Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Home Sweet Dome: Saints finally win two in a row

Posted By on Tue, Nov 25, 2008 at 5:48 AM

click to enlarge Colston TD catch

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Photo by Jonathan Bachman

For a few moments there, it seemed like both the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints were content with not playing a lick of defense tonight and to just let the offenses shoot it out. Then, with the Saints leading 31–21 with 7:52 left in the third quarter, Jason David (yes, that Jason David) picked off an Aaron Rodgers pass and returned it all the way to the 3-yard-line.

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That set up a Deuce McAllister touchdown two plays later that made the Saints' running back the franchises all-time leader in touchdowns and possibly one of the most moving moments in recent Superdome history.

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"It was definitely emotional," Deuce said afterward. "Knowing that when you started playing you set certain goals and when you're able to achieve it, you're definitely thankful for it."

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Not content to give the Packers any more breathing room, Jason David intercepted Rodgers again. And that's when the Packers got into the act. Thanks to maybe a little too much cuteness on the part of Sean Payton, Aaron Rouse intercepted Lance Moore on an ill-conceived trick play.

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And those weren't even the most exciting moments of the game.

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Drew Brees threw had a pair of 70-yard touchdown passes — and four total. The first came on New Orleans' first offensive play when Lance Moore took a short catch and turned it into his fourth touchdown in as many games.

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"Talk about game-changers," Drew Brees said of his two 70-yard touchdowns.

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But while Brees and Moore will get a lot of (deserved) attention, probably the most important aspect of tonight's win was the play of Pierre Thomas and Jeremy Shockey. Thomas finished the game with 121 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, perhaps cementing himself as a solid replacement for Deuce McAllister should he be suspended for violating the league's substance policy. As for Shockey, you can't say enough about what it means for him to contribute the way he did (five catches for 57 yards) after all the drama surrounding him recently.

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"Pierre done a wonderful job stepping up," McAllister said. "It was a total team effort."

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Then there's the Saints defense, or more specifically, the secondary. After being known for the most of the season for all the big plays they let up, amassing three interceptions — including one in the Packers' end zone — will give them extra confidence and energy leading into the rest of the season.

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The Saints desperately need this win for a number of reasons. This is, of course, their first two-game win streak of the season. But it was even more important on a psychological standpoint. The Saints are now 6–5 and very much still in the NFC playoff picture.

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"It doesn't become a win streak as much as just playing another good football game," Coach Sean Payton said. "Really the focus is to just improve as a team. Try to get better on fourth down and get better in the red zone. We talked about us and the importance of playing a complete game and doing that at home."

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The win also gives the Black and Gold some much-needed momentum heading into two-straight divisional games, the first being on the road in Tampa Bay. Knowing that they can put up 51 points will do much to erase the memories of being outscored 64–27 against division opponents on the road.

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"It's going to be short-lived," Brees said of the win streak. "Not too much time to sit bak and relax at all. We have our work cut out for us and we understand that. We want to make it three in a row."

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All of a sudden, a Saints team that looked to be slowly sinking has new life. If they manage to pull out two more wins against Tampa and Atlanta, New Orleans will suddenly find itself with eight wins with three games to go (including one against the winless Detroit Lions). Ofcourse, those are all big ifs. But tonight gave the Saints a solid chance and a legitimate belief that they can make a late-season run for the playoffs.

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"We talk about getting in on a five-, six-game winning streak," McAllister said. "But you gotta get to two before you get to six."

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Sometimes in the NFL, just believing is all you need.

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