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11/18/2012 9:10 PM EST
Saints get back to .500 with 38-17 win vs. Raiders
NEW ORLEANS 38, OAKLAND 17

By JOSH DUBOW
AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Drew Brees is once again his efficient
self, the running game is rolling and the defense is back to
being that fast, ball-hawking group. About all New Orleans
interim coach Joe Vitt had to complain about were two
unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after big plays.



What a difference from that 0-4 start when the Saints had
nothing to celebrate.



Brees threw three touchdown passes and Malcolm Jenkins returned
an interception for another score to get the Saints back to .500
with a 38-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.



"We're on our way," Brees said. "Had you told us or anybody
after 0-4 we'd be looking at 5-5 at some point, I think a lot of
people might have looked at that and said that's pretty
unrealistic. But here we are. We stayed the course, we didn't
overreact. ... We just knew that things were going to turn for
us if we just continued to do things the right way, good things
were going to happen. And we did that."



Lance Moore caught two touchdown passes and Mark Ingram ran for
a score as the Saints (5-5) won for the fifth time in six games
and are in position to make a late-season playoff run despite
the season-long distraction from the bounty scandal.



Getting back to even was just the first step. New Orleans' next
three games come against teams currently in first place,
starting with a home game next week against the Bay Area's other
team, the San Francisco 49ers, followed by games against Atlanta
and the New York Giants.



"This team stuck together," Vitt said. "We've got some
unbelievable men in that locker room. We stuck together under
adverse circumstances, didn't point fingers, got better every
week. Just like last week, this week is a byproduct of how they
stuck together when they were 0-4. That's good to see."



The Raiders (3-7) lost their third straight game under
first-year coach Dennis Allen as their banged-up defense got
picked apart by Brees' precision passing. Oakland has allowed
135 points in those defeats - the most in a three-game span for
the franchise since allowing 141 in the first three games in
1961.



Owner Mark Davis made a rare appearance in the locker room after
the game and said he wasn't happy with what he has seen the last
few weeks.



"I'm patient. But I want to see progress," he said. "I don't
want to see regression. Nobody does. And that's why I'm unhappy
today."



Carson Palmer threw one interception that was returned for a
score and another in the end zone, the Raiders left receivers
open all day and Oakland struggled to tackle in another thorough
beating. The Raiders have been outscored by 56 points the past
two games.



The Saints did just about everything starting with an efficient
opening drive by Brees that set the tone for the game. Brees
finished 20 for 27 for 219 yards, extending his own records by
throwing a touchdown in his 53rd straight game and completing 20
passes for the 46th straight game.



Even New Orleans' much-maligned defense got into the act. The
Saints got the two big turnovers in the first half that got the
blowout started and held Oakland to one touchdown until garbage
time.



"I feel better than where we were," said safety Roman Harper,
who had the interception in the end zone. "We're making plays
now. We're making turnovers, we're making big plays. We're not
allowing big plays.



Vitt's biggest complaints were the 11 penalties for 109 yards,
including a celebration call on Jenkins and Harper after an
interception and a taunting penalty on Ingram after his score.



The only bright spot for the Raiders was fullback Marcel Reece,
who rushed for 103 yards and added 90 yards receiving as he
started at halfback in place of injured Darren McFadden and Mike
Goodson.



"It doesn't make you feel good," Allen said. "I know we're
better than that, and I know we can play better than that. And
we'll continue to work, and we'll get better."



Brees broke open a close game late in the first half when he
found Moore all alone in the end zone behind Michael Huff and
fill-in safety Mike Mitchell for a 38-yard touchdown pass in the
final minute of the first half to make it 21-7.



Travaris Cadet then returned the second-half kickoff 75 yards
and Ingram ran it in from the 27 on the next play and the rout
was on. Brees and Moore connected one more time in third quarter
to make it 35-10.



"I just know that all of us aren't playing well right now,"
Oakland linebacker Philip Wheeler said. "We're just not playing
well, and we just got to get better. We've played well in
spurts, we just have to play well all the time."



The Saints easily scored on their first possession as Brees
completed five of six passes on an 80-yard drive capped by a
1-yard toss to Jimmy Graham.



Palmer then threw a pair of interceptions on passes to Brandon
Myers with Malcolm Jenkins returning the first 55 yards for a
touchdown and Roman Harper picking the second one off in the end
zone after it went through Myers' hands.



NOTES: Brees has won his last seven starts against the Raiders
with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. ... The Raiders failed
to score in the final 2 minutes of the first half for the first
time this season. ... Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden lit the
torch honoring late Oakland owner Al Davis.



---



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