Things got off to a great start for the Saints. The Titans won the toss and receive the opening kick, but were held to a quick three and out and were forced to punt. Brees and his offense took the field for their first possession and did not waste any time. Big receptions of 25 yards by Brandin Cooks and 30 yards by Brandon Coleman helped get the Saints down in to the red zone and Brees found Josh Hill for a 10 yard touchdown pass to open the scoring and give New Orleans the 7-0 lead.
The Saints defense picked up right where they left off, holding the Titans to -1 yards on the ensuing drive and forcing another three and out. Brett Kern booted away his second punt of the day and Marcus Murphy took the return, made a few moves, then fumbled the ball away, allowing for Tennessee to recover at the New Orleans 42 yard line. Despite being put right back on the field, Rob Ryan’s defense held Mariota’s unit to another three and out. The Titans were able to gain nine yards, though, which put them close enough for Ryan Succop to hit a 51 yard field goal to close the score to 7-3.
Brees and the offense took over and once again moved the ball with ease. Marques Colston made a big 16 yard reception on a 3rd and 8 to get in to Tennessee territory, then Brees found Brandin Cooks for a deep 38 yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 14-3. On the next drive, the Titans finally converted a first down, thanks to an offsides penalty by Bobby Richardson. A few plays later, they faced another 3rd down and we saw one of the craziest plays of the season. Mariota launched a deep pass to Delanie Walker, but both Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis were camped underneath it. Both of them went up for the interception and crashed in to one another, which caused the ball to bounce up in to the air for Walker to snatch and take the rest of the way for a touchdown. The score made it 14-10 and was a big turning point that changed the direction of the game. Even if the pass had fallen incomplete, New Orleans was set to get the ball back and Tennessee had shown no signs of being able to slow them down. Instead it was at least a seven point swing and the Titans put themselves in position to hang around.
Brees and the offense stayed hot on their next possession, though, going 79 yards in 10 plays to get back in to the end zone for the third time. Brees used a quarterback sneak from the 1 yard line to re-extend the lead to 21-10. It didn’t take long for the Titans to fire right back, as Antonio Andrews used the first two plays of the next drive to get his team in to the red zone. Starting at their own 23 yard line, Andrews took a reception for 23 yards, then took a carry for 38 yards to get Tennessee down to the 16 yard line. On the next two plays, Mariota and Walker connected on gains of 14 and 2 yards, with the second being a touchdown to close the score to 21-17.
Things slowed down after that, as the Saints were forced to punt on their next two possessions. The Titans had a chance to get some last second points after taking over with under two minutes left, but after driving 69 yards, Dexter McCluster fumbled at the Saints 13 yard line with :18 left, squandering his team’s chances for at least a last second field goal. New Orleans held the half time lead, 21-17.
Starting the second half with the ball, Brees and the offense could only manage nine yards. A 3rd and 1 rushing attempt by Mark Ingram got stuffed, which was the story of the day for the Saints rushing attack. Thomas Morstead, who appeared to have tweaked his previously injured quadriceps during the game, could only manage a 43 yard punt, giving Tennessee good starting field position at their own 33 yard line. The Titans could not take the lead, but were able to get a 29 yard field goal from Succop, closing the gap to 21-20.
The Saints took over and started moving the ball well again, with Coleman coming up with another big gain. He made a nice toe tapping reception on the sideline for a 28 yard gain, helping get New Orleans in to Tennessee territory. A few plays later, with a 1st and 10 all the way down at the Titans 19 yard line, Brees was sacked by Wesley Woodyard for a big loss of 11 yards. On the next play, Brees tried forcing a throw to Ingram running a deep route down the side line, but it was overthrown and B.W. Webb made the interception in the end zone.
The New Orleans defense stepped up following the turnover, though, holding Tennessee to just 2 yards and a quick three and out. Brees and the offense took over and moved the ball down to the Titans 12 yard line and that is when we had some fireworks pop off. On a 2nd and 11 from the 12 yard line, David Bass sacked Brees for what looked to be a loss of 9 yards. Instead, he was called for roughing the pass, due to helmet to helmet contact. Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo became very upset with the call and was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for screaming at the referee. He then because even more upset and got even closer to the referee, which drew yet another unsportsmanlike conduct. The three 15 yard penalties ended up putting the ball at the 1 yard line, where two plays later Brees hit Michael Hoomanawananui for a 1 yard touchdown strike. The extra point gave New Orleans the 28-20 lead with 10:32 left in the game.
Mariota and the Titans were not ready to give up, though. On the next kickoff, a 32 yard return by McCluster, along with a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty for a head butt from Michael Mauti, gave Tennessee great starting field position at their own 43 yard line. Mariota and Harry Douglas connected three times for 36 yards on the drive, with their last completion getting the Titans down to a 1st and goal from the 9 yard line. Two plays later, Justin Hunter caught an 8 yard touchdown reception, getting his team within a two point conversion of tying the game. They did just that, as Walker hauled in yet another big reception, knotting things up at 28-28.
The Saints could not get much going, with a holding penalty and a sack putting them in a deep hole that they could not climb out of, forcing another Morstead punt. Tennessee took over at their own 11 and quickly went to work, starting the drive with a big 23 yard pass from Mariota to Anthony Fasano. It should be noted that Brandon Browner was called for another holding penalty, but it was declined due to the result of the play. I mention that, because just a few plays later the Saints forced a 3rd and 7 for the Titans when Mariota’s pass that was intended for Walker fell incomplete, but Browner was called for defensive pass interference, giving Tennessee a free first down at the New Orleans 32 yard line with 2:42 left in the game. A holding penalty on the Titans hurt their chances of picking up any more first downs to run more time off of the clock and they were forced to attempt a 55 yard field goal after their drive stalled. Succop’s kick was right down the middle, but just inches short as the ball hit the crossbar and bounced back in to the end zone.
Starting with great field position at the Tennessee 45 yard line, it only took Brees two plays to get his team in to field goal position as he found Willie Snead for a 22 yard gain down to the 33 yard line. Unfortunately, he was sacked by Orakpo on the next play for a loss of 8 yards, which turned out to possibly being the game saving play for the Titans. Brees and Colston were able to connect for a 15 yard pass to at least get back in to manageable field goal position for a 46 yard attempt from Kai Forbath. Unfortunately, a low snap and shaky hold resulted in a low kick, which was tipped by Coty Sensabaugh and the game remain tied. Tennessee still had time to possibly sneak in to field goal position themselves, but could not get much going and had to punt. Brees took a knee with :11 left and the game went to overtime.
Tennessee won the toss and did not look back. Mariota hit Dorial Green-Beckham for a quick 14 yard gain to start the extra period, which was followed by a 15 yard gain by Andrews to get near mid-field. Two plays later, Mariota hit Craig Stevens over the middle, who made the catch while falling to the ground, but Stephone Anthony dove to knock the ball down and no one else was near him to touch him down. Stevens got up and ran for about 20 yards to make it a 25 yard gain to the Saints 25 yard line. The Titans later faced a 3rd and 2, but Green-Beckham beat Browner easily on a quick slant to convert for a gain of 9 yards. Two plays later from the 5 yard line, Tennessee ran a roll out to Mariota’s right, while Anthony Fasano snuck all the way to the back side of the play and no one picked him up, making for an easy pitch and catch to end the game. The touchdown negated the Saints from having an offensive possession of their own and the game ended with the score 34-28.
- Drew Brees – 28-39 / 387 yards / 3 TDs / 1 INT / 71.8% completions / 118.2 QB rating / 4 times sacked / 1 rushing TD
- Mark Ingram – 22 carries / 54 yards / 2.5 yards per carry / 4 receptions / 42 yards
- C.J. Spiller – 2 carries / 8 yards / 4.0 yards per carry / 1 reception / 2 yards
- Willie Snead – 6 receptions / 95 yards
- Brandin Cooks – 4 receptions / 71 yards / 1 TD
- Ben Watson – 5 receptions / 60 yards
- Brandon Coleman – 2 receptions / 58 yards
- Josh Hill – 2 receptions / 21 yards / 1 TD
- Michael Hoomanawanui – 1 reception / 1 yard / 1 TD
- Jairus Byrd – 10 tackles
- Michael Mauti – 10 tackles
- Kenny Vaccaro – 10 tackles
- John Jenkins – 10 tackles / 1 tackle for loss
- Stephone Anthony – 8 tackles
- Delvin Breaux – 2 tackles / 2 passes defended
- Kai Forbath – 0/1 FGs (
46), 4/4 XPs
- Marcus Mariota – 28-39 / 371 yards / 4 TDs / 0 INTs / 71.8% completions / 135.7 QB rating / 0 times sacked
- Antonio Andrews – 19 carries / 88 yards / 4.6 yards per carry / 1 reception / 23 yards
- Dexter McCluster – 8 carries / 19 yards / 2.4 yards per carry / 2 receptions / 28 yards
- Delanie Walker – 7 receptions / 95 yards / 2 TDs
- Dorial Green-Beckham – 5 receptions / 77 yards
- Harry Douglas – 5 receptions / 73 yards
- Anthony Fasano – 3 receptions / 33 yards / 1 TD
- Justin Hunter – 3 receptions / 17 yards / 1 TD
- Wesley Woodyard – 8 tackles / 1 tackle for loss / 1 sack
- Michael Griffin – 8 tackles
- B.W. Webb – 5 tackles / 1 INT / 1 pass defended
- Brian Orakpo – 4 tackles / 2 sacks / 1 pass defended
- Angelo Blackson – 3 tackles / 1 tackle for loss / 1 sack
- Ryan Succop – 2/3 FGs (51, 29,
55), 2/2 XPs
- Total yards: Saints-416, Titans-483
- Pass yards: Saints-355, Titans-371
- Rush yards: Saints-61, Titans-112
- 1st downs: Saints-29, Titans-25
- 3rd down conversions: Saints-6/11 (55%), Titans-5/13 (38%)
- Red zone TD conversions: Saints-3/4 (75%), Titans-3/5 (60%)
- Turnovers: Saints-2, Titans-1
- Points off turnovers: Saints-0, Titans-3
- Penalties: Saints-8/75, Titans-9/66
- Possession: Saints-32:49, Titans-32:21
Next week, the Saints (4-5) will travel to Washington to face the Redskins (3-5) who lost on the road to the New England Patriots today, 27-10. New Orleans only has next week’s game remaining before their bye week, so getting a win before having the extra week to work out some kinks would be crucial. At this point, there is not any more room for error if they have any hope of still making a run at the playoffs.