Saints Ravens Football

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, right, scores a touchdown against Baltimore Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton) ORG XMIT: BAF117

BALTIMORE — Quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints stayed patient Sunday. The No. 1 offense in the league took what their opponents — the Baltimore Ravens and the No. 1 defense — allowed.

That often proved to be short throws and runs that helped move the chains. Baltimore held the Saints to seven points in the first three quarters and took a 10-point lead into the final period on a windy afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.

Brees then guided the Saints on three scoring drives for 17 points in the final period, and Baltimore helped when Justin Tucker missed the first extra point of his seven-year career with just 24 seconds left. That miss let New Orleans escape with a 24-23 victory over the Ravens.

The Saints ran 70 plays on offense but only four gained 15 yards or more. Brees, who threw his 500th NFL touchdown pass in this game, completed 22 of 30 for 212 yards and two scores. The quarterback averaged just 9.6 yards per completion, and the Saints ran for 134 yards and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, so being satisfied with yardage in smaller bunches proved necessary.

“I thought the plan going in, (Brees) executed it very well,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “There was a certain element to patience, a certain element to running the ball, time of possession, how we wanted to approach third down.”

The Saints made the right plays at the right times. Payton rolled the dice and went for it on fourth down five times in short-yardage situations. The Saints made four of them.

Also, the Saints went 6-for-14 on third-down plays. They opened the game with a 20-play, 69-yard drive that netted nothing thanks to a late fumble, but it was clear New Orleans would be fine taking whatever it could get from the stingy Baltimore defense.

“Winning a game like this on the road does well to build this team’s character,” Brees said. “I think there is something special about this team. I can’t say enough about our team. We were down 10 points, and we showed composure.”

The Ravens have long taken pride in their defense and tipped their hats to Brees and the Saints for the 17-point fourth quarter and that ability to take whatever they could get. Baltimore blitzed and threw a lot of looks at the veteran quarterback, but Brees was happy to dink and dunk and make short passes to keep drives moving.

Brees also got the ball out quickly, which negated the Ravens’ pass rush after they posted a franchise-record 11 sacks in last week’s 21-0 shutout of Tennessee. Baltimore sacked Brees only once, and that didn’t come until the fourth quarter.

“They just executed,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “They’re the No. 1 offense, and they’ve got one hell of a quarterback. We knew that going in. They were able to keep drives going. They made one more play than us.”

In the end, the Ravens just had too much trouble in keeping Brees and the offense on the sideline. New Orleans did not have a three-and-out, and when Brees came back in, he slowly marched the Saints down the field most of the time.

He just kept making enough plays, no matter how long they were, to keep the offense moving. That proved crucial to the 17-point fourth quarter that gave the Saints the come-from-behind win.

“He extended some plays, we had him wrapped up, (and) he was just finding a way to make a play,” Baltimore safety Eric Weddle said. “Not many guys can do that in the history of the game. I think we played well at times; other times, he made incredible plays and got first downs to continue drives. That’s what was frustrating at times. We just didn’t get off the field.”