Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints get defensive in the final seconds

New Orleans Saints defensive end Paul Kruger sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Paul Kruger sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS

On this Sunday in Week 8 of the NFL season, the defense did not rest.

No, the much-maligned, usually benevolent New Orleans Saints defense stood its ground and made a bold statement inside the final two minutes against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks to preserve a 25-20 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

No more.

No more bending and breaking.

No more being a league laughingstock.

No more not lending a helping hand to Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback Drew Brees and a prolific offense.

Preventing the Seahawks from scoring the winning touchdown on 4th-and-2 from the Saints' 10 with two seconds remaining hardly qualifies as a goalline stand.

But beggars can't be choosers.

So, when Seahawks' wide receiver Jermaine Kearse came down with a catch out of bounds in the back right corner of the end zone as time expired, the Saints' sideline and an angst-filled soldout stadium erupted into a giddy celebration.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson lofted the final pass high into the air, hoping Kearse would beat Saints' journeyman cornerback B.W. Webb in single coverage. But B.W. was up to the challenge, weaving a tangled Webb when it counted most.

Before the final snap, I expected Wilson to target Jimmy Graham, the former Saints tight end who got dealt to Seattle in March 2015 for center Max Unger and a first-round pick. But Wilson appeared to only have eyes for Kearse.

Let the record show that Brees and the Saints offense scored on their last six possessions on field goals of 22-, 53-, 21- and 41-yards by Will Lutz, a Brees' 1-yard sneak and a 2-yard pass from Brees to wide receiver Brandin Cooks to overcome a 14-3 deficit five minutes into the second quarter.

Let the record also reflect that backup Saints' running back Tim Hightower fillied in admirably for benched starter Mark Ingram, turning in a gritty performance with 102 yards rushing on 26 carries.

Ingram entered coach Sean Payton's doghouse midway through the first quarter after losing the ball into the hands of Seahawks' safety Earl Thomas, who converted the turnover into a 34-yard return for a sudden touchdown.

Afterward, Payton said Ingram is tough skinned and will rebound, although it marks the second consecutive game that the former Heisman Trophy-winner from Alabama has committed a costly turnover.

Also, credit the Saints offense for controlling the clock and for wearing down the Seahawks' hard-nosed defense, especially in the first half when the home team dominated time of possession 21:22 to 8:38 and plays from scrimmage 43 to 19.

Yes, the Saints seemed to curry favor with game officials, often getting the benefit of doubt on pass plays that easily could have been called illegal pick plays by Saints wide receivers (i.e., Cooks' TD).

Now, it's on to the West Coast for a date next Sunday with the beleaguered San Francisco 49ers (1-6) and a chance to reach the elusive .500 mark.

Let's see if the suddenly invigorated Saints defense makes the trip.

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