NFL Wire News

After wild Sunday, Saints in the hunt

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The Sports Xchange

METAIRIE, La. — Instead of spending the second half of the season just trying to figure things out, it appears that the New Orleans Saints will still have a chance to play for something.

While the playoffs seemed light years away when the Saints started the season with three consecutive losses — after dropping all four of their preseason games — and falling to 1-4 after a disturbing 22-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 11, the Saints have life.

Who could have known that after that winless start, the Saints would win three consecutive games for the first time since November 2013 and four out of five and still have an opportunity to make something of their season when they reached the midway point.

With a 52-49 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, the Saints (4-4) gave themselves a chance to do that after Drew Brees outdueled Eli Manning in one of the wildest games in NFL history.

That it came on All Saints Day, the 49th anniversary of New Orleans being awarded an NFL franchise, made it all the more meaningful.

Brees had seven touchdown passes, which was a personal best and tied the league record, and Manning had six of his own to set an NFL record with 13 combined passing scores. Not only that, but the two former Super Bowl MVPs combined for 855 yards through the air.

When they were done throwing the ball all over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints won it on Kai Forbath’s 50-yard field goal on the final play — pushing the two-team total to 101 points, the third-highest scoring game in league history.

“This was certainly one of the craziest games that I’ve ever been a part of,” Brees said. “To be on the winning end of it and keep a three-game streak alive at the midway point of the season is something special. I still feel like our best is yet to come.”

The Saints certainly hope they can be a force in the second half even though their defense was shredded by Manning. The offense can take them a long way if it keeps playing the way it did Sunday — coming alive in the last three games.

But, of course, they have to remain focused.

REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS

–PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus. Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense was on fire against the Giants on Sunday, which resulted in one of the most impressive performances in NFL history. Brees tied his personal best in completing 39 passes (in 50 attempts) for a career-high seven TDs in shredding the Giants for 505 yards. The 15-year veteran worked the Giants over with 300 yards and four scores in the first half alone, matching the number of scoring passes New York allowed in its first seven games. Brees, who finished with a passer rating of 131.7, clicked off TD passes to five different receivers — Willie Snead (2, 34), Brandin Cooks (21, 26), Marques Colston (53), Benjamin Watson (20) and C.J. Spiller (9) — even though he had two interceptions. The Saints averaged 10.1 yards per pass attempt after Brees was not sacked in 50 dropbacks. Watson caught nine passes for 147 yards and Colston had eight receptions for 114 yards, while Cooks and Snead caught six balls each for 88 and 70 yards, respectively.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B. The Saints started slowly against the Giants with just 31 yards on 12 first-half carries as the offense was working very efficiently through the air. In the second half, the Saints were able to make things happen a lot better on the ground with 72 yards on 14 attempts, which gave them 103 yards and a 4.0 average on their 26 carries. Mark Ingram powered his way to 80 yards on 16 carries with a long gain of 16 yards and C.J. Spiller added 21 yards on four attempts with a long of 11. The Saints did take a big hit, however, when the third man in the rotation, Khiry Robinson, suffered a season-ending tibia fracture just before the two-minute warning in the first half.

–PASS DEFENSE: D. It would be easy to give the Saints an F, but they did the best they could when Eli Manning hooked up with Brees in a duel for the ages. Manning matched Brees touchdown for touchdown with six scores until Brees chalked up his seventh score in the final minute. Manning completed 30 of 41 attempts for 350 yards with a long gain of 50 yards. He did not throw an interception, but he was sacked three times and had another one that ended with a fumble nullified by a defensive holding penalty. He had a passer rating of 138.2. Manning threw three TD passes to Odell Beckham Jr., who had eight receptions for 130 yards, and two to Dwayne Harris, who caught three balls for 37 yards. Shane Vereen had a touchdown among his three catches for 60 yards and Rueben Randle had five receptions for 55 yards.

–RUN DEFENSE: B-plus. The Giants finished the game with 87 yards and a 4.1 average on 21 attempts as Rashad Jennings picked up 54 yards on 10 tries and Orleans Darkwa had 23 yards on four carries. Both Jennings and Darkwa had long gains of 17 yards. The Saints did have some key stops of Andre Williams in the first half, which helped them hold the Giants to just 32 yards and a 2.9 average on 11 attempts. One of those runs was for 17 yards, which means the Saints allowed just 15 yards on the other 10 carries.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus. Kai Forbath, who was playing in just his second game with the Saints, calmly nailed a game-winning 50-yard field goal after Saints return man Marcus Murphy returned a punt 24 yards and Willie Snead recovered a fumble by Murphy in the final seconds to set up the field goal. Punter Thomas Morstead averaged 47.5 gross yards and 41.0 net yards on two punts with a long of 48. Murphy averaged 15.0 yards on two punt returns and had one kickoff return for 23 yards. The Saints struggled in kick coverage, however, as the Giants averaged 33.8 yards on five kickoffs with long gains of 33 yards by Dwayne Harris and 46 yards by Shane Vereen and 13.0 yards on one punt return.

–COACHING: A. With his team having a chance to reach the .500 mark for the season, Sean Payton called a masterful game as he attacked the Giants’ porous pass defense and had them on the ropes with Drew Brees on point and on target for most of the afternoon. After shredding the Giants in the first half, Payton mixed the run and the pass well in the second half to keep the visitors off balance for the most part.


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