|Saints QB Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes and beat the Raiders for the seventh straight time, helping New Orleans even its record at 5-5 after an 0-4 start. (US Presswire)|
After starting the season 0-4, the .500 mark looked like a huge mountain to the New Orleans Saints, but they arrived at the summit Sunday with a 38-17 rout of the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum.
The Saints pulled even at 5-5, winning their third straight game and for the fifth time in their past six games. The Raiders, meanwhile, lost their third straight game and fell to 3-7, despite getting 103 yards rushing and 90 yards receiving from fill-in running back Marcel Reece.
Quarterback Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes and beat the Raiders for the seventh straight time, the first five in that span as a San Diego Charger.
Brees threw a TD pass in his 53rd straight game, an ongoing NFL record, but there were plenty of other stars for the Saints on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Lance Moore caught a pair of TD passes, and free safety Malcolm Jenkins returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown.
When the game turned: After the Saints built a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Raiders cut the lead to 14-7 on QB Carson Palmer's 1-yard TD pass to tight end Brandon Myers, getting back into the game. But with 48 seconds left in the half, Moore beat Raiders cornerback Michael Huff on a deep post, and Brees hit him with a 38-yard TD strike while taking a hit from defensive end Lamarr Houston. That put the Saints up 21-7, and they regained the momentum.
Highlight moments: Late in the first quarter, Saints SS Roman Harper knifed in front of Myers, intercepted Palmer's pass and returned it 55 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown, putting the Saints ahead 14-0. ... Saints RB/KR Travaris Cadet returned the opening kick in the second half 75 yards to the Raiders' 27. On first down, RB Mark Ingram swept around the left end for a 27-yard touchdown run, putting the Saints ahead 28-7. ... Late in the second quarter, Palmer hit Reece with a short pass in the left flat, and Reece turned it into a 56-yard gain, setting up Palmer's 1-yard TD pass to Myers.
- Saints QB Drew Brees -- 20 of 27 for 219 yards and 3 TDs with 0 interceptions and a passer rating of 134.6
- Saints RB Mark Ingram -- 12 carries for 67 yards and one touchdown
- Saints FS Roman Harper -- team-high 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and one interception
- Raiders RB Marcel Reece -- Subbing for the injured Darren McFadden, Reece carried 19 times for a career-high 103 yards. He caught four passes for 90 yards
- Raiders QB Carson Palmer -- 22 of 40 for 312 yards, two TDs, two interceptions and a passer rating of 76.2
- Raiders SS
Mike Mitchell-- Tied for team high with 10 tackles in his first career start in the base defense.
What they said about the Saints scoring late in the first half to take a 21-7 lead:
- Saints WR Lance Moore -- “We needed it. We drive the ball and are not really having a problem scoring and the defense scores and it feels like we have all of the momentum. Then they go and score and it was a situation where you needed to score. The timing of it was great to go into the locker room with the momentum and move forward from there."
- Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler -- “I feel like we always say next play, next play. I think we moved on to the next play. I don't think we got down about it."
What they said about the Saints climbing back to .500 after starting 0-4:
- Saints coach Joe Vitt -- "This was a big win for our football team, to get back to 5-5 after starting 0-4. I said it last week and I'll say it again. It's a tribute to those players in the locker room that at 0-4 they stuck together, worked hard every day, never pointed fingers and just continued to try to get better every single day. And it's paying dividends now."
Numbers you should know: The Saints had a balanced attack, passing for 229 yards and rushing for 153. They're always better when Brees doesn't have to carry most of the load.
Injury update: Raiders -- Wheeler suffered a neck injury in the second half but returned to action after a brief stint on the sidelines. ... RB Taiwan Jones injured a knee in the first half but returned to action. Saints -- CB
Going forward: Saints -- The Saints begin a rough, four-game stretch next week with a home game against the 49ers, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. After that, they go on the road to face Atlanta and the New York Giants before returning home to play Tampa Bay. Raiders -- The Raiders hit the road to play Cincinnati, where Palmer spent his first eight NFL seasons and where fired Oakland coach Hue Jackson landed as an assistant secondary/special teams coach. After that, they return home for games against Cleveland, Denver -- on a Thursday night -- and Kansas City.
Follow Raiders reporter Eric Gilmore on Twitter @CBSRaiders.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSaints.