Brees sharp despite foot injury, Saints beat Jaguars 38-27
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees’ right foot was hurting. His right arm was fine.
He even returned to the field in street clothes to play with his children after the game.
Brees passed for 412 yards and three touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-27 on Sunday.
Just six days after tearing his plantar fascia, Brees said he remained in pain, but stressed, “Once you get up to the line, you flip the switch and it’s all about competing at a high level.”
His mobility was restricted, he said, but that only seemed to sharpen his focus in the pocket and make him more decisive. He completed 25 of 36 passes without a turnover.
“Maybe the only thing you could draw a parallel to, or compare it to, is when you have one of your senses taken away, your other senses are heightened,” Brees said.
Brandin Cooks caught a 71-yard touchdown pass to highlight his 123 yards receiving, which gave him more than 1,000 yards this season. He said he expected Brees to play well after seeing his limited work in his return to practice Friday.
“A guy like that, man, if he can walk, he’s going to play,” Cooks said. “That’s just what type of guy he is and I didn’t have no other doubt for him to come out and have a great game.”
Running back Tim Hightower, who missed the previous three seasons because of a knee injury and subsequent complications, consolidated his recent resurgence with 122 yards and two touchdowns rushing for New Orleans (6-9).
“I told the (offensive) line before the game, ‘I’m going to give you all I got today. I’m going to give you every single ounce of energy I got and I need everything you got,’” Hightower said. “They gave it to me.”
Newly reacquired running back Travaris Cadet added a 44-yard TD catch.
Blake Bortles passed for 368 yards and four TDs for Jacksonville (5-10), which was eliminated from playoff contention earlier Sunday by Houston’s victory.
Bortles’ TD strikes included a 90-yarder to Allen Robinson, who finished with 151 yards receiving. Allen Hurns caught eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough to overcome an early 24-0 deficit.
“It’s tough. You get behind like that and you’ve got to do some different things game plan-wise,” Bortles said. “I don’t really know what to tell you. We’ve got to find a way to be better in the first half.”
Brees, who has missed only one game in the past 10 seasons, led New Orleans to points on four of the Saints’ first five offensive series, starting with his 17-yard scoring pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.
The record-setting quarterback still hasn’t missed a snap since his injury during the second quarter of the Saints’ loss to the Lions the previous Monday night, when he reached 4,000 yards passing in a season for an NFL-record 10th straight year.
“We expected him to play. All we could go off of was the little bit we saw of Detroit,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “It didn’t seem to hamper him at all.”
“He just really executes,” Bradley added. “Sure enough, he did it again.”
Against Jacksonville, Brees reached 31 touchdown passes for the season, his NFL record eighth straight with at least 30.
It also was Brees’ 13th career 400-yard game, tying Hall of Famer Dan Marino for second in NFL history — behind only Peyton Manning’s 14.
“People might say we have nothing to play for as far as playoffs and such, but we have a lot to play for,” Brees asserted. “We’re continuing to build what is going to be a great team for years to come.”
Bortles reached 300 yards passing for the sixth time this season, tying Mark Brunell for the most such outings in a single season by a Jaguars QB.
He was 27 of 35, but was intercepted twice, once by first-year Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux and another time by lineman Bobby Richardson, who snagged a ball that had been deflected by Breaux back toward the line of scrimmage.
Hurns’ production made him the second 1,000-yard receiver for Jacksonville this season, joining fellow second-year receiver Robinson.
Bortles’ other TD pass was a 2-yarder to Marqise Lee.
NOTES: Saints WR Marques Colston was scratched because of a chest injury. Also sitting out was running back C.J. Spiller. Payton said he wasn’t injured, but hasn’t appeared fully recovered from preseason surgery. ... The Saints defense has now allowed 43 TDs passing, eclipsing the old NFL record of 40 by the 1963 Denver Broncos, who played only 14 games.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL