October 2, 2011

Saints Win 23-10 With Second-Half Shutout in Jacksonville

The Saints settled for field goals instead of touchdowns most of the day, but didn't need much to outgun rookie QB Blaine Gabbert and the Jagaurs.  The Saints defense pitched a second half shutout, sacked Gabbert three times and Patrick Robinson picked him off, as the Saints lead the entire game and won 23-10.

The Jaguars caught some traction on their first drive, picking up first downs on a pass interference penalty on Jabari Greer on the first snap, a strike down the middle to TE Marcedes Lewis and a 12-yard scramble by Gabbert.  But their drive stalled at the Saint 38 on the seventh play of the drive.  On fourth down WR Jason Hill, tangled up with Greer again, dropped Gabbert's pass and the Jaguars turned it over on downs.

The Saints moved the ball methodically down the field, going three-receivers wide and open with an empty backfield.  TE Jimmy Graham picked up two underneath first downs, and Darren Sproles had a run of 19 yards and a nine yard gain on a short pass that brought the Saints down to the goal line.

On first and inches, the Saints broke their goal line formation and sent TE Jimmy Graham and RB Mark Ingram wide left.  FB Jed Collins remained in offset formation behind Brees, and got the handoff up the middle.  Collins reached out across the goal line for his first NFL touchdown to put the Saints on the board.

Stuffed on the kickoff return at their own 9 yard line, the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew lost a fumble on their first play, moving them back to their own 7.  A short gain on second down on a fullback flare set up third and 10 with the rookie Gabbert backed up on his own five yard line. A bubble screen to WR Mike Thomas sprung the 5'8 speedster, with CB Patrick Robinson blocked fifteen yards down the field.  CB Tracy Porter, playing in only his second game of the season, chased down the electric Thomas after a 47 yard gain into Saints territory.

RB Desi Karim appeared to fumble, but was ruled down by contact.  Sean Payton challenged and the Saints lost their first timeout when the ruling was upheld.  On third and short, a design run for Gabbert with his backfield lead blocking appeared to pick up a first down, but Mike Thomas was called for holding.  On third and 13, the Saints' pass rush got a fingertip on Gabbert's pass, which fluttered incomplete.

Backed up at their own goal line, Brees was further pinned back after a false start on RT Charles Brown, making his first career start in place of Zach Strief.  On third and 11, with Brees dropping shotgun into the back of his end zone, he completed a pass over the middel to Darren Sproles, while open under the middle.  A block by Pierre Thomas sprung Sproles for the first down to the to Saint 17. The Saints picked up another first down with Mark Ingram trucked and dragged Jags LB Clint Session.

Robert Meachem caught an easy 25-yarder in the hole Brees found in the Jags zone behind Reshean Mathis on the first play of the second quarter.  Sproles continued to be the team's leading receiver, picking up three more first downs on this drive.  For the second drive in a row, Sproles was tackled inches short of the goal line.  This time, with both fullbacks on the field, Brees faked, bootlegged left and threw to Jimmy Graham for the easy score.  Graham punctuated the 96-yard, 12 play drive with a slam dunk over the goal posts.

Gabbert moved the Jaguars near midfield again with passes over the middle to Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, but a Roman Harper sack on 2nd and 10 set up 3rd and 20.  Gabbert to Jarrett Dillard over the middle didn't pick up the first down, but a facemask personal foul flag against Scott Shanle gave the Jaguars a first down at the Saint 30.  A diving catch by TE Marcedes Lewis on 3rd and 7 put the Jaguars in the red zone, only the second time they have possessed the ball on the opponent red zone all season.

Two plays later a strike to TE Zach Miller put the Jaguars on the board. Miller went up high and beat Roman Harper and Jonathan Vilma to the ball, and survived their crossfire hits in the end zone.  The Jaguars had responded with their own 12-play drive for a touchdown, and dangerously gave Gabbert some confidence that he could hang with the Saints.

The Saints moved again, picking up 19 on a patented Pierre Thomas screen play and then converting a tough 3rd and 10 when Brees spun away from a free-firing blitzer and threw against his body to Sproles in the flat, who dove for the marker.  Thomas then ripped off a 15-yard run to the Jaguar 35, but the drive stalled there as Brees fired three straight incomplete passes - to Meachem in the end zone, low for Sproles on a screen, and short to Graham.  A 53-yard field goal attempt by John Kasay was wide right, the first miss in his Saints career.

DE Will Smith picked up his first sack of the season, drawing a holding penalty and dropping Gabbert for an eight yard loss.  But a screen to Jason Hill would convert the 3rd and 13, yet another long 3rd down conversion for the rookie quarterback.  Gabbert stopped his drive with an incomplete pass to Karim in the flat on 3rd and 7, setting up a punt from the Saint 41.

Getting the ball back inside the two minute warning, Brees with an empty backfield went to work but was picked off three plays into the drive by LB Daryl Smith, who easily stepped in front of Sproles.  Brees chased down Smith at the Saint 13 but it set up an opportunity for the Jaguars to somehow tie the game at the half.  The Saints held strong, forcing two incompletions and then DT Sedrick Ellis batted down Gabbert's third down pass.  The short field goal made it 14-10 with :34 left in the half.

The Saints didn't give up on it, with Brees coming out firing again with empty backfield.  A 17-yard strike to Meachem put the Saints in position to toss a bomb towards the end zone.  It was batted down incomplete at the Jaguar 5, and players started running off the field.  But a 12-men penalty on the Jaguars extended the half for an untimed play from the Saint 49 yard line.  Brees was harassed and couldn't line up a deep throw, spun and gave up field and eventually threw underneath to Pierre Thomas.  Thomas rambled down the field for 17 yards but was closed in by the Jaguars harmessly at the Jacksonville 34.

At halftime, the Saints defense had accomplished their main goal - hold down star RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who finished with 0 rushing yards on three carries and one catch for three yards.  Instead, the Jaguars put the ball in their rookie's hands, and Gabbert hit 12 of 24 passes for 165 yards and the touchdown.  Brees was 20/27 for 193 yards, a score and an interception at the half.

On the opening drive of the second half, the Saints received the kickoff and moved quickly into Jags territory with a 16-yard strike to Lance Moore, a six yard run by Mark Ingram and a 34-yard toss left run by Darren Sproles, who continues to be the most electric member of the Saints' offense.  Sproles passed 100 yards of total offense on that run, and finished with 164 total yards on the day.

That first drive stalled at the Jags 21 when Brees was sacked by DE Austen Lane on 3rd and 4.  RT Charles Brown caught an earful from Sean Payton coming off the field.  Kasay's 38-yard field goal made it 17-10.

After bottling up Jones-Drew in the first half, he ripped the Saints for a 41-yard run on the first snap for Gabbert in the second half.  But three plays later on 3rd and 12, second-year CB Patrick Robinson stepped in front of a poorly-chosen pass by Gabbert, rambled around for a long six yard return.  The Saints' first round pick in 2010, Robinson picked up his first interception and two plays early, beat his block to drop RB Desi Karim for a two-yard loss.  Playing in his home state and a few hour downs I-10 from his alma mater Florida State, Robinson kept the healthy return of Tracy Porter out of the starting lineup.

Robinson's return to the Saint 32 set up a 10-play drive that stalled at the Jaguars 21 when Brees was hit by LB Paul Posluzny on third and short and threw incomplete.  Kasay's 39-yard field goal made it 20-10 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

The Jaguars responded with a three-and-out, and so did the Saints, but Payton eschewed the punt for a fourth and one attempt near midfield.  Mark Ingram's plunge up the middle was initially stopped but then Ingram squeezed out of the other side of the pile for the yard.  Even with a conservative spot, Ingram was ruled to have covered the distance, despite running behind two backup offensive linemen in Brian de la Puente at center and Charles Brown at right tackle.

Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram moved the Saints to the 39 of Jacksonville when Jimmy Graham's weekly spectacular highlight was a catch over Posluzny down the middle for 29 yards.  A hard-fighting 8 yard run by Pierre Thomas moved the Saints to the two, but Thomas was stuffed at the line then Brees fired incomplete into the end zone.  For the third straight time, and much like last week's opponent the Texans, the Saints settled for a field goal, Kasay's third of the day.

The Saints ended the Jaguars' next drive with a near interception by Jabari Greer - Gabbert's eighth straight incomplete pass - and then Will Smith's second sack of the day on third down.

Robinson's interception and ball-control offense by the Saints gave the Jags only 7 offensive snaps in the third quarter as the Saints pushed their lead to 10.

Brees threw his second interception of the day four plays later when a high pass off Meachem's hands was hauled in by S Dawan Landry.  The Jags drive was aidded by first downs given by the refs - a defensive holding on Scott Shanle and a late hit on Jonathan Casillas, moving down to the Saint 20 before an incomplete pass on third and one led to a decision by Jack Del Rio to go for it.  Gabbert overthrew for TE Marcedes Lewis at the goal line, turning the ball over on downs.

The Saints didn't pick up a first down as Del Rio's defense held on and third down fill-in center de la Puente was beaten by Posluzny who collected the Jaguars' second sack.  Morstead punted a booming 58-yarder out of his end zone with his mother, a Breast Cancer survivor, in the crowd.

Gabbert took over at his own 30 with a hurry-up offense and hit Mike Thomas for a nine yard gain on first down, his first incompletion of the second half with 5:36 left in the game.  Later on 4th and 11 - from the same position where the Jags attempted a fourth down three and a half minutes earlier - Gabbert fired and it was broken up by Jabari Greer.  The Saints took over on downs again with 3:24 left.  On second down Brees hit a wide-open Jimmy Graham on a wheel route down the left sideline.  Brees hit 6'7 Graham in stride and Graham was finally dragged down at the Jacksonville 18 after a 59 yard gain.

On the next snap Brees went down under a wave of Jaguars pass rushers.  After he was down, Brees was jumped on by Jags DT Tyson Alualu, inexplicably not drawing a flag from a safety-conscious league, and starting a scuffle among the linemen.  On 3rd and 24, Brees dropped in shotgun and fired for Devery Henderson at the front pylon of the goal line.  Henderson caught it backpedaling but his second foot was out of bounds.  John Kasay was put in for a 50-yard field goal attempt, which fluttered wide right.

Gabbert's final drive was snuffed out by Vilma on a fourth down pass over the middle.  The Saints ran off the final 1:50 on three straight runs by Ingram which picked up a first down.

Brees kneeled off the final snap, and finished 31/44 for 351 yards, a score and two interceptions, only one of which was really his fault.  Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas combined for 166 yards rushing on 30 rushing attempts, with Sproles leading the way with 75 yards rushing on only seven attempts. Jimmy Graham set career highs with 10 catches for 132 yards and a score.

Maurice Jones-Drew finished with 84 yards rushing on 11 attempts, but had rushes of 41 and 19 among those.  Gabbert, who looked good early on, was clearly out-schemed by Gregg Williams.  Gabbert had only four of his 16 completions after halftime, and finished 16/42 for 192 yards, a score and an interception.

In his second game back, DE Will Smith was credited with two sacks.

The Saints won the time of possession battle with 37:05.

Notes: WR Marques Colston played in the game but did not start.  He caught one pass for eight yards in the third quarter...  The Jaguars field crew painted one side of the field's arrows pointing the wrong direction... Del Rio is now 8-1 vs NFC South teams at home...

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