Saints persevere through injury-riddled start

The Saints' injury report looks like a doctor's-office waiting list with all the possibilities, but their veteran quarterback is keeping the team on track even if it isn't a full team of starters on the field.

The injury-riddled Saints knew the San Francisco 49ers weren't going to feel sorry for them in Sunday's game, so they didn't waste a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves.

The Saints, who had 14 players on the injury report submitted to the league office on Thursday and Friday, simply plugged the gaps for five starters on offense and one on defense and just went about their business in the Superdome.

The result was a critical 31-17 triumph over the 49ers, a team that was coming off two consecutive victories while the Saints were staggering from back-to-back road losses.

The Saints' mission Sunday was to find a way to stop the bleeding from the two straight losses, which had them on the verge of digging a hole almost as deep as the one they were in after a horrible 0-4 start last season.

While they were energized by the return of running back Deuce McAllister from double knee surgery, a big part of it was the cohesiveness the offense played with under the circumstances.

Young wideouts Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson made big plays in the passing game, and rookie guard Carl Nicks, who was making his first NFL start, capably filled in for a suspended Jamar Nesbit.

"It's something that hits different teams at different times, and some years you're more fortunate," coach Sean Payton said of the adversity his team faced. "The key for us is to play well and not allow it to creep in or become a reason for us not to expect to play well.

"The key is the preparation and confidence we have in them," Payton said of the fill-ins. "They're professionals and they're on a roster. So that's their job description and that's what they have to do. We've got guys that understand we've got to function still, and we've got to play and not let that be a reason for us not to have a good game."

NOTES

  • QB Drew Brees continued his solid season with 363 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 31-17 beating of San Francisco. Brees connected on 23 of 35 passes and TDs of 5, 33 and 47 yards. He had other completions of 21, 52 and 81 yards, was not sacked and had a passer rating of 116.7. In the final three quarters, he compiled a perfect rating of 158.3.

  • RB Deuce McAllister saw his first extended playing time since tearing his left ACL in Week 3 last season. Encouraged by the Superdome crowd every time he touched the ball, he responded by rushing for 73 yards and a 1-yard TD on 20 carries. He caught one pass for 10 yards.

  • TE Billy Miller helped fill the void left by an injured Jeremy Shockey and caught three passes for 30 yards with a long of 18.

  • WR Lance Moore, a three-year veteran who started because of injuries to Marques Colston and David Patten, caught seven passes for 101 yards and TDs of 5 and 33 yards. He tied his career high in receptions, and his receiving yardage was a career best by 23 yards.

  • WR Devery Henderson caught only one pass, but it went for 81 yards as Drew Brees looked for the deep ball against the 49ers.

  • LDE Charles Grant applied constant pressure to 49ers QB J.T. O'Sullivan and finished with two sacks among his six tackles. He had four quarterback hurries and knocked down one pass at the line.

  • RDE Will Smith registered three tackles, one sack and a forced fumble that the Saints recovered and the offense turned into a touchdown.

  • RCB Tracy Porter, a rookie, had three tackles and recorded his first NFL sack and interception.

  • WR Robert Meachem caught two passes for 99 yards with a 47-yard TD and a 52-yard grab on the final play of the third quarter that led to a Saints touchdown.

  • FS Kevin Kaesviharn had five total tackles and two passes defensed, including his first interception as a member of the Saints.

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