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3 things we learned about the Saints

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NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees has played video-game football before, but by throwing for 511 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns in the New Orleans Saints’ 52-49 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, Brees showed the rest of the NFL what pure beast mode look like.

Brees tied an NFL record with his seven touchdown throws, and he and Giants quarterback Eli Manning (30 of 41 for 350 yards and six TDs) combined for an NFL-record 13 scoring passes. However, it was placekicker Kai Forbath who decided the outcome by nailing a 50-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Saints, who started the season 1-4, to their third consecutive victory.

“I’ve never been a part of something like that,” said Brees, who led the Saints on a 14-play, 80-yard march in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 49 with a 9-yard scoring pass to running back C.J. Spiller. “When you reflect on it, it’s pretty wild, with that much scoring and that many yards on both sides. We were just in the flow of the game. Every time we got the ball, it was just a sense of urgency, being efficient and going down and scoring points.”

The Saints rolled up 614 yards and 36 first downs and had six touchdown drives of at least 80 yards against the Giants. But it took a wild sequence in the final 36 seconds to set up the improbable victory after New York had rallied from a 42-28 deficit to take a 49-42 lead with 21 fourth-quarter points.

With the game tied 49-49, the Giants took over at their 20-yard line with 36 seconds remaining. They gained 5 yards in three plays — using a pair of timeouts — and Brad Wing was forced to punt with 20 seconds left.

The Giants didn’t instruct Wing to punt out of bounds, and Saints’ returner Marcus Murphy fielded the 46-yard punt near the left sidelines and returned it 24 yards to the Giants’ 47, where he was hit and coughed up the ball.

Saints wide receiver Willie Snead alertly hauled in the fumble in mid-air, but on the tackle, Wing grabbed Snead’s facemask, drawing a flag with five seconds remaining.

After the officials huddled, referee Craig Wrolstad initially waved off the flag, meaning the Saints would have the ball near midfield with time for a Hail Mary pass. But Wrolstad then enforced the original facemask call, moving the ball to the Giants’ 32. That set up Forbath for the game-winner.

“He was outstanding,” said New Orleans coach Sean Payton of Forbath, signed just three weeks ago. “Brees had seven touchdowns, and we told them the game ball was going to the kicker.”

What we learned about the Saints:

1. After going through more than a season of placekicking woes, the Saints may have found someone in Kai Forbath, a fourth-year player out of UCLA. His 50-yard, game-winning kick as time expired was a good sign. “I think he’s 5-for-5 in pressure kicks, end of game,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, going back to Forbath’s collegiate career. “Obviously, it was a big deal. I like his demeanor, his makeup. He’s pretty calm. That’s as big a kick as you can have with a new team.”

2. Drew Brees uses his mental tools to supplement his uncanny accuracy. The Saints worked in practice on breaking the huddle quickly so that Brees could get a longer look at the Giants’ defensive shifts, which they felt might give Brees a better idea of what defense to expect. “You can get to the line with 20 seconds (left), use the cadence and get back some indicators as to what we are getting,” Payton said. “(Brees) is outstanding at that.”

3. The Saints were given up for dead after a 1-4 start and are now at .500 for the first time since defeating Carolina on Oct. 30, 2014, when they went to 4-4. “You learn a lot about our team,” Brees said. “We can win in a lot of different ways, and we believe in one another. There’s just a lot of trust and confidence in what we are doing. Guys are wanting to play well for one another.”

Etc.:

–QB Drew Brees’ seven TD passes tied the NFL single-game record, done seven times previously. The most-recent seven-TD performance was by Nick Foles of the Eagles against the Raiders in 2013. “He played outstanding,” New York coach Tom Coughlin said. “He was in great rhythm, he was throwing the ball accurately. Those were some tight passes. He was moving around the pocket. That’s what he can do. He has that ability and great control of the offense.”

–RB Mark Ingram had another solid performance. Ingram entered with 450 yards on 102 carries (4.4-yard average), and he gained 80 on 16 carries (5.0) against the Giants and caught four passes for 39 yards. Ingram has 33 catches this year, a career high in just eight games of the 2015 season.

–The Saints had two receivers break the 100-yard mark for the second time in four games. This time it was TE Benjamin Watson (9-147 and one TD) and WR Marques Colston (8-114 and one TD). Brees completed his 40 passes to 10 different receivers.


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