NEW ORLEANS - That's not a big 10-4 for the Saints after toying with the New York Jets for a 31-19 victory Sunday afternoon at the Superdome.
It's 10-4, but there could be so much more.
"There's room to build," Saints running back Mark Ingram said after leading all rushers with 74 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns while catching six passes for 77 yards.
Ingram started the game 54-yard catch and run that set up a field goal and 3-0 lead, and he ended the game with a 50-yard touchdown run with 1:33 left for the final.
But the much ballyhooed, statistical dominating Saints offense did not perform well overall. There was an interception late in the first half deep in Saints territory by quarterback Drew Brees, whose ill-advised pass late in the previous game at Atlanta lost it. The pick Sunday set up a short field goal that let the Jets get within a touchdown at 17-10 at the half.
"That stinks," Brees said. "That's been happening too many times to us this year."
Then Brees and company turned in back-to-back three-and-outs to open the second half as the Jets drew closer at 17-13 with another short field goal because it could not penetrate the Saints defense or the paws of defensive end Cameron Jordan, who posted up more than he bull rushed to bat down a career-high four passes.
The defense even set up the offense when Saints linebacker Craig Robertson intercepted quarterback Bryce Petty and returned it 20 yards to the Jets' 33 in the third quarter. But on second and 10 from the Jets' 13, wide receiver Brandon Coleman fumbled it back after 6-yard reception to the 7-yard line when former LSU safety Jamal Adams popped him.
The Saints defense held.
The offense then drove from their 45 to the Jets' 15, but Coleman fumbled it back again following a 16-yard reception on third and nine.
The Saints defense held again.
The Saints finally made it work on the third try with Coleman either not on the field or not in Brees' field of vision. Brees took the Saints 64 yards in nine plays for the touchdown to put them up by two scores at 24-13 with 7:39 to play in the game as he hit wide receiver Michael Thomas for a 4-yard touchdown.
The Jets scored a meaningless touchdown in the final minutes for a 24-19 score, but the Saints recovered the onside kick. Then Ingram rambled for a 50-yard touchdown with 1:33 to play, and the Saints held on for the 31-19 final.
New Orleans' defense made statements throughout the game and continued to bail out a sluggish offense.
Just before the end of the first half, the Jets took over at the Saints' 11-yard line with 1:14 to go after defensive end Leonard Williams intercepted Brees. But the Jets moved zero yards in three plays as cornerback Marshon Lattimore stopped receiver Chad Hansen for a 4-yard loss after a reception on first down. New York later settled for a 29-yard field goal for the 17-10 halftime score.
"We were a little sloppy. We have to get better," Ingram said.
"All I know is we got the win," said Robertson, who had seven tackles to go with his pick. "We can't look at what the offense did versus what the defense did. The win is the most important thing."
The Saints improved to 10-4 with the win, giving the franchise that started playing in the NFL in 1967 just its 11th season of 10 wins or more. New Orleans stayed in first place in the NFC South with two games to play - a home game against Atlanta on Christmas Eve and the regular season finale at Tampa Bay on New Year's Eve.
Brees had little trouble in the first half against the Jets, who dropped to 5-9. He completed 15 of 19 for 176 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He finished 26 of 36 for 285 yards and two touchdowns.
"We're leaving too many things out there," Brees said. "We have to be maximizing our scores when we get down there. That's going to be key the rest of the way for us."
MORTEN ANDERSEN HONORED: Pro Football Hall of Fame member Morten Andersen, a former kicker for the New Orleans Saints from 1982-94, was placed in the Saints' "Ring of Honor" with his name and years played placed at the terrace level in the dome. Andersen joins Willie Roaf, Archie Manning and Rickey Jackson.
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