The New Orleans Saints (5-5) put together their most dominating performance on offense, defense and special teams to produce their fifth victory in the last six games and their third straight win, defeating the Oakland Raiders 38-17.
The win – delivered by the club's most efficient effort to date in all three phases – improved the Saints to 5-5, pushing New Orleans into the thick of the NFC playoff race after opening the 2012 season at 0-4.
Now the Saints return to the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on one of the NFC's best and hottest teams: the 7-2-1 San Francisco 49ers, the club that defeated the Saints in the last postseason to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
Like the Saints, the 49ers have come on as of late, not having posted a loss in their last four contests to lead the NFC West. On Monday night, San Francisco surged past the Chicago Bears in a 32-7 romp at Candlestick Park.
"At 0-4 our team stuck together," said Saints assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt. "They worked hard every day and never pointed fingers. They just continued to try to improve every day. It's paying dividends for us now as we continue to look forward."
Sunday's victory over Oakland featured yet another balanced performance on offense with no turnovers. The running game put up 153 yards on the ground led by RB Mark Ingram, who carried 12 times for 67 yards (5.6 avg.) with a 27-yard touchdown. QB Drew Brees was nearly flawless, completing 20-of-27 passes for 219 yards with three touchdowns and a 134.6 passer rating. Two of his touchdowns went to WR Lance Moore, while the third went to TE Jimmy Graham in the first quarter to stake out an early 7-0 lead that would not be relinquished.
The New Orleans defense harassed Oakland QB Carson Palmer all afternoon, forcing him to throw two interceptions and sacking him three times. S Malcolm Jenkins picked off a Palmer pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. S Roman Harper later recorded a pick in the end zone, as New Orleans made another impressive stop of an opponent inside the ten-yard line. Harper led the New Orleans defense with 11 stops (nine solo). DT Tom Johnson, DE Will Smith and LB Jonathan Vilma also each recorded one sack apiece. New Orleans special teams were also nearly flawless in the contest.
Rookie RB Travaris Cadet handled return duties and brought back a kickoff 75 yards to open up the second half, setting up Ingram's 27-yard touchdown run one play later. The coverage units were outstanding, as WR and special teams captain Courtney Roby returned after missing two games with a shoulder injury and made a season-high three tackles. P Thomas Morstead had four punts for a 43.0 gross and net average as none of his kicks were returned for any yardage. K Garrett Hartley booted a fourth quarter 47-yard field goal.
Information Provided by the New Orleans Saints