INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Drew Brees isn’t slowing down. Neither are the Saints.
On a day New Orleans rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns and the defense produced four sacks and three turnovers, it was the 36-year-old quarterback who did just enough in the final three minutes Sunday to preserve a badly-needed 27-21 victory at Indianapolis.
”When you have a chance to win the game, you want to make the play to win the game,” Brees said.
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The former Purdue star has been doing that for years, and he wasn’t about to change his strategy at what might have been his final football game in Indiana.
Instead, Brees went for it.
He led the Saints (3-4) to three touchdowns in a five-minute span during the first half, drove them to another score to start the second half for a seemingly safe 27-0 lead and then made two key plays in the final 8 1/2 minutes – a 47-yard pass to Brandin Cooks to avoid punting from their own end zone and a 20-yard completion to Marques Colston on third-and-4 with 1:58 to play that sealed the win.
Brees finished 28 of 44 with 255 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
He had plenty of help, too.
Mark Ingram ran 14 times for 143 yards and one touchdown, Khiry Robinson ran for two scores and Marcus Murphy recovered Indy’s onside kick moments after Andrew Luck’s third TD pass of the day got the Colts within one score.
But the Saints continued to stay aggressive against the AFC South-leading Colts (3-4).
After recovering the onside kick, the Saints put the ball in Brees’ hands and let him win it.
”Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games and he’s a big-time player,” Brees said of Colston’s catch. ”He knew it was coming his way and it was awesome.”
Luck was 23 of 44 for 333 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. T.Y. Hilton caught four passes for 150 yards, including a career-best 87 yard touchdown pass to make it 27-7 and a 46-yard TD pass that made it 27-14 with 1 second left in the third quarter.
Here are some other things we learned from Sunday’s game:
TRICK PLAYS DO WORK: One week after Indy’s botched fake punt took the air out of Lucas Oil Stadium, the Saints swung the momentum with a fake field goal in the first quarter. After losing both coach’s challenges during that drive, the Saints lined up for a 44-yard field goal. Holder and backup quarterback Luke McCown instead threw a 25-yard pass to Ben Watson. On the next play, Robinson scored on a 1-yard run to make it 7-0.
MISTAKES STILL HURT: Colts coach Chuck Pagano has spent most of the first half of this season trying to eliminate mistakes. That certainly wasn’t the case in the first half when Luck threw two interceptions and the Colts lost a fumble. New Orleans converted two of the turnovers into touchdowns to make it 20-0 early in the second quarter. Indy also finished with seven penalties, many of which came at critical times.
THE GRIND: New Orleans’ ground game got on track Sunday. With Ingram leading the way, the Saints averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Indy, which has talked long and hard about finding balance in the offense, ran only 13 times for 75 yards. While the 5.8 average looks good, playing catch-up has forced the Colts to become one-dimensional far too often this season.
DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS: The Saints won their first road game of the season and now have back-to-back wins for the first time in almost 12 full months. The Colts, meanwhile, have lost two straight – both at home. And for the only the third time in Pagano’s four seasons with the Colts, Indy has lost back-to-back games. They’ve never lost three straight in the regular season under Pagano.
WHAT’S NEXT: Pagano was unusually blunt in his postgame comments. He called the first half ”unacceptable” and used expletives a couple of times in expressing his continued frustration. He even denied that Luck’s struggles are the result of his injured right shoulder. ”It’s on us,” Pagano said. ”We’re going to come in tomorrow, we’re going to look at the tape like we always do and we’re going to get it fixed.”
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