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(Sunday, December 11th)
Final Score: New Orleans 22, Tennessee 17
Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes to Marques Colston in the fourth quarter, and New Orleans' defense came up with two late stands to preserve a 22-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Brees completed 36-of-47 passes for 337 yards for the Saints (10-3), who remained two games ahead of Atlanta in the NFC South. The Falcons beat the Panthers on Sunday.
Colston caught seven passes for 105 yards for New Orleans, which has won five in a row.
"This was a gut-check win for us," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "We just kept fighting."
The Saints secured a playoff spot after the Bears lost to the Broncos later Sunday.
Matt Hasselbeck injured his left calf in the second quarter for the Titans (7-6), who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Rookie Jake Locker connected on 13-of-29 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball six times for 36 yards and a score.
"I thought Jake did a great job," Hasselbeck said. "But nothing he did really surprised me."
Nate Washington hauled in six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in defeat.
The Houston Texans, who beat the Bengals on Sunday, won the AFC South with Tennessee's loss.
Down by one, 10-9, late in the third quarter, the Saints put together a nine- play, 72-yard scoring drive. After converting a third down, the visitors moved the ball to the Tennessee 35. Brees then found a wide open Colston in the middle of the field for a touchdown and a 16-10 lead with 12:39 to play in the game.
After forcing the Titans to go three-and-out, Brees threw another TD pass to Colston. Devery Henderson caught a five-yard pass on 3rd-and-4 to move the ball to the 39 of the Titans. Three plays later on 3rd-and-1, Chris Ivory rumbled up the middle for two yards. Brees then hooked up with Colston on a 28-yard score. A failed two-point conversion kept it a 22-10 contest with 7:01 remaining.
Tennessee responded with a quick score of its own to stay in the game. Locker and Washington hooked for a 40-yard score on the third play to cut the gap to 22-17 with 5:58 to go.
The Titans got the ball back at their own 35 with 4:36 left. Chris Johnson took a pitch to the left on 4th-and-1 and gained three yards to keep the drive alive. On the next play from the New Orleans 33, Locker took a hard hit from Tracy Porter. Locker lost the football and the Saints recovered. Upon further review, it was determined that Locker's arm was going forward to make it an incomplete pass. An injured Hasselbeck had to take over for one play before Locker took the field again. The Saints' defense stopped Locker on 4th-and-1 with 2:18 to go.
Tennessee's defense came up with another stop to give the offense the ball back with 1:34 remaining. Lavelle Hawkins caught a pass in the flat on the first play and ran 25 yards to the 45. Washington added catches of 10 and 40 yards to move the ball to the five. Locker stopped the clock with seven seconds left. A pass intended for Marc Mariani in the end zone was knocked down by Porter. Locker was sacked by Jo-Lonn Dunabar on the final play of the game.
"I was just happy they didn't throw a flag," Dunabar said.
The Saints got the ball to start the game and marched down the field. On 3- and-5 from the New Orleans 35, Robert Meachem caught a 15-yard pass. Ivory and Darren Sproles followed with runs of 25 and 14 yards, respectively, to put the ball at the 11. The visitors gained just three more yards before settling for a 25-yard John Kasay field goal.
Both defenses took over from there, as the next points didn't come until midway through the second stanza. The Titans took over at their own 43 with 8:48 to go. With Hasselbeck hurt, Locker threw a 31-yard pass to Craig Stevens on the first play. The home team had to settle for a 43-yard Rob Bironas field goal with 6:37 left.
The Saints moved the ball down the field before the half with some big plays. Sproles caught a 20-yard pass on the first play and Jimmy Graham hauled in a 33-yard pass later in the drive. With the ball on the five, New Orleans went backwards. Kasay made a 29-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to make it 6-3 at the half.
New Orleans moved the ball into the red zone again early in the second half, but the result was the same. Henderson caught a 19-yard pass on third down and Pierre Thomas added a 23-yard catch. Sproles ripped off a 13-yard run to move the ball to the 10. On 3rd-and-goal from the four, Graham almost made a nice catch along the right sideline in the end zone. The tight end failed to get both feet in, resulting in a 22-yard Kasay field goal to make it 9-3.
The Titans needed just six plays on the ensuing drive to score the first touchdown of the game. The big play on the march was a 54-yard catch-and-run by Damian Williams, who broke a tackle and sprinted down the left sideline. He was taken down by his face mask, which put the ball at the six. Locker then scrambled to his right and managed to stretch the ball over the pylon while being tackled along the sideline. That made it 10-9 with 2:19 left in the third.
The Titans own a 7-5-1 lead in their all-time series with the Saints, who snapped a four-game skid against Tennessee...Johnson was limited to 23 yards on 11 carries...Ivory carried the ball 13 times for 53 yards...Hasselbeck completed 5-of-7 passes for 44 yards...Brees has thrown a TD pass in 40 consecutive games, which is the second-longest streak in NFL history.
12/11 20:28:55 ET
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