While their record smacked of dominance, the Saints were far from it for much of the second half of the season. Some said the team was backing into the playoffs with no chance of recovering, but New Orleans, as it’s been known to do in tough times, proved the skeptics wrong and recovered to throttle the Cardinals in the divisional round of the playoffs. A big-play offense and a opportunistic defense were keys to the Saints’ success in 2009.
Saints 45, Lions 27
This game may have been over as soon as the Lions kicked off, and the Lions were certainly finished by halftime, when the Saints marched off the Superdome field with a 28-10 lead. Drew Brees torched the Detroit defense, throwing for 358 yards and six TDs. He connected with eight different targets, including TE Jeremy Shockey, who started strong by making two TD grabs after scoring zero TDs in the previous season. RB Mike Bell filled in well for the injured Pierre Thomas and rushed for 143 yards on 28 carries.
Saints 48, Eagles 22
New Orleans followed up its opener with another blowout, this time of the Donovan McNabb-less Eagles in Philadelphia. Brees threw three more TD passes, and his counterpart, Kevin Kolb, who made his first NFL start, threw for 391 yards and two TDs, but he was picked off three times, the last of which was returned 97 yards for a TD by Saints FS Darren Sharper. Scott Shanle led the way defensively for the Saints by making 12 tackles and an interception.
Saints 27, Bills 7
Pierre Thomas made a huge impact in his first full game back from a knee injury. While the passing game faltered vs. Buffalo’s solid secondary, Thomas rushed 14 times for 126 yards and two TDs, all in the second half, as New Orleans pulled away. The Saints were 3-0 for the first time since 2006, when they advanced to the NFC championship game.
Saints 24, Jets 10
The Jets were riding high after a 3-0 start of their own when they pulled into New Orleans, but the Saints sent them a message in front of a raucous Superdome crowd. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez unraveled in the unfriendly surroundings and turned the ball over four times after committing just three turnovers in his first three games. Sharper returned one of his two interceptions 99 yards for a TD and DT Remi Ayodele recovered a fumble in the endzone. Thomas’ one-yard TD run with 6:07 to play sealed the deal.
Saints 48, Giants 27
The Saints soundly defeated a previously unbeaten team for the second game in a row with a thrashing of the Giants. New York was ranked No. 1 in defense and pass defense entering the matchup, but Brees sliced up the Giants’ secondary for 369 yards and four TDs. New Orleans had 34 points by halftime and looked like the class of the NFC.
Saints 46, Dolphins 34
New Orleans had to rally for the first time in 2009 after falling behind 24-3 in the second quarter. Gregg Williams’ defense tightened up and Brees, who was picked off three times, re-ignited the passing game in the second half as the team remained undefeated.
Saints 35, Falcons 27
Fourteen points off turnovers helped the Saints hold off their division rivals. The Falcons had a chance to tie the game with a TD and two-point conversion after recovering an onside kick late in the fourth quarter, but Matt Ryan’s heave to the endzone with three seconds to play was picked off by Sharper.
Saints 30, Panthers 20
Two DeAngelo Williams TD runs put the Saints in a 14-0 hole, but the team rallied back again to improve to 8-0, which broke the mark for best start in franchise history. New Orleans benefited from three Carolina fumbles and outscored its opponent 24-3 in the second half.
Saints 28, Rams 23
The Rams hung around until the end but never were able to take a lead even in a sloppily played game by the Saints, who committed three turnovers in the contest. RB Reggie Bush scored two TDs, Saints RS Courtney Roby returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score and Marc Bulger’s desperation toss to the endzone fell out of bounds at the end of regulation.
Saints 38, Buccaneers 7
Rookie QB Josh Freeman was overmatched against the Saints’ defense in just the third start of his career. He committed four turnovers, and New Orleans efficiently disposed of his Buccaneers, scoring TDs on all five of its trips to the red zone.
Saints 38, Patriots 17
The Saints had a chance to make a statement with the Patriots entering their house, and they made one loud and clear. Brees was at the top of his game, completing 18-of-23 passes for 371 yards and five TDs, and the defense, which was shorthanded at corner because of injuries, had two sacks, forced a fumble and picked off Tom Brady twice.
Saints 33, Redskins 30 (OT)
The Saints needed extra time to put away the Redskins at FedEx Field. After review, officials ruled that Mike Sellers had fumbled the ball away on the Redskins’ third play of overtime, and Saints CB Chris McAlister recovered it. Garrett Hartley made an 18-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, and the Saints clinched the NFC South title with the victory.
Saints 26, Falcons 23
The Falcons were without Ryan and Michael Turner, but they still gave the Saints a scare. Jonathan Vilma came up with two big plays in the fourth quarter, picking off Chris Redman and stuffing RB Jason Snelling one yard short of a first down on 4th-and-2.
Cowboys 24, Saints 17
The Saints watched their perfect season go up in flames, losing at home on a Saturday night while scoring a season-low 17 points. Trailing by seven with six seconds to play, DeMarcus Ware sacked Brees and forced him to fumble. It was recovered by Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff.
Buccaneers 20, Saints 17 (OT)
New Orleans blew a 17-point lead but still had a chance to win with a 37-yard field goal. Hartley missed the attempt, though, and Bucs PK Connor Barth sunk the Saints with a 47-yard field goal in overtime.
Panthers 23, Saints 10
With home-field advantage in the NFC locked up, head coach Sean Payton put several starters on the bench, including Brees, and the Panthers dealt the Saints their third straight loss. DE Charles Grant, a starter who did play, tore his triceps and was lost for the season.
Saints 45, Cardinals 14
A playoff bye gave the Saints time to regroup after their three-game losing streak to end the season. Cardinals RB Tim Hightower ran for a 70-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage, but it was all Saints from that point on. Reggie Bush ran for a 46-yard TD and returned a punt 83 yards for a score, as well.
Minnesota Vikings' season in review
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