NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Blasted off his feet as he threw, Steve McNair lay on his back for a moment, then propped up his head,
grinning after another first-down pass.
In his return from a concussion and strained neck two weeks ago,
McNair never shied away from contact, throwing accurately in the
face of penetrating defenders or scrambling for key first downs.
By the time the New Orleans Saints figured out how to slow him
down, McNair had run for one touchdown and thrown for two more as
the Baltimore Ravens snapped a two-game losing streak with a 35-22
victory on Sunday.
"Feeling confident and having the will to go out there and
execute" got him off to the fast start, McNair said. "Our offense
has been struggling and today was a good day."
The Ravens' defense was dominant as well, accounting for two
touchdowns on a pair of 12-yard interception returns by Louisiana
natives Ronnie Prude and Dawan Landry. They also knocked Reggie Bush out of the game in the fourth quarter. Bush went to the locker
room favoring his left ankle, but later said he did not expect to
miss a game.
Baltimore (5-2) became the first team to beat the Saints in the
Louisiana Superdome this season and made it look easy, despite
coach Brian Billick only recently taking over the play-calling
after firing offensive coordinator Jim Fassel following the Ravens'
last game two weeks ago.
"I particularly like the play calls of the two interceptions
for touchdowns," Billick joked. "Today was players knowing what
it is they needed to do, having worked it properly in practice."
Still, the play-calling wasn't bad, and several Saints said the
Ravens surprised them by how often and when they threw.
The Ravens used crisp play-action fakes out of running
formations to pass for several key first downs and took a 7-0 lead
on a 5-yard quarterback draw.
McNair gave Baltimore a 14-0 lead on a quick third-down slant to
Clarence Moore early in the second quarter. He finished 17-of-23
for 159 yards, which was more than enough with Ravens running back
Jamal Lewis gaining 109 yards on 31 carries.
"He is running hard and physical and that's the style running
game we're going to have," Billick said. "It's great to get him
Even when McNair made a mistake that should have resulted in an
interception, it worked out for a score. Late in the first half,
his pass for tight end Todd Heap was underthrown and linebacker
Scott Fujita was set to intercept it. But cornerback Jason Craft
got a finger on it, tipping it over Fujita and straight to Heap,
resulting in a 28-7 lead for the Ravens at halftime.
"It was a combination of them kind of beating our butt a little
bit and us not getting any breaks," Fujita said.
New Orleans (5-2) kept fighting, but the deficit was far too
large against Baltimore's hard-hitting defense.
Drew Brees was intercepted three times, twice on deflections,
and sacked twice. Ray Lewis, who made six tackles, also thwarted
the Saints' first decent scoring chance when he intercepted Bush's
halfback pass intended for Marques Colston in the end zone. That
was the second turnover for Bush, who fumbled at the Saints 43 when
he was hit by blitzing safety Gerome Sapp as he took a handoff on
the Saints' opening drive.
"When you make mistakes on your end of the field, they result
in points" for the opponent, Saints coach Sean Payton said. "In
this case, if you look at the turnovers, that's what happened. It's
not any magic formula. It went against everything we've been trying
to accomplish and we've just got to go back and make the
Brees finished 24-for-45 for 383 yards and three touchdowns. Joe
Horn became the Saints' all-time leader in touchdown catches when
he hauled in a 32-yard scoring pass in the second quarter, passing
Eric Martin. His 49th touchdown catch as a Saint made it 21-7, but
New Orleans wouldn't get any closer. Rookie Colston had touchdown
catches of 47 and 25 yards in the fourth quarter and has six TDs
The Saints could not run the ball, however, finishing with only
35 yards on 14 carries.
The Baltimore secondary, meanwhile, did not miss an opportunity
to punish the Saints for making mistakes.
Landry's touchdown on the first of his two interceptions made
the score 35-7 about midway through the third quarter, prompting an
initial flow of disappointed fans to the exits. His second
interception early in the fourth quarter all but cleared out the
The Ravens' fumble recovery in the first quarter was their
14th of the season. Their four interceptions gave them five for the
season. ... Saints kick return specialist Michael Lewis played for
the first time since Sept. 19, 2005. He had a 46-yard kickoff
return in the first half.
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