EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New Orleans entered Sunday’s game against the Jets as the team most believed had the overwhelming advantage on offense.
But dropped passes, untimely penalties and a lack of a run game, combined with the Saints’ inability to stop New York’s ground game, turned into New Orleans’ second loss of the season.
New Orleans fell 26-20, appearing as discombobulated as it has all season.
Everything Sean Payton and the players spoke about after a win over the Bills a week earlier reared their head again.
Drew Brees threw two interceptions but wasn’t helped very much by his receivers, either. Nick Toon dropped on pass that likely would have gone for a touchdown and bobbled another that turned into an interception.
Jed Collins dropped what would have been a conversion on third-and-one and a play later, Josh Hill was dropped for an eight-yard loss on a reverse.
Combine that with injuries that kept safety Malcolm Jenkins and receiver Marques Colston out of the game before it started and sent running back Darren Sproles out early with a concussion and New Orleans wasn’t itself.
Brees finished the game 30 of 51 for 382 yards and two touchdowns to go with the interceptions. The Jets’ Geno Smith wasn’t nearly as effective, but never put the ball in harm’s way, finishing 8 of 19 for just 115 yards.
The difference was Chris Ivory, the former Saints running back who was traded to the Jets during the draft. He finished with 139 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown.
A sloppy beginning left the Saints without points early instead of taking a first-possession lead. Four combined penalties for 30 yards, including a roughing the passer, put New Orleans in position for a score. But Garrett Hartley missed a 43-yard field goal, his third consecutive miss.
The Jets survived and on the ensuing position, Brees threw behind tight end Benjamin Watson. Nick Folk converted the turnover into points, giving the Jets a 3-0 lead with a 39-yard field goal.
New Orleans was behind for less than three minutes. Brees stepped up to his left, spied Jimmy Graham behind Jets safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and lofted a pass right into the tight end’s hands. Graham finished the 51-yard scoring strike by dragging Jarrett into the end zone, giving New Orleans a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.
New York nearly took back the lead, getting to the Saints’ 3 before New Orleans stopped the drive. Folk kicked his second field goal of the day, a 21-yarder, and the Saints led 7-6. The Jets were in the position largely thanks to Ivory’s 52-yard run from the New York 2-yard line.
Brees answered immediately, putting New Orleans back in scoring position with a 60-yard completion to Robert Meachem. Four plays later, he hit Graham for his second score of the day, a 10-yarder in front of Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie, handing New Orleans a 14-6 lead.
A Josh Cribbs 42-yard kickoff return put the Jets in good position on the following drive and Ivory pulled the Jets back to within one point of the Saints with a 3-yard touchdown run.
With minutes to go before halftime, the Saints’ lead was just 14-13.
On the second play of the following series, Nick Toon couldn’t bring down a pass, knocking it into the air high enough for Cromartie to intercept in bounds. Five plays later, Smith ran in untouched for a 3-yard touchdown that gave New York a 20-14 lead with seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Jets got a 47-yard field goal out of Folk to open the third quarter and Hartley matched with a career-long 55-yard field goal to pull the Saints within 23-17 late in the third.
Folk’s fourth field goal of the game pushed the Jets’ lead back to nine and with 11:56 to play, the Saints’ were down 26-17.