NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees pushed himself up vigorously after being slammed to the Superdome turf, angrily shoving the first player he saw in a purple jersey.
Brees soon realized he'd shoved the wrong guy, but still thought his intensity sent the right message.
"You need to create some fire. You need to create momentum, stuff that guys can feed off of," Brees said. "Obviously I wasn't too happy about getting suplexed, so I showed a little emotion. After that, it was: 'All right fellas, we've got to stick it to 'em.'"
The Saints capitalized on Captian Munnerlyn's personal foul for the overzealous sack, driving for a touchdown that gave New Orleans breathing room en route to a 20-9 victory over the seemingly star-crossed Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Brees passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns to help New Orleans (1-2) celebrate its home opener with its first victory this season. The Vikings (1-2), meanwhile, were left still searching for a running game in the absence of Adrian Peterson — and with a rookie at quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Minnesota's loss capped a week of distractions as the club first announced that Peterson would play, then later changed course and said the star running back would leave the team indefinitely to deal with child abuse allegations.
The Vikings then lost starting quarterback Matt Cassel with a broken foot early in the second quarter. He was replaced by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 12 of 20 for 150 yards while leading two scoring drives that both ended with field goals.
Brees' scoring passes went for 34 yards to tight end Josh Hill and 18 yards to receiver Marques Colston.
The Vikings were as close as 13-9 on Blair Walsh's 40-yard field goal early in the second half, but Munnerlyn's penalty squandered what would have been a drive-stalling, third-down sack late in the third quarter.
"I pride myself on not making crazy plays, and I felt like that cost us the game," Munnerlyn said. "I wasn't thinking about a flag at all. I never heard a whistle, so I was just finishing the play."
Safety Robert Blanton piled on at the end of the sack, then was slow getting off Brees, inducing the shove. But no flag was thrown on Brees, and the Saints wound up with a first down at their 47.
Brees thought Munnerlyn committed an obvious penalty with a move reminiscent of professional wrestling.
"That was straight Hulk Hogan, 1985, WrestleMania suplex," Brees said. "Hey, it got us 15 yards, got us another set of downs and obviously ended up helping us go on a 90-yard drive to make it a two-possession game and chew up a lot of clock and got the momentum swinging back in our favor."
Soon after, Brees found rookie Brandin Cooks on a screen for a 19-yard gain to the Minnesota 18, then hit Colston, who surged through Blanton's tackle attempt and stretch across the goal line.
Colston had two catches for 25 yards, one week after he was held without a catch for the first time in 87 games.
Cooks had eight catches for 74 yards while tight end Jimmy Graham added five catches for 54 yards.
Greg Jennings led Vikings receivers with five catches for 70 yards, while Cordarrelle Patterson added four catches for 61 yards.
But without Peterson, Minnesota finished with 59 yards rushing as a team and was outgained by New Orleans in total yards, 396-247.
Still, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer focused on the improvement he saw in his team's effort and perseverance since a 30-7 loss to New England a week earlier.
"The guys hung in there," Zimmer said. "Our whole thing was that if we get punched, we will punch back. I think we did that."
The Saints entered the game looking as competitive as a winless team could be, having held leads in the final 10 seconds of regulation in each of their first two games — on the road — before losing by a field goal or less.
The Saints have won their past 18 home games in which coach Sean Payton was on the sideline. They were 9-0 in 2011, including a playoff win, before Payton was suspended in 2012 in connection with the NFL's bounty probe, then went 8-0 in 2013.
Brees looked comfortable early, completing his first nine passes for 108 yards while engineering touchdown drives on the Saints first two possessions, and New Orleans never lost the lead.
Notes: Colston's touchdown marked the 64th time he and Brees connected for a score. Only six other quarterback-receiver tandems have combined for more in NFL history. The score moved Brees and Colston ahead of the Hall of Fame pair of quarterback Johnny Unitas and receiver Raymond Berry. ... Saints veteran C Jonathan Goodwin left the game in the third quarter with a left leg injury. He was replaced by second-year pro Tim Lelito.
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Posted on Mon, September 22, 2014
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer