On this exact day in 2012, the New Orleans Saints were 0-4 and without their leader in head coach Sean Payton. But 365 days later the Saints are 4-0 and one of the hottest and most discussed teams in the league. And for good reason, because the Saints are taking care of business on both sides of the ball in 2013 which included tonight’s 38-17 rout of the Miami Dolphins at home.
The Saints used four sacks coupled with consistent pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill as well as a no-nonsense and fast-paced offense to throttle the Dolphins, in what was a pressure-filled environment for the formerly undefeated Dolphins (3-1).
Drew Brees was a picture of near-perfection in this game as he sliced and diced the Dolphins defense for 413 yards, 4 touchdown passes, no interceptions, and a 76.9 completion percentage (30 completions in 39 attempts). He distributed his completions among eight different offensive players which included the super-dynamic Darren Sproles. Sproles irritated the Dolphins defense all game long which included 7 catches for 114 yards and 1 score.
The Saints had so much success in their passing game tonight, that they almost had three receivers go over the 100 yard mark. Receiver Marques Colston missed the mark by 4 yards but he was a constant threat to the Miami defense in the short and intermediate game.
On the first drive of the game for both teams, the Saints went on a 6-play 82 yard scoring drive that culminated in a shotgun draw 5 yard touchdown run by Sproles to give New Orleans a 7-0 lead.
On Miami’s ensuing drive, running back Lamar Miller (11 carries for 62 yards and 1 score) carried down the left side for a 20 yard gain to the NO 49 yard line aided by a helpful down field block from receiver Brian Hartline. Then a few plays later Tannehill ran upright and with seemingly no fear down field for a 26 yard gain to the NO 18 yard line, where Saints safety Rafael Bush jumped on his back and rode him out of bounds. Miller was key on this drive as he carried 4 times for 33 yards with his last run advancing the ball to the NO 9 yard line. But Miller’s efforts and Tannehill’s big run only netted a 34 yard Caleb Sturgis field goal that put the score at 7-3.
In the second quarter and from the MIA 13 yard line on 3rd and 6, Tannehill threw to receiver Brandon Gibson who took the completion down near the left sideline for a 37 yard gain to midfield. On the play it looked like Gibson could score but rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro went down low and swatted at Gibson’s legs and knocked the receiver down. Three plays later, Tannehill ran up the middle and nearly out of nowhere linebacker Curtis Lofton hit the signal caller and he fumbled into the hands of Bush at the MIA 38 yard line.
Lofton’s forced fumble led to a Jimmy Graham (4 catches for 100 yards and 2 scores) 27 yard touchdown catch, in which he was in double coverage versus cornerback Jamar Taylor (Helix Charter High School) and late arriving deep covering safety Brent Grimes. The score gave New Orleans a 14-3 lead.
Then with around 5 minutes left in the second quarter, Tannehill with defensive lineman Cameron Jordan in his face, completed a pass to running back Marcus Thigpen who took the pass and sprinted 50 yards down the right side with him not stopping until he was tripped up by Bush at the NO 7 yard line. That big play paved the way for Miller to score on an easy 5 yard touchdown run to make the score 14-10.
Later in the first half, cornerback Jabari Greer intercepted Tannehill and returned the theft to the MIA 23 yard line for a 22 yard gain. Greer’s theft led to an 11 yard Sproles swing route touchdown catch that boosted the Saints lead to 21-10 with :55 seconds left in the first half.
In the fourth quarter it was clearly obvious that the Dolphins were out of this game. But it didn’t stop tight end Charles Clay from securing an over the shoulder Tannehill aerial near the back of the end zone versus cornerback Chris Carr. It was now 35-17 with 13:48 left in the game.
Carr later made up for his being beaten for a score by Clay, with his leaping and opportunistic interception of Tannehill at the MIA 43 with just under 6:25 left in the contest.
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