To say the Saints' lengthy 10-hour plane ride home from London on Monday was a happy one would be the understatement of the season.
The thought of having to travel home on a loss while staring a bye week in the face after a weeklong stay in England for Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers certainly was not appealing, to say the least.
That's why an important 37-32 win over the Chargers gave the Saints a chance to relax on the trip home, knowing all the while they'll have a better shot at making a playoff run going into the second half of the season with a 4-4 record.
"This was a game we needed and desperately wanted to win," Saints running back Deuce McAllister said. "You don't want to come all this way and lose. Now we are 4-4 and have a good feeling about ourselves. It's time to regroup for us and get it started."
The Saints knew that would have been much more difficult to do coming off a setback in London. After all, they were trounced, 30-7, in their most recent outing at Carolina -- and flying home with two straight losses would have been a distasteful prospect.
"It was an important win," said coach Sean Payton said after his team survived a late comeback bid by the Chargers. "I thought our players did a good job of handling some of the distractions and some of the things that come up after a tough loss and certainly the injuries."
In addition to having to deal with the big loss to the Panthers and get prepared for the Chargers, who were also desperate for a win because of their 3-4 record going into the contest, the Saints had to look past a report that McAllister and defensive end Will Smith and Charles Grant are facing suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.
And, they were playing without running back Reggie Bush, who was out with a knee injury, for the first time this season.
"We were able to put all that aside, and still play a good team and get a win -- and that's encouraging," Payton said. "We have a lot work to do, but this was a big win for us because it gets us back to .500."
McAllister scored on a 1-yard run, the 51st of his career, in the second quarter of Sunday's 37-32 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
The touchdown moved him past Joe Horn and into second place on the club's all-time list. McAllister and Horn had been tied for second since McAllister scored on a 1-yard plunge against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 28.
McAllister has 46 rushing scores, four receiving touchdowns and one on a fumble and is now just three TDs away from becoming the team's all-time leader. Former running back Dalton Hilliard had 53 from 1986 to 1993.
With 306 points, McAllister is now tied with Horn for second place behind Hilliard's 318 points among non-kickers in Saints' history.
THE WELCOME MAT: Saints coach Sean Payton praised the people in London that went above and beyond the call of duty to make his team's stay there a successful one.
"I think the people over here have been great, and our experience has been great," Payton said. "It has been an outstanding experience. The (Wembley Stadium) atmosphere was great, and the fans were loud and unbelievable. What a great venue, we were proud to be a part of it."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
RB Reggie Bush did not play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Oct. 20. He will likely miss at least one more game after the Saints' bye week.
C Jonathan Goodwin was inactive for Sunday's game because of a left knee injury and his status for the Saints' next contest on Nov. 9 at Atlanta was unknown Monday.
DT Brian Young, who has been bothered by knee and foot problems throughout the first half of the season, was inactive for Sunday's game.
WR David Patten, who returned to practice last week after missing three games with a groin injury, did not play against the Chargers.
DT Sedrick Ellis returned to the starting lineup Sunday after missing three games following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Oct. 3.
CB Aaron Glenn played in the nickel package against the Chargers after missing five games with a right ankle injury.
REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- After struggling in last week's loss to Carolina, the Saints were back to their normal productivity against the league's worst pass defense. Drew Brees threw at will against the Chargers, connecting on 30 of 41 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He wasn't sacked and was rarely hurried, which helped him finish with a passer rating of 121.9 against his former team. As usual, Brees distributed the ball well, hitting eight different receivers. Tight end Billy Miller had a team-high seven catches for 82 yards, and wide receiver Lance Moore had six receptions for 90 yards and one score as the Saints averaged 8.3 yards per pass play.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Saints had 96 yards and a 3.8 average on 25 carries until their last offensive play. Coach Sean Payton had Brees run backwards to take an intentional safety with just 14 seconds left and he wound up losing 26 yards. That left the Saints with 70 yards on 26 carries and a paltry 2.7 average. Still, Deuce McAllister ran effectively at times and finished with 55 yards and a 1-yard TD on 18 carries with a long of 12 yards, while Pierre Thomas added 28 yards on just three attempts with a long of 15.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled a little early, but he was unstoppable in the second half as he completed 25 of 40 passes for 341 yards and three TDs. He was not sacked and had a passer rating of 104.3, but his lone interception with a little more than a minute remaining cost the Chargers an opportunity to send the game to overtime. Tight end Antonio Gates caught six passes for 96 yards and a TD, while running back LaDainian Tomlinson had five receptions for 65 yards and a TD.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Saints gave up 100 yards to an individual rusher for the first time this season as Tomlinson had 105 yards on 19 carries with a long run of 40 yards. Tomlinson added a couple of other lengthy runs, slipping would-be tackles at the line as the Saints failed to wrap him up on a few occasions. As a team, the Chargers averaged 5.0 yards per attempt in collecting 110 yards on 22 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- The return game for the Saints was poor as they had no punt return yardage and averaged just 18.8 yards on six kickoffs. On the other hand, the Chargers' shifty Darren Sproles averaged 10.0 yards on two punt returns and 25.1 yards on eight kickoff returns. The Saints did force Sproles to fumble on a kickoff return, which they turned into a TD. Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff booted a 23-yard field goal, but he also missed an extra point as his first attempt banged off the left upright. Newly-signed punter Ben Graham averaged 42.0 yards on three punts and had a net of 35.3.
COACHING: A -- Payton and his staff receive extra credit for getting their team ready after a weeklong stay in London. Coming off a tough loss at Carolina, in which the Saints scored just seven points (their lowest output in 21/2 seasons under Payton), he opened up the playbook and turned Brees loose against the worst pass defense in the NFL. Some imaginative play calling kept the Chargers off balance and made the running game more efficient.