Saints eke out 34-30 comeback win over Bengals
Many expected the New Orleans Saints (9-3) to head into Cincinnati on Sunday and continue their winning ways by defeating the Bengals (2-10). For the entire first half, that seemed to be the way things were going but things changed come the third and fourth quarters.
Then, it was time for Drew Brees to show why he is the leader of this team.
Brees hit Marques Colston on a three-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds remaining to help squeak out a victory 34-30 over the Bengals. Some bad clock management and a sack by Roman Harper on Carson Palmer ended the the game and sealed the win.
It is the fifth straight victory for New Orleans and the ninth consecutive loss for Cincinnati who saw good games from Palmer and Chad Ochocinco go wasted.
Palmer threw for 249 yards and one touchdown to Terrell Owens. Ochocinco caught five passes for 96 yards.
New Orleans opened the game rather slow and couldn't quite finish drives thanks to a number of penalties and costly mistakes. Instead of opening it up and getting into the end zone, the Saints had to settle for two Garrett Hartley field goals (24 and 48 yards) in the first half.
The lone bright spot in the first half was a 55-yard touchdown run by Chris Ivory that saw the rookie back go right up the middle of the line, find a hole, and turn on the speed. It's the longest touchdown run by the Saints since way back in 2003. Ivrory finished with two scores and 117 yards on 15 attempts for the day.
Pierre Thomas sat out his ninth game in a row with an ankle injury and Reggie Bush was rather invisible again in his second game back from injury. Bush finished with 26 yards rushing and no receiving yards.
It was the second half that saw the Bengals come alive on both sides of the ball as the black and gold offense could really get nothing going. Cincinnati's offensive unit came out firing and outscored the Saints 24-14 before Colston's game-winning catch.
The Saints shot themselves in the foot a lot of times when they could have very well put the game away, but couldn't stop the mental mistakes. Jahri Evans was called for numerous holds that pushed the offense back. And then a very costly pentlaty for too many men on the field gave the Bengals the ball back after they had been forced to punt it away.
Cincinnati went on to score a touchdown and two-point conversion on the drive to tie up the game.
While the passing game of the Bengals thrived, it was the legs of Cedric Benson that found the end zone twice to keep them in the game. Back and forth the whole game, the Saints often times came up with big stops on third down and even a vicious hit by Jonathan Vilma on fourth down to stop the Bengals in their tracks.
Yet they just kept on coming back.
Rookie kicker Clint Stitser was selling real estate in Nevada a week ago when he got the call from Cincinnati to come and join the team. The young kicker hit all three of his field goals but missed an extra point. His third field goal of the day came from 47-yards away and gave the Bengals their first lead of the day with less than four and a half minutes to go.
Drew Brees then went to work and orchestrated a textbook seven-play, 64 yard drive that included a 42-yard completion to Robert Meachem and an offisides penalty that allowed the Saints to go for the win instead of the tie.
On fourth and two from the Bengals' seven-yard line, the Saints lined up to go for it after calling a timeout. Brees used a hard count and got lineman Pat Sims to jump over for the penalty and the first down. Brees found Colston on the next play.
A little too close for comfort, but the victory keeps the Saints in the NFC South title hunt with both Atlanta and Tampa Bay who are currently playing each other right now. A win by the Buccaneers will help the Saints considerably in their attempt at a repeat divisional title.
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