<
>

Saints roundup: Game-changing challenge

NEW ORLEANS -- One of the most critical moments in the New Orleans Saints' 44-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers came during a stoppage of play on Sunday night.

With extra time to consult with his assistants in the booth because of an injury delay, Sean Payton decided to challenge the spot of the football after an apparent first-down catch by Packers receiver Davante Adams in the third quarter.

The Saints won the challenge, which instead set up a fourth-and-inches for Green Bay on its own 40-yard line. And linebacker David Hawthorne led a convoy that stuffed running back Eddie Lacy for no gain.

Three plays later, the Saints took a 30-16 lead.

Payton said he probably would have thrown the challenge flag at the last moment even without the extra delay.

"I haven't met many challenges I don't like," cracked Payton, who is actually a rather conservative 2-of-3 on replay challenges this year.

Brees busts blitz: Saints quarterback Drew Brees was awesome at just about everything on Sunday night, completing 27 of 32 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But he was especially good in the second half (11 of 11, with all three of his TDs).

And he was especially good against the blitz. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees' three TD passes all came against five or more pass-rushers -- his first 3-TD game against extra pass-rushers since 2008.

Brees faced five or more pass-rushers on a season-high 46 percent of his dropbacks, and he completed 12 of 16 passes with three TDs and zero interceptions.

On the flip side, the Saints' defense rarely blitzed -- but it was effective when it did. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers was 2-of-6 against five or more pass-rushers with zero TDs and two interceptions. (NOTE: The Saints ran a zone blitz with cornerback Patrick Robinson on Rodgers' 70-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb in the first quarter, but they still had just four total pass-rushers on the play).

Kicking straight: Saints kicker Shayne Graham was a perfect 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts Sunday, and he has quietly put together an extremely efficient season. He has made 13 of 14 field-goal attempts this season (while also missing one extra point).

Rare gem: Sunday's Saints victory was the first win by any NFC South team in three weeks -- which explains why they're in a virtual tie for first place at 3-4 with the Carolina Panthers (3-4-1).