SAN DIEGO (AP) -- After failing to win on the road for nearly two
full seasons, the New Orleans Saints had the good fortune to be in
San Diego when the Chargers self-destructed.
Jeff Blake's third touchdown pass of the game, an 8-yarder to
Joe Horn with 47 seconds left, lifted the Saints to a 28-27 victory
over San Diego on Sunday in the Chargers' home opener.
Although they trailed by 11 points at halftime, the Saints
snapped their 14-game road losing streak thanks to a flood of
Ryan Leaf threw his first touchdown pass in
nearly two years but followed with two interceptions, the Chargers
blew a fourth-down play deep in New Orleans territory and the
normally tough defense imploded on the Saints' winning drive.
"Everyone felt like we were going to go down and score," Blake
said. "Of course, it helps when they make mistakes. They made
quite a few of them, which ended up hurting."
The Saints (1-1) moved 90 yards on 10 plays for the winning
score, aided by a pass interference call against cornerback DeRon
Jenkins and an unnecessary roughness call against safety Rodney
Harrison for a hit on Andrew Glover. Horn was wide open on the TD
play. The Chargers (0-2) had 12 players on the field, a penalty
that naturally was declined. The conversion pass was incomplete.
Horn said the safety was playing inside so he broke off his
route. "It was like going back to playing football in the backyard
again," said Horn, who caught 12 passes for a career-high 116
yards. "Just running around and getting open."
Said first-year Saints coach Jim Haslett: "One team deserved to
win today, and that was us."
Ricky Williams had a mixed performance in his first hometown
appearance since high school. He was held to 50 yards on 24
carries, but scored on a 13-yard pass from Blake to pull the Saints
to 24-19 late in the third quarter. Williams knocked over
cornerback Darryll Lewis at the goal line and spiked the ball after
scoring. Blake's conversion pass was incomplete.
|Saints' Jeff Blake threw for 259 yard and three touchdowns against the Chargers on Sunday.|
Williams said scoring in front of his family and friends, and
winning the game, "was one of my greatest highlights in football.
Last week we were in the same position at the end of the game, but
we definitely lacked confidence. This week we had all the
The Saints dropped their opener 14-10 to Detroit. They hadn't
won on the road since beating Indianapolis 19-13 in overtime on
Sept. 27, 1998.
Blake completed 33 of 46 passes for 259 yards, with two
interceptions. He also threw a 6-yard TD pass to Horn in the first
The Chargers blew a 24-13 halftime lead.
"We showed some things that looked good, but way too many
things went bad," coach Mike Riley said. "We just fell apart in
the second half."
Leaf was intercepted twice in the second half, the first by Fred
Weary to lead to Williams' touchdown and the second by Alex Molden
to seal the Saints' victory with five seconds left. Leaf was sacked
twice on San Diego's final drive and five times overall.
The Chargers also botched a halfback pass on fourth-and-1 from
the Saints' 15 midway through the fourth quarter. Robert Chancey
threw a terrible pass to tight end Freddie Jones, who was covered,
and the Saints took over.
"We just decided to do it," Riley said. "We felt good about
our scouting on it. Obviously, if it would have worked, it would
have been a great play."
Leaf did throw his first touchdown pass since Oct. 25, 1998, a
20-yarder to Curtis Conway in the Chargers' 21-point third quarter.
Rookie Ronney Jenkins turned a muff into an electrifying 93-yard
kickoff return for another touchdown, also in the second quarter.
Leaf was 12-of-24 for 134 yards. He missed all of 1999 with a
shoulder injury, and has opened this season with six turnovers. In
his short career, he has just three touchdown passes to 20
interceptions, with five lost fumbles.
The Saints started their comeback with Williams' TD catch,
followed by Doug Brien's third field goal of the game, a 31-yarder
that made it 24-22 with 14:52 to play. John Carney then hit from 49
yards with 5:08 to go, his second of the game, to give the Chargers
a five-point lead. Carney also kicked a 42-yarder.
Leaf also got drilled by linebacker Keith Mitchell while
blocking on a reverse, suffering a slight concussion and leaving
for one play. On his first play back, he threw a 19-yard pass to
Freddie Jones to set up Robert Chancey's 3-yard scoring run that
gave the Chargers a 10-7 lead.
||TOM DONAHOE'S BREAKDOWN
This was a good comeback win for the Saints -- and the first career NFL head-coaching win for Jim Haslett.
The Saints refused to fold and just kept battling and finally got a touchdown late to win the game.
Chargers QB Ryan Leaf has said and done all the right things in the locker room. He's said and done all the right things off the field, but he still has to perform better on the field.
You can see in Leaf's play that he's rusty. He didn't play at all last year and didn't play that much as a rookie -- and it's definitely showing. He has the ability, but it may take him a while to feel comfortable in their offense.
For Saints QB Jeff Blake, this was a stong performance. He was erratic last week and in the preseason, but in this game, he was able to connect consistently.
If the Saints can get the passing game going together with the running of Ricky Williams, there may be some excitement this year in New Orleans.
Carney's two field goals and three PATs gave him 1,004
career points, making him the first Chargers player pass the
1,000-point milestone. ... Chargers LB Orlando Ruff had an
interception and a fumble recovering in just his second career
start. ... Williams' TD catch was the first in his two-year career.
... Saints C Jerry Fontenot bruised an eye in the third quarter and
didn't return. ... San Diego State alum La'Roi Glover sacked Leaf
on consecutive plays on the Chargers' final drive.
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