|Move over Johnny U. Saints QB Drew Brees has your record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass. (US Presswire)|
On the verge of a hope-killing 0-5 start, the Saints rallied from a 24-14 second-half deficit to beat San Diego 31-24 on Sunday night thanks to a defense that suddenly began making big plays. Despite some hiccups along the way, the offense had always been there in the first four games, but the last-place defense could not slow down anyone. Out of nowhere, it shut out the Chargers for the final 27 minutes, giving the Saints some momentum entering their bye week.
The Saints were pretty one-dimensional yet again, but it was one heck of a dimension. After breaking Johnny Unitas’ record early by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th consecutive game, Drew Brees had three more scoring tosses even though New Orleans was short-handed at receiver. No Lance Moore? No Jimmy Graham, who sprained his ankle on his only catch and was little more than a decoy the rest of the way? No problem. Marques Colston and Devery Henderson combined for 17 catches, 254 yards and four scores, with Colston setting a franchise record for career TD grabs (52) along the way. Brees was hit a lot, and the running game produced only 51 yards on 23 careers, but the bottom line was four TDs and 31 points.
Previous games's grade: B
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo admitted the Saints were fortunate at times. They got gashed a bit on the ground and gave up far too many long passes. Still, the defense finally rose from the dead when it mattered most, sacking Philip Rivers three times in the fourth quarter and causing him to commit two turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. The Chargers already had rolled up 313 yards when they went up 24-14 with 12:27 left in the third quarter. The Saints limited them to 114 yards and zero points the rest of the way. On the Chargers’ final two possessions, safety Roman Harper had his first interception since 2010 and DE Martez Wilson stripped Rivers and recovered the fumble.
Previous games’s grade: D
Special Teams: B
The kicking game had little impact either way. Garrett Hartley made his only field goal attempt from 26 yards. Punter Thomas Morstead averaged 51.8 yards on four tries despite sending two of them out of bounds accidentally. Darren Sproles was a non-factor on returns, but the Saints did not allow any big returns, either.
Previous games’s grade: D
Interim coach Aaron Kromer was noticeably more animated on the sideline, making sure the Saints were emotionally in the game as they fell behind by 10 in the second half. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael helped keep the Saints in manageable situations with short passes on second down that allowed Brees to convert 9 of 16 third downs. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo dialed up more blitzes, setting a tone of aggressiveness the Saints lacked in previous weeks. The Saints could have panicked in the second half. They didn’t, and that’s a testament to Kromer and his staff. This time, the Saints weren’t rudderless.
Previous week's grade: C-
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSaints