Camillaro caught a pass and attempted to stop the clock by tossing the ball out of bounds as he was being tackled. He was docked five yards and a loss of down, and on second down Williams dropped a short pass in the flat. On third-and-nine from the 46 Dolphins C Jake Grove was flagged for illegal procedure which brought up a third and 14, which Henne overthrew. On fourth down Randall Gay blitzed Henne, who tossed it up and was intercepted by CB Tracy Porter, who raced down the sideline untouched 54-yards for a touchdown that put the Saints ahead 46-34 with 1:53. The Saints went for two but failed to convert it.
Notes: Saints tight end Darnell Dinkins made his debut this afternoon. Dinkins, a 6-4, 260 pounds, is an eighth-year veteran who was signed by the Saints as an unrestricted free agent this past off-season. Dinkins was injured with a foot injury the first month and a half of the season…RT Jon Stinchcomb needed some assistance in leaving the field in the second quarter but returned on the next series … DT Sedrick Ellis had his ankle rolled over in the second quarter and needed help from the Saints' medical department in getting off the field. It was determined that Ellis suffered a sprain of his right knee and would not return to action this afternoon…DT Anthony Hargrove recorded his first sack as a Saint in the second quarter, tracking down Chad Henne for a seven-yard loss John Carney moved into a tie for third place on the NFL's all-time scoring list with 2,002 points on the extra point following Darren Sharper's interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter…Carney moved in sole possession of third place on the NFL's record books in the third quarter, passing Blanda… Shockey's 66-yard reception in the fourth quarter was his longest career reception.
The temperature at kickoff was 89 degrees with scattered clouds.
Inactives for the Saints: QB Chase Daniel, K Garrett Hartley, CB Leigh Torrence, CB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Lynell Hamilton, LB Scott Fujita, C Nick Leckey and DT Will Smith/Kendrick Clancy.aspx">Kendrick Clancy.
The inactive players for the Dolphins: QB Tyler Thigpen, RB Cory Sheets, T Andrew Gardner, DE Lionel Dotson, T Lydon Murtha, TE John Nalbone and LB Quentin Moses.
Photos from the New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins game in week 7 of the 2009 NFL season.