INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Reggie Wayne thought he simply wanted to get back on the field.
Turns out, he would have preferred playing a little longer.
Drew Brees threw two touchdowns in the first quarter and led the unbeaten Saints past winless Indianapolis 23-17, ruining Wayne’s return after a nearly 10-month layoff.
”It was good to catch the football, get a real, live game under my belt. There’s no way to simulate that in practice,” Wayne said. ”When you look at a game, it’s going 100 mph, opposed to about 70 mph in practice.”
Things seemed pretty normal to Wayne.
He received a loud ovation from the crowd when he was announced as a starter during pregame introductions and again after making each of two catches – both of which were erased by penalties. Wayne bounced up quickly both times, an indication he should be ready to go for the Sept. 7 season opener at Denver.
The rest of the night wasn’t so good for Indy (0-3).
Andrew Luck played into the third quarter and finished 10 of 18 for 103 yards with one TD and one interception on a day the Colts were completely outplayed.
”We never got in a rhythm, missing throws that I would like to make and turning the ball over,” Luck said.
Nobody was better than Brees, who twice drove the Saints 80 yards for touchdowns in less than a quarter. He finished 9 of 15 for 128 yards with no interceptions for New Orleans (3-0).
He was quick, creative and accurate. Even a couple of weeks away from practice, a pair of missed games and a seemingly stronger Colts defense couldn’t derail Brees.
Six days after returning to practice, the Pro Bowl quarterback threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter and led the still unbeaten Saints to a 23-17 preseason victory at Indianapolis.
”I feel like it was a progression throughout the week, just getting the feel and the timing back,” Brees said after going 9 of 15 for 127 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. ”I don’t think I’m 100 percent yet, but I feel like the tempo and the rhythm and those things are coming back.”
He was so impressive that Saints coach Sean Payton parked Brees on the bench after three series. Brees is likely to spend Thursday night’s game against Baltimore there as the Saints try to complete their first perfect preseason.
Naturally, Payton would rather make sure Brees plays this way in the Sept. 7 season opener at Atlanta.
Brees went 9 of 15 for 128 yards with two touchdown passes, no interceptions and no sacks in his first career start at Lucas Oil Stadium. His passes were crisp and on time, and on the few occasions Brees did get into trouble, he found a way out.
On the opening series, he threw an improvisational shovel pass to avoid a sack. A couple plays later, he converted third-and-8 by running for 10 yards, then slid at the Colts 3-yard line. Brees then threw a 3-yard TD pass to Austin Johnson, on the next play for a 7-0 lead.
Two series later, Brees did it again with a 13-yard pass to Marques Colston for a 14-7 lead the Saints never surrendered.
He had plenty of help, too. In the first half, New Orleans (3-0) rushed for 124 yards, piled up 288 total yards, and ran nearly twice as many plays (48) as the Colts (26). And the Saints defense allowed just 132 yards and picked off Luck once in the half, too.
The Saints made sure it was a miserable night.
Luck’s 21-yard TD pass to Coby Fleener tied the score at 7, but Brees broke the tie with the TD pass to Colston.
Luck’s interception then set up a 39-yard field goal from Shayne Graham, and Graham hit a 24-yarder late to give the Saints a 20-7 lead.
Adam Vinatieri closed the half with a 20-yard field goal, but the Colts couldn’t get any closer until Chandler Harnish threw a 22-yard TD pass to Josh Lenz with 13:39 left in the game.
New Orleans sealed the win with a 45-yard field goal from Derek Dimke and a defensive stop in the final minute.
Notes: The Colts had a moment of silence in honor of Maveah Alice Hughes, the 3-month-old daughter of defensive lineman Montori Hughes, who died last week as the result of a sudden illness. … Saints receiver Kenny Stills left in the first half with a leg injury. Payton did not provide an update. … Colts cornerback Darius Butler left with an ankle injury and will be re-evaluated overnight.
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