So they pulled their starting quarterback and finished off the Baltimore Ravens without him.
Deuce McAllister ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns, and the Saints capitalized on a litany of Baltimore miscues in a 37-25 victory Sunday.
|Duece McAllister continues his strong season with 127 yards and three TDs for the Saints. (AP)|
"We just felt he was struggling a little bit in the third quarter, and we decided to take him out," Haslett said. "He didn't have that much practice this week, and it's tough on a quarterback when he doesn't practice."
Brooks was replaced by Jake Delhomme, who converted a Jamal Lewis fumble into a touchdown on his first drive and later led the Saints on a 10-play march that produced a field goal for a 30-17 lead with 6:28 left.
Brooks, who finished 9-for-23 for 123 yards a touchdown, warned Delhomme earlier that he might be needed.
"In the second quarter, he said to stay loose," Delhomme said. "When he came out for halftime, he said stay loose. So I knew I'd be going in."
Delhomme went 7-for-8 for 103 yards, effectively finishing what Brooks started.
The Saints (9-4) will almost certainly need Brooks for their planned playoff run, but this victory was secured by the special teams and the defense.
New Orleans blocked two punts, recovered three fumbles and had two interceptions against former teammate Jeff Blake.
Lewis scored on a 1-yard run and caught a 77-yard touchdown pass from Blake, but he lost two fumbles as Baltimore (6-7) saw its flickering playoff hopes diminish even further.
McAllister's third touchdown run, which put New Orleans up by 20 with 3:08 to go, was set up by safety Fred Thomas' second interception of the game.
Blake, who started for New Orleans in 2000 and was a backup to Brooks last year, went 18-for-39 for 316 yards. But he gave the ball away three times.
"If we don't make any turnovers, if we don't give them anything, we win this football game," he said. "Everything they got, we gave them. You give a team like that that type of field position, they're going to beat you."
The Saints capitalized on two Baltimore mistakes to go up 10-0 in the opening eight minutes. First, Blake dropped back to pass and lost his grip on the ball without being touched, a turnover that resulted in a field goal by John Carney.
"The ball slipped out of my hand. A cold night, dry hand," Blake said.
Four plays later, Ravens punter Dave Zastudil hesitated too long after taking the snap, and Fred McAfee blocked the kick. Brooks then hit Donte' Stallworth with a 28-yard touchdown pass.
"It was going to be a quick out to Ron Johnson, but the defender came up and pressed him, and we weren't expecting that," Zastudil said. "I thought I could kick it real quick."
Ravens coach Brian Billick summed up the play this way: "He should have just punted the thing away. It was a mistake between two rookies."
Baltimore closed to 10-7 late in the first quarter with a three-play drive that consisted of a 31-yard run by receiver Travis Taylor, a 43-yard completion from Blake to Todd Heap and a plunge by Lewis.
After the kickoff, Haslett opted to go for it on a fourth-and-1 from the New Orleans 34. Brooks was successful on a quarterback sneak, then hit Joe Horn for 39 yards to set up a field goal and a 13-7 lead.
The comedy continued late in the half. After the Saints blocked another punt, McAllister promptly lost a fumble at the Baltimore 30. Then Lewis fumbled the ball back on the next play.
Aided by a personal foul call against Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister -- who tossed Stallworth's helmet 10 yards after Brooks scrambled for a first down -- New Orleans went up 20-7 on a 1-yard run by McAllister.
McAllister's second touchdown run, from the 3, came six plays after Lewis lost a fumble at the Baltimore 22.
"They made some mistakes and we capitalized," McAllister said. "Once we got the lead we felt comfortable, and Jake really came in and helped us in the second half."
- McAllister has 13 rushing touchdowns, tying the Saints' single-season record held by Dalton Hilliard ('89) and George Rogers ('81).
- The 37 points allowed is the most since Billick became coach in 1999.
- Baltimore finished 0-4 against the NFC this year.
The Associated Press News Service
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