The Saints, needing a strong showing Sunday as they fight to secure their place in the postseason, struggled to get past the New York Jets before claiming a 31-19 victory, punctuated by a big Mark Ingram touchdown run in the final minutes.
After losing two of their past three games, the Saints entered Sunday's game with an opportunity to cure a lot of their ills. Prior to that rough stretch, New Orleans had won eight straight.
Drew Brees threw for two touchdowns against the Jets, one to rookie running back Alvin Thomas and one to receiver Michael Thomas. Ingram scored twice, on a one-yard run and a 50-yard run late in the game that put him over 1,000 yards for the second season in a row.
A year ago, Mark Ingram broke the hallowed 1,000-yard barrier in the Saints' final game of the season, performing the feat for the first time …
But the game for New Orleans was also marred by several untimely mistakes and missed opportunities, including three turnovers.
The Saints entered the game with a 9-4 record against the 5-8 Jets, who were barely clinging to any playoff hopes. The Saints were a 15½-point favorite. According to an ESPN report this week, that's the largest the Saints have been favored in team history.
The Saints will face the Falcons and the Buccaneers in the next two weeks to wrap up the regular season.
Ingram finished with 74 yards rushing. He needed 29 yards to reach 1,000 for the second season in a row. The last Saints player to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons was Deuce McAllister, who did it three years in a row from 2002 to 2004.
Ingram also had 77 yards on five receptions. Fellow running back Kamara finished with 44 yards on 12 carries and 45 yards on six catches. Brees connected on 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards.
The Jets' Bryce Petty started at quarterback in place of the injured Josh McCown. While the Jets were held to only 103 total yards in the first half, Petty had no sacks or turnover and they only trailed by 7 at the intermission.
But the Saints picked off two passes in the second half and sacked Petty once. He finished with 179 passing yards. The Saints' Cam Jordan introduced himself to Petty though a series blocked passes throughout the game.
In the Saints' opening drive Ingram took a screen pass 54 yards before stepping out at the Jets' 10. After the Jets defense held, New Orleans settled for a 23-yard Wil Lutz field goal. Some views showed Ingram may have remained in bounds before diving into the end zone, but the play had been whistled dead, and the ruling could not challenged.
The next time into Jets' territory, facing 4th and 2 at the 7, Brees hit Thomas, who took it to just before the goal line. Ingram took it from there, giving the Saints a 10-0 lead.
The Jets got on the board early in the second quarter when Bilal Powell scored from 2 yards out after a 75-yard, run-heavy drive.
But the Saints responded with a 75-yard drive of their own, ending with a Brees to Kamara 10-yard touchdown.
Michael Thomas might not be getting the attention he deserves nationwide.
With under 2 minutes to go, the Saints seemed headed to a 17-7 halftime lead, when Brees, hit as he released the ball, threw an interception to Jets defensive end Leonard Williams at New Orleans' 11.
The defense helped minimize the damage, holding the Jets to a field goal to cut the lead to 17-10.
Midway through the third quarter, the Jets once again found themselves settling for a field goal after crossing the Saints 10-yard line. That kick cut the Saints lead to 17-13.
Right guard Larry Warford and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui were both forced to leave Sunday's game due to concussions.
An interception by linebacker Craig Robertson gave the Saints an opportunity to pad their lead late in the third, but five plays later, as the Saints entered the red zone, Brandon Coleman fumbled on a big hit and the Jets recovered at their own 17.
It happened again early in the fourth, as Coleman coughed up the ball near the Jets' 20, ending another promising Saints drive. Then, midway through the fourth, Brees connected with Michael Thomas for a 4-yard touchdown and a 24-13 margin.
But the Jets had some fuel left in the tank, driving down the field and scoring a touchdown with 1:50 to go. The 2-point conversion failed, making 24-19. The Jets ensuing on-side kick attempt failed
New Orleans had some extra rest and recovery time before Sunday's game after losing on Thursday Night Football in Atlanta. The Saints were without injured middle linebacker A.J. Klein, defensive end Trey Hendrickson and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on Sunday against the Jets.