NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Considering that the Tennessee Titans had allowed more than 17 points in only one of their past four games and were giving up 19.1 points per game this season, the New Orleans Saints figured they were in for a fight Sunday.
The Saints’ high-powered offense, which ranked first in total yards and second in scoring, was held to three short field goals by John Kasay through three quarters before coming alive in a 22-17 victory over the Titans.
A familiar combination accounted for their only two touchdowns of the game in a 5?-minute span of the final period to provide a 12-point lead before the Titans made it interesting in the closing minutes of the contest.
After the Titans grabbed a 10-9 lead late in the third quarter on a 6-yard run by backup quarterback Jake Locker, Drew Brees guided his team to back-to-back drives of 72 and 50 yards — capping both with touchdown passes to wide receiver Marques Colston.
“It was just one of those games that went back and forth for a while, feeling each other out,” Colston said of his team having no touchdowns through the first three quarters. “We were just able to make enough plays down the stretch to get out with a win.”
Colston, who finished with seven receptions for 105 yards, was wide open when he caught his first touchdown of the day as he got behind two Titans’ defenders — cornerback Cortland Finnegan and rookie middle linebacker Colin McCarthy — on third-and-6.
“The protection was great, and they had a three-man rush, and Marques just kind of popped through the defense,” Brees said of a play that took a long time to develop. “I think they may have thought I was going to check it down, and everyone kind of stopped their feet.
“Marques just continued through their defense. It was a great job by him recognizing that and seeing it. It was a big third-down conversion that resulted in a touchdown.”
Colston had to use all of his 6-foot-4 frame to go up and bring the ball down as he waited while Brees scanned the field.
“I just had to stay disciplined with the route,” Colston said. “When things are that wide open, there is a tendency to panic sometimes. But with a guy like Drew, you just have to be in the right place.”
After the Saints defense forced the Titans into a three-and-out on their next series, Brees, who was 36-of-47 for 337 yards with a passer rating of 110.0, hooked up with Colston again.
This time, Colston raced past safety Chris Hope to reel in a 28-yard touchdown that pushed the Saints’ lead to 22-10 with 7:01 to play.
That score was just enough, however, even though the defense gave up a three-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to the Titans on the next series and then held on at the end.
“The first one was just a great play call against their defense,” Colston said after the 19th 100-yard game of his six-year NFL career. “Drew was able to find me down the middle. The second one was another great play call, and he just put it up there and let me go get it.”
Colston said Brees couldn’t have thrown that one any better.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Meach (wide receiver Robert Meachem) did a great job of getting the safety out of there, and Drew just threw a great ball.”
Colston was targeted seven times by Brees, and he caught every one of them, which was no surprise to the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback who remains on pace to break Dan Marino’s all-time single-season record of 5,084 passing yards.
“I can tell you this: I have a ton of trust and confidence in Marques,” Brees said. “I do, really, with all our guys. You talk about a big-time performer. I mean fourth quarter, we need some big plays, and we got two of them from Marques.”