Playoffs-Bound New Orleans Saints Struggled Against Nashville Titans
Written by  // Monday, 12 December 2011 11:42 //

titansThe Saints (10-3) secured a playoff spot as they escaped Nashville with a 22-17 victory over Tennessee on Sunday and the Bears lost to the Broncos.

It marks the third straight season the Saints have won 10 games and fourth time during the tenure of coach Sean Payton. 

A sack by linebacker Jo-Lon Dunbar at the Saints' 8 of rookie quarterback Jake Locker as time expired sealed a victory for the Saints.

 Sean Payton, who coached on the sideline without crutches, said,"It was a hard-fought game. Both sides played hard. It was a good gut-check for us." Payton had been on crutches since undergoing knee surgery in mid-October. He  also suffered a broken tibia after a collision with tight end Jimmy Graham on the sideline.

Penalties and other mistakes kept the Saints' league-leading offense from getting any rhythm through three quarters.

The Saints had little trouble picking up yards, but struggled until Drew Brees connected with Marques Colston for touchdown passes of 35 and 28 yards.

Brees hit on 36-of-47 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was 110.0.

Brees has now thrown a touchdown pass in  40 straight games, the second longest streak in NFL history and only behind Johnny Unitas  (47).

Chris Ivory replaced Mark Ingram (turf toe) on the active list and gained 53 yards on 11 carries (4.1 avg).  Darren Sproles had 151 all-purpose yards with 33 receiving, 58 rushing, 18 on punt returns and 42 kickoff returns.

Sproles returned a punt 82 yards for an apparent touchdown, but it was negated by holding penalty on rookie Martez Wilson.

Brees tossed a 4-yard apparent touchdown pass to Graham, but a replay showed the toe of his right foot was out of bounds.

Graham suffered from back spasms before the game and was unable to start.

"We knew they were going to get yards," said Titans safety Michael Griffin. " Brees knows how to dissect a defense."

"As bad as this one is going to hurt, we have three games left and we have to win them all," said Titans coach Mike Munchak.

The Saints held the ball 37.33 to 22.27 in time of possession.

The Saints, who entered the game with the league's best  team  converting third downs, were successful on 11 of 19 attempts. The Titans went 1 for 10 on third downs.

"The Saints are very methodical about what they do," said Munchak. "They weren’t looking for the home run all the time. They had their shots at times, but they moved the chains. They were able to stay on the field from the first drive all the way through."

The Saints are at Minnesota next Sunday in the Vikings' domed stadium, and finish the regular season with two games at the Mercedes- Benz Superdome.

The 49ers' loss to the Cardinals on Sunday dropped San Francisco (10-3) into a tie with the Saints for second place in the NFC.  The two top teams in the conference get byes in the playoffs...RIP: Juan Roca, first soccer-style kicker for LSU 1972-74 passed away on Thursday.  Funeral services are at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the Garden  of Memories Funeral home...Reggie Bush rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries in the Dolphins' loss to the Eagles on Sunday...Former LSU RB Keiland Williams? He rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries for the Lions in their win over the Vikings on Sunday...

David West agreed to a two-year deal with the Pacers on Sunday. The former Hornets forward agreed to  the deal, after the Celtics and Hornets couldn't agree on a deal. "He gives us a guy who very talented on offense," said Pacers guard Darren Collison, a former Hornet...

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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