Sharp level: Saints roll over Dolphins on Monday Night Football
NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Saints continued their "Monday Night Football" dominance and remained a perfect 4-0 with an authoritative 38-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins before 73,118 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Quarterback Drew Brees was surgeon-like in his dissection of the Dolphins' defense, connecting on 30 of 39 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns. He surpassed 300 yards passing for the ninth consecutive game, matching his own NFL record.
"He is at a really sharp level," Coach Sean Payton said. "He did a good job with his progressions, protected the football well and he was outstanding."
Running back Darren Sproles was his primary target in the first half and finished with seven catches for 114 yards and a TD. He also scored on a 5-yard run in the first half. The only blemish on a splendid all-around game for Sproles was a fumble near the goal line toward the end of the game following an 18-yard run.
The Dolphins (3-1) rolled their coverage toward tight end Jimmy Graham and held the big tight end in check early but he broke loose for two touchdown catches, the second a 43-yard bomb from Brees. After the catch he almost brought down the goal post with his signature slam dunk/spike. Graham finished with four catches for 100 yards, his third consecutive game with at least 100 yards receiving.
The game turned in the second quarter when Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton stripped Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Rafael Bush recovered and then Jabari Greer intercepted Tannehill on the next possession. The Saints converted both turnovers into touchdowns and a 21-10 halftime lead.
The Saints added two more touchdowns in the third quarter which allowed their defense to bring pressure. Defensive ends Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan and linebacker Martez Wilson each registered sacks in the quarter. Tyrunn Walker added one in the fourth quarter.
Tannehill showed good athleticism and a strong arm but his two second-quarter turnovers were pivotal. He also threw fourth quarter interceptions to veteran Chris Carr and Will Herring. Tannehill finished 22 of 35 for 249 yards with one touchdown.
Khiry Robinson led the Saints in rushing with 37 yards on 12 carries. Marques Colston had seven catches for 96 yards and Kenny Stills had four for 38. Pierre Thomas had five catches for 37 yards. Garrett Hartley was one for two on field-goal attempts, connecting from 29 yards.
New Orleans is now 11-2 in Monday night games since Sean Payton became coach in 2006, including nine consecutive victories.
The Saints are one of two unbeaten NFC teams (Seattle) and will start a two-game road trip Sunday at Chicago (3-1). They play at New England (4-0) the following week. This is the fourth time the Saints have started 4-0, the others: 1991, 1993 and 2009.
"It was a really hard-fought team win for us," Payton said. "We did a lot of things well. Certainly, it wasn't a perfect game, but I thought we played with very good energy. We had a good week of practice and I thought we played a good team also."