NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Drew Brees treated a national audience to yet another prolific performance in the Superdome, and New Orleans’ defense helped out with a few big plays of its own.
Brees completed 27 of 32 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns, and the Saints ended the Green Bay Packers’ four-game winning streak, 44-23 on Sunday night.
"All we talked about all week long is just coming together as a team and playing a complete game as a team," said Brees, whose late interception was part of a collapse in Detroit a week earlier. "It was a perfect representation of that."
Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks had a 50-yard touchdown catch and a 4-yard scoring run, and tight end Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown pass. The Saints (3-4) pulled even in victories with Carolina (3-4-1), setting up a Thursday night showdown for first place in the NFC South.
Aaron Rodgers, intercepted only once in Green Bay’s first seven games, was picked off twice on tipped passes and sacked three times. He still passed for 418 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, but it was not nearly enough to prevent the Packers (5-3) from falling a game behind NFC North leader Detroit.
Saints coach Sean Payton certainly wasn’t complaining about the yards his defense gave up, given the big plays they produced.
"That’s one of the best offenses in the league," Payton said about Green Bay. "That was a good team win in all areas."
Except perhaps in the punting game — because there were no punt by either team, marking only the third time that’s happened in NFL history. It has now happened twice this season, both times involving Green Bay, starting with the Packers’ 38-17 victory over Chicago on Sept. 28.
Cameron Jordan had two sacks for New Orleans, one which forced a field goal in the first half. Kasim Edebali also had two sacks for New Orleans, his second on reserve QB Matt Flynn, who was in for mop-up duty and fumbled on the play.
Brees completed all 11 of his passes in the second half, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Hill, as the Saints improved to 3-0 at home this season. It also marked New Orleans’ 14th straight victory in a night game in the Superdome, going back to 2009. Most of those games weren’t close, and the latest one followed suit.
Green Bay was without two starting defensive backs: cornerback Sam Shields and safety Morgan Burnett. Compounding matters for Green Bay’s defense was the strong running of Mark Ingram, which only made Brees’ play-action fakes more effective. Carrying a heavy load in the absence of injured running backs Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, Ingram had 24 carries for a career-high 172 yards and a touchdown.
"Mark had a fantastic game. I thought we had good balance. Credit the offensive line," Payton said. "The balance helped us tonight because we got some advantageous looks with heavy play-action shots downfield out of some run looks."
Packers running back Eddie Lacy, who grew up in the New Orleans area, had 181 yards from scrimmage — including 123 yards on eight catches — in his homecoming, but was stopped on fourth-and-short in Green Bay territory in the third quarter. Soon after, the Saints cashed in on Graham’s touchdown to make it a two-score game.
The game appeared to turn on the Saints’ first interception, which came when the Packers were in range of a go-head score early in the third quarter. Cornerback Corey White tipped a pass intended for Andrew Quarless near the goal line and linebacker David Hawthorne caught it. That led to Cooks’ TD.
Later, Payton set up New Orleans’ fourth-down stop by challenging the spot of a reception near the first down marker. Initially ruled a first down, the spot was moved back a yard, then Hawthorne and defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker stuffed Lacy’s run to the right.
White had New Orleans’ second interception in the fourth quarter.
Neither team had trouble moving the ball in the first half, but both defenses were largely successful in mitigating the damage on the scoreboard. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby and New Orleans’ Shayne Graham each kicked three field goals, and it was tied at 16 at halftime.