Saints Pile Up Yards, Push Aside Chargers

The Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints hosted the San Diego Chargers on Friday, proving once again first-team against first-team matters. The teams played musical chairs with the lead but the Saints ended up on top, 36-21.

The most important numbers of the San Diego-New Orleans matchup were 17 and 14, the score when the starters took on sideline duty in the third quarter. The first-team Saints took a slight edge in score and in passing yards, with the first-team Chargers working to contain an all-out shootout from Drew Brees.

Brees finished the first half with 225 yards and two touchdowns, often taking long, leisurely looks into Chargers territory. Brees hit Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and others all day.

Chargers veteran CB Quentin Jammer led the secondary charge. Through the first half, Jammer not only led the defense in tackles, but also played on par with the younger receivers, handling isolation well.

Jammer compensated for his other half, as Antoine Cason struggled. From the ground, Cason watched Devery Henderson even the score, 7-7, with seconds left in the first quarter. Cason jumped for the touchdown-saving play, but Henderson came up with the rebound and the score.

ILB Stephen Cooper
Chris Graythen/Getty
Philip Rivers also put the Saints secondary to work. He went 16-for-27 with 167 yards. Despite a close call, Rivers stayed turnover-less.

San Diego's opening TD drive yielded an exact 50-50 pass-rush ratio with Ryan Mathews earning the bulk of the carries and LSU product Jacob Hester bringing it home from 5 yards out.

Malcom Floyd was up next. Floyd (51 first-half yards) confused the two Saints secondary members covering him in the end zone. Rivers found Floyd alone in the corner, evening the score at 14-14.

Saints LB Jonathan Vilma helped limit the Chargers offense, producing seven solo tackles before exiting with a groin injury.

Rivers felt pressure with blitz after blitz. Lineman Brandyn Dombrowski can't stay out of the spotlight but flew under the radar on Saturday. He held his own on a one-on-one matchup against DE Bobby McCray.

On defense, Saints RB Reggie Bush kept himself in check. San Diego eventually forgot about him and Bush picked up 38 yards with a minute left in the first half. Bush's play moved the Saints into field-goal position: Saints 17-14.

With the backups in, the Saints put more points on the board, including a short pass from Patrick Ramsey that Chris Ivory turned into a 76-yard touchdown.

The Chargers second-string offense didn't find similar luck. Billy Volek had his highs and lows. The highs included a 1-yard touchdown run (thanks to Nathan Vasher's take-away); passes that should have been caught; and a 10-yard scramble for a first down with less than a minute to go. The lows featured an interception, a tipped ball and the overthrown pass that resulted in the final Saints TD with seven seconds left.

Chargers stumble, 36-21.

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