Jacksonville, Fla. - The Saints rode big performances by Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham to defeat the Jaguars 23-10 Sunday in the first of a three-game road swing.
Graham caught 10 passes for 132 yards and a score, while Sproles had 7 rushes for 75 yards and 5 catches for 56 more in the win.
Drew Brees was his usual efficient self, throwing for 351 yards, but he was picked off twice.
Jed Collins picked up his first run of the season and scored his first touchdown of his career on a one-yard plunge midway through the first quarter to give the Saints a 7-0 lead. The nine-play scoring drive was setup when the defense held the Jaguars on fourth-and-six on the opening drive of the game.
The Saints defense put the Jaguars into another fourth down situation, but this time Jacksonville punted. The result was the same, though. New Orleans rang up a 12-play, 96-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham. The key to the drive was a 14-yard catch by Darren Sproles on third-and-11.
But the Jaguars stuck around thanks to a facemask penalty on New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle on third-and-20. Jacksonville gained 17 yards on the play and would have had to punt, but the penalty gave the Jaguars the ball at New Orleans’ 30. Five plays later, rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert hit tight end Zach Miller between Saints safety Roman Harper and linebacker Jonathan Vilma for a 14-yard touchdown.
New Orleans’ lead was down to 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Saints further let Jacksonville cut into its lead at the end of the first half. Brees was intercepted by Jacksonville linebacker Daryl Smith, who returned it to New Orleans’ 13. The Saints held their ground, but Josh Scobee hit a 31-yard field goal to make it 14-10 at halftime.
With the ball first to open the second half, the Saints offense got going again. But on third-and-four at the Jacksonville 14, Brees was sacked for a six-yard loss, forcing New Orleans’ John Kasay to kick a 38-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead.
Two more Kasay field goals made it 23-10 with 12:46 to go in the game. It could have been a larger lead, though, as the Saints were stopped on two straight plays from the Jacksonville 2-yard line.