Initially, the New Orleans Saints did not look like they had a chance but held tough to keep the game close in the end as K Martin Gramatica missed two field goals, either one of which would have made this a win for the Black and Gold. QB Drew Brees had an amazing day, completing 39 of 48 passes for 421 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions with running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas also having outstanding games. Despite the loss, New Orleans showed they had heart, not giving up when all appeared to be lost, and made big plays on both sides of the ball.
The game was bleak for New Orleans early in the first half with Denver outscoring the Saints 21 to 3 and looking as if they could score every time they touched the ball. The Broncos scored first with a touchdown about six minutes into the first quarter. QB Jay Cutler (21/34, 264 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) began the drive from New Orleans? 45 yard line and ended with a high short pass to tight end Nate Jackson in the end zone.
With their next possession on second and one with about a minute left in the first, Cutler threw a deep pass to WR Brandon Marshall (155 yards, 1 TD) in the end zone from New Orleans? 35 that was initially called incomplete but was reversed after Denver challenged the call. As the second quarter started, the Broncos got their third touchdown of the first half after a fumble by Reggie Bush on New Orleans? 34 yard line that was picked up by outside linebacker Nate Webster and returned to the end zone.
It looked like there was no use even watching the painful events that were sure to follow. The Saints had gotten the ball first and failed to convert their first third down when QB Drew Brees was sacked at their 13 yard line. Their next drive took them down to the Denver 25 but they could only manage a 43-yard field goal for all of their efforts. The fumble on the next possession made it appear that this was going to be a long day for Saints fans.
However, this was a game that made you glad that the Saints drafted Reggie Bush.
The play that turned it all around was on third and 11 with a short pass to Reggie Bush (73 yards rushing, 75 yards receiving) that he turned into 23 yards. Brees threw a 28 yard pass to TE Billy Miller on the next third down and another to Reggie Bush putting them on the five, allowing RB Pierre Thomas to run in for his first of two touchdowns for the day.
CB Mike McKenzie, seeing his first action of the season, intercepted the ball on a deep pass by Jay Cutler early on the ensuing possession, putting the Saints at midfield with the ball again. Reggie Bush caught another Brees? pass and ran 39 yards for a touchdown but it was nullified for offensive holding. Bush got revenge when he ran 23 yards into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns.
The defense then held on a crucial third and seven from the 9 yard line and forced a field goal, making the score 24 to 17.
The last two minutes of the first half saw New Orleans try four times to run the ball into the end zone and failing, including a gutsy call to go for it on fourth and one to tie the game. But the defense showed that they still deserve respect when Charles Grant hit RB Andre Hall for a safety. New Orleans then got the ball back on their 50 after the ball was kicked out of bounds and with 27 seconds left. Brees was able to get the ball up to the 33 for a 51-yard field goal attempt that Martin Gramatica missed when the ball went slightly to the left of the goal post.
The Saints finished the first half converting 4 of 8 third downs, 50 yards rushing, 236 yards passing, almost a two to one advantage in time of possession, and only 5 points behind the number one offense in the league.
In the second half, the Saints were able to keep the Broncos from converting a third down on their first defensive effort but could not do much either when they got the ball. Denver scored again midway through the third quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by Michael Pittman that capped a long drive from their 20 of 12 plays and almost five minutes.
New Orleans answered with a 74 yard bomb to WR Robert Meachem, putting them six yards from the goal line and one pass to Reggie Bush away from their third touchdown of the day.
Denver K Matt Prader then hit from 34 yards to put the Broncos up 34 to 26 in the third quarter.
As the game moved into the fourth quarter, New Orleans drove 15 plays for 76 yards and over 7 minutes, mostly on short passes and ending with Pierre Thomas making his second touchdown. The Saints went for the two point conversion with a pass to Reggie Bush but the coverage was too tight and it fell incomplete.
CB Jason David finally redeemed himself a little bit when he recovered a fumble from TE Tony Scheffler at the four yard line as Denver was driving down to what looked like another six points. Denver challenged and lost, giving New Orleans possession with five and a half minutes left. However, the Saints could not convert a crucial third down for one yard with Pierre Thomas running the ball and were forced to make another field goal attempt from 34 yards that went wide right, leaving Denver the ball and the lead with two minutes left.
New Orleans then got the ball back with eight seconds left, two points behind, and with no timeouts. An incomplete pass to Devery Henderson and a botched lateral play muted a valiant effort by the team to take control of a game that they could have given up on midway through the first half. Next week, New Orleans faces the San Francisco 49ers who are 2 and 1.
Besides Meachem, Bush, and Thomas, several other Saints also had good days. Wide receiver Lance Moore had 78 yards and tight end Jeremy Shockey had 75 yards.
Offensive tackle Jammal Brown was injured early in the first quarter and did not return during the game. CB Randall Gay also reinjured his hamstring during the third quarter.
Saints players that were inactive for the game were WR Marques Colston, RB Aaron Stecker, CB Aaron Glenn, TE Mark Campbell, WR Terrence Copper, LB Scott Fujita, DT Antwan Lake, and newly-signed QB Joey Harrington.