Darren Sharper returned one of his two interceptions of
rookie Mark Sanchez a club-record 99 yards for a score, Will Smith forced a
fumble in the end zone to produce a second defensive touchdown, and New Orleans
handed the New York Jets their first loss, 24-10 on Sunday.
New York (3-1) lost despite stopping the Saints twice on
fourth-and-short and holding Drew Brees to 190 yards passing and no touchdowns.
New Orleans' normally high-powered offense, which entered the game ranked first
in the NFL, didn't score a touchdown until Pierre Thomas barreled in from a yard
out with 6:07 left.
One week after rushing for 126 yards and two scores in a
victory at Buffalo, Thomas was the Saints' offensive leader again. He rushed for
86 yards and caught four short passes for 46 yards.
In his first loss as a pro, the Jets' Sanchez completed
14 of 27 passes for 138 yards, which still might have been enough if not for his
four turnovers. Saints cornerback Randall Gay also intercepted Sanchez inside
the final two minutes, allowing New Orleans to run out the clock.
While the Jets' highly regarded defense held Drew Brees
and the Saints' league-leading offense to only three points through the first
three quarters, the big plays by New Orleans' less-heralded defense gave the
Saints an early lead.
Sanchez had driven the Jets impressively to the Saints'
15 early in the second quarter when Sharper anticipated an attempted touchdown
pass, picking it off at the 1 and easily running it back for his second long
touchdown return of the season to make it 10-0. Only two weeks earlier, Sharper
had a 97-yard interception for a score at Philadelphia. It was also Sharper's
10th career interception for a touchdown, leaving him second all-time in that
category, two behind retired former Pittsburgh star Rod Woodson.
Only moments after the Jets celebrated a remarkable
defensive stand that stopped New Orleans on four plays from within 2 yards of
the goal line, Smith sacked Sanchez in the end zone, forcing a fumble that Remi
Ayodele recovered for a touchdown to make it 17-0.
Sanchez may have been to blame for his team's early
deficit, but he wasn't rattled. He returned to march New York 60 yards in 14
plays, setting up Jay Feely's 38-yard field goal to make it 17-3, a score that
held until halftime.
New York pulled to 17-10 on Thomas Jones' 15-yard
touchdown run in the third quarter, capping a drive set up by Reggie Bush's
fumble on the Saints 34. Bryan Thomas' hard tackle jarred the ball loose from
The Saints' defense held from there, however, allowing
New Orleans to take control with an 11-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. The Saints
finally converted a fourth-and-one during the possession, though they did so with
Brees' cadence drawing the Jets offside. Soon after, Brees drilled a third-down
pass to Robert Meachem for a 19-yard gain to the Jets' 12-yard line and Thomas
punched it in a few plays later.
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