Saints Win, Thanks To Choking Chargers
The Chargers had a chance to put the Saints away, up by double-digits late in the game. Fans in New Orleans ended up crying, but they were tears of joy.
In Drew Brees' emotional return to San Diego, his defense fell on top of two fumbles on two straight possessions when things looked bleak. Within a matter of minutes, Saints fans experienced a wild range of emotions: disappointment, frustration, incredulity, jubilation and victorious satisfaction. It was a wild ride, and Sean Payton admitted it after the game.
"Crazy finish," Payton said. He added, "I'm excited for our players. They hung in there and battled on the road.
Heading into San Diego with zero wins, the Saints desperately needed to turn the ship around. On top of that, Brees was trying to collect a win over the team that gave up on him after a shoulder injury. The emotions were running high already, which provided a preview of what was coming on the horizon.
Before the game even started, Brees let the team know how important this game was to him.
A very emotional @DrewBrees in the pregame huddle in his return to San Diego
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 2, 2016
With the stage set, the actors took the stage, and the drama ensued.
The Saints scored first, but the Chargers responded. After swapping touchdowns in the first quarter, New Orleans took the 14-7 lead on a masterful 14-play, 75-yard drive. Unfortunately, they gave a score right back with blown coverage on defense, then a Brees interception allowed San Diego to take the lead. Phillip Rivers and the Chargers tacked another score on before halftime too, giving them a double-digit lead heading into the locker room.
In the second half, the Saints' defense stepped up. Brees and the offense made it a three point game, thanks to fullback John Kuhn, who ended up with three TD's on the day. It was that type of crazy day.
The insanity reached full tilt in the fourth quarter. San Diego reclaimed the lead on a Melvin Gordon TD run, and when rookie Michael Thomas fell down, the Chargers doubled down on their momentum with an easy interception. The defense held them to a field goal though, which will probably be the most overlooked part of the win.
Down two scores, the Saints needed to drive, but it didn't happen. The Chargers got the ball back with a chance to burn clock and ice the game, but that's not what happened either.
Gordon fumbled the ball, and the Saints fell on it. A few plays later on fourth down, Brees tossed a touchdown to Thomas to bring the game within one score.
The momentum was shifting, but it wasn't done swinging. On the next possession, the Chargers fumbled again, and the Saints came out of the pile with the ball. All of a sudden, New Orleans had a chance to win.
Brees plunged the dagger into his former team's heart by handing the ball off to Kuhn for his third score, then his defense went out and shut things down with a sack on first down that put the Chargers behind the sticks. After Rivers' pass was picked off on 4th and 22, the Saints lined up in victory formation. Incredibly, they walked away with a 35-34 victory. It played out like a movie, but even the craziest writer wouldn't have drawn up that finish.
Three straight Chargers' turnovers gave the Saints a win, but Sean Payton wasn't going to talk about a "cheap" victory.
"When bad things happen on your opponents side of the field, good things happen for you," Payton stated simply.
Instead of falling to 0-4, the Saints walked out of San Diego with their first win of the season. At the brink of depression, they emerged with unbridled joy.