CINCINNATI -- The Saints have a name for the ruse. They call it "No-Brainer Freeze."
Perfect description for the last-minute deception that got their latest win.
New Orleans enticed the Bengals to jump offside in the closing seconds Sunday, giving the Saints a chance to win in regulation. Drew Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass on the next play for a 34-30 victory that extended the defending Super Bowl champions' late-season surge.
One play immediately became part of football lore in both cities.
"It comes down to them jumping offside," Brees said. "Who knows what would have happened if the game went to OT?"
New Orleans (9-3) was looking at a costly upset after newcomer Clint Stitser kicked a 47-yard field goal with 4:35 left, giving the Bengals their first lead at 30-27. Brees responded with a 42-yard pass to Robert Meachem that moved the Saints in distance for a tying field goal.
The Saints wanted more.
Facing fourth-and-2 from the 7 with 34 seconds left, the Saints called timeout and decided to use the gambit. They'd send out the offense, act like they were going to snap the ball, and hope one of the Bengals (2-10) got antsy and jumped offside, giving them a first down and a chance to go for a winning touchdown.
If the defense keeps its cool and holds its ground, the Saints let the play clock run out, take the 5-yard penalty and send in the kicker.
Who would fall for it?
Brees did a solid acting job, moving around the backfield like he was orchestrating a play, then going under center to start his cadence as if he were going to take a snap. Lineman Pat Sims fell for it, jumping offside.
"In my 10 years (in the NFL), this is the first time that play has ever worked," fullback Heath Evans said. "It doesn't work too often."
It shouldn't have worked at all. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis noted that the Saints had tried the trick once before earlier in the season, and it didn't work. He figured they might try it again.
"I showed the guys that on tape," Lewis said. "I started the meeting on Wednesday -- it was about the fourth or fifth play I showed them."
Given a new set of downs, Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston, sending the Saints to their fifth straight win. Brees made its possible with his improvisation that made Sims flinch.
"Drew Brees did a great job with the snap count and tried to create the illusion we were going for it, when really we're just going to let the time run out," coach Sean Payton said.
It was the highlight of another big day for Brees, who passed Archie Manning as the Saints' career passing leader in the first half. Manning threw for 21,734 yards in 11 seasons. The Super Bowl MVP has topped it in five years.
"It means a lot because of the guy who is being passed, as well as the many more that have come before me," said Brees, who as 24 of 29 for 313 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. "I feel like we're building a strong tradition here. I play in an offense that throws quite a bit more than all of those guys did."
He had a lot of help in a big-play offense on Sunday. The Saints had five plays that went for at least 42 yards. Chris Ivory carried 15 times for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 55-yard score.
For Cincinnati, it was another unbelievable ending in a season quickly becoming one of its worst. The defending AFC North champions have lost nine in a row for only the third time in franchise history.
The Bengals failed to sell out their second straight home game on a snowy, 30-degree afternoon. The bundled crowd booed until the fourth quarter, when Cedric Benson's two touchdown runs and Stitser's field goal gave them hope for a few minutes.
"I don't know what positives you can get out of losing nine in a row," receiver Terrell Owens said. "I've never done that before."
He has now.
NOTES: Saints RB Reggie Bush played his second game since returning from a broken right leg that sidelined him for eight games. He carried five times for 26 yards and caught three passes. ... RB Pierre Thomas missed his ninth straight game because of a sprained left ankle. ... The Saints secured their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1991-92. ... The Bengals lost 10 straight games in 1993 and nine straight in 1998. The club record is 11 straight, including the last game of 1992 and the first 10 in '93. ... Jermaine Gresham set a Bengals record for catches by a rookie tight end with 47.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)