Saints stay within game of first in NFC South

The New Orleans Saints defeated the Oakland Raiders on Sunday to improve to .500 on the season and stay a game back of Tampa Bay and Carolina in the NFC South. Find out how, plus link to other saintsinsider.com content, in this article.

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After a crushing loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, the Saints desperately needed to get back on track in a hurry -- or risk falling farther behind the rest of the pack in a suddenly competitive NFC South race.

While their backs weren't exactly pressed to the wall, the Saints knew they had to get a win in Sunday's matchup with the Oakland Raiders in the Superdome.

Working on a short week against a team that was coming off a bye, the Saints faced the possibility of falling a full three games off the pace in the division with a loss and a win by the Carolina Panthers over the Tampa Bay Bucs.

With that in mind, the Saints (3-3) put together a complete effort in a 34-3 belting of the Raiders (1-4), giving them a chance to play for the division lead when they travel Sunday to Charlotte, N.C., to take on the Panthers, who fell to the Bucs.

While they were at a bit of a disadvantage against the Raiders, the Saints -- especially quarterback Drew Brees -- weren't going to let that be an excuse. In fact, they were motivated by a 30-27 loss to the Vikings six days earlier.

"We were a little salty and we wanted to get back on the field," Brees said. "That was a heartbreaker on Monday night. We were banged up after a game against a physical opponent and we needed a win to start feeling good about ourselves again."

So Brees, and a Saints defense that allowed a season-low 226 total yards, took over in carrying the fight to the Raiders, who were playing their first game since owner Al Davis dumped coach Lane Kiffin on Sept. 30.

Brees came out firing, connecting on his first 16 pass attempts and throwing three touchdown passes. He was 26 of 30 for 320 yards (86.7 percent) and had a passer rating of 144.4, the highest of his eight-year NFL career.

On the Saints' four touchdown drives, the first of which was an 18-play, 86-yard march that took 10:59 off the clock, Brees completed 16 of 17 passes for 121 yards. He also helped the Saints convert nine of 14 third-down attempts for 64.3 percent, the highest since coach Sean Payton arrived.

"We were just efficient today," said Brees, who guided his team to 441 total yards. "We got a lot of third-and-short situations and converted. That's what you need to do to sustain drives."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Saturday) night we spent a lot of time looking at penalties and turnovers, and some of the things that have been hurting us. We all take that pretty seriously, not just the players, the coaching staff and myself too." -- Saints coach Sean Payton, on his team having four penalties in a win over the Raiders after having 24 in the previous two games.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

WR Marques Colston, who returned to practice last week, missed his fifth consecutive game against the Oakland Raiders because coach Sean Payton didn't want to risk re-injuring the torn ligament in his left thumb.

DT Sedrick Ellis, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 3, was inactive for the second straight game Sunday.

TE Jeremy Shockey was inactive for the third straight game Sunday as he continues to recover from sports hernia surgery on Sept. 23.

FS Kevin Kaesviharn, who did not practice all week because of a back injury, did not play against the Raiders on Sunday.

WR David Patten was inactive against the Raiders because of a groin injury.

CB Aaron Glenn could be back next week after missing his fourth consecutive game Sunday with a right ankle injury.

DT Antwan Lake, who re-injured his groin last Monday night against Minnesota, was held out of Sunday's game.

QB Joey Harrington was signed before Sunday's game and was the third quarterback against the Raiders.

DE Jeff Charleston, who was signed on Wednesday, was released Saturday.


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