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3 things we learned about the Saints

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The Sports Xchange

INDIANAPOLIS — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints may finally be figuring things out after beginning their season with three consecutive losses.

And in the process, the Saints continue to make life miserable for the struggling Indianapolis Colts, who have fallen below .500 while continuing to lead the weak AFC South.

Brees, who played college football 65 miles north of Lucas Oil Stadium at Purdue, completed 28 of 44 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and New Orleans defeated the Colts 27-21.

Beginning with the 1986 season, the Saints (3-4) are 8-2 against Indianapolis (3-4), including a 31-17 Super Bowl victory on Feb. 7, 2010, in Miami. New Orleans also defeated the Colts 62-7 during the 2011 regular season in New Orleans.

“I felt like we flipped the field on them a few times, in other words, we would get pinned back and then march it out to the 50,” Brees said. “Then, even if you are punting, they are getting the ball inside their 20 or their 10. That helped us a lot.

“Then the other thing was that we took our first possession of the third quarter, and we go right down and score and make it 27-0. After that, we were outscored 21-0, and that part of the game does not sit well with me or anyone else on the team, but we got the win.”

New Orleans coach Sean Payton credited his team’s defense, which kept the Colts off the scoreboard until 3:42 remained in the third quarter. At that point, the Saints had a 27-point lead.

“Our defense was well prepared,” Payton said. “Playing this offense was a tremendous challenge. I didn’t like the way we played in the final two minutes of the first half when we lost a touchdown to an offensive pass interference penalty and missed a couple of other plays.

“But this is a tough place to play, and you have to tip your hat to Indianapolis for fighting back the way they did. This is a big win.”

What we learned about the Saints:

1. After beginning the season with losses to the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, the Saints, according to quarterback Drew Brees, located an offensive and defensive identity. New Orleans has won three of the past four games, beating the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta and Indianapolis by a collective 22 points. That identity is mixing the run with Brees’ passing and mixing pass coverages, which on Sunday confused Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for the games’ first 42 minutes.

2. Coach Sean Payton continues to be willing to take risks on special teams. Late in the first quarter in a scoreless game, the Saints lined up for a field goal from the Colts’ 26-yard line, but holder Luke McCown, the backup quarterback, threw a 25-yard pass to tight end Ben Watson, moving the ball to the 1 and setting up a touchdown carry by running back Khiry Robinson.

3. The Saints may be improving, but they continue to make too many penalties. New Orleans lost 100 yards on 12 infractions Sunday, including an offensive pass interference penalty in the end zone against tight end Josh Hill, a call that negated a touchdown pass that would have given New Orleans a four-touchdown halftime lead instead of a 20-0 margin.

Etc.

–QB Drew Brees completed 28 passes in 44 attempts for 255 yards and a touchdown. Through seven games this season, he has completed 171 of 243 passes for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns, 267.3 yards per game.

–RB Mark Ingram produced 143 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against the Colts. He has 102 carries for a team-leading 450 yards and five TDs on the year. His 44-yard run Sunday was a season best.

–WR Brandin Cooks made a team-best six catches for 81 yards Sunday. He has 35 catches for 444 yards and one touchdown this year.


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