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(Sunday, December 18th)
Final Score: New Orleans 42, Minnesota 20
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Drew Brees threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns on 32-of-40 passing, leading the New Orleans Saints to a 42-20 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field.
Brees went over the 300-yard mark for the 11th time this season, breaking his own record of 10 set in 2008.
New Orleans played without running back Mark Ingram, who missed his second straight game with a toe injury, but Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory filled the void. Thomas finished with 44 yards and a score on eight carries, while Ivory ran for 74 yards on 18 carries.
"We're still working, we have some things we need to correct," Thomas said. "We talked before the game that we can't beat ourselves. We turned the ball over twice and that's going to hurt us, but I think we played a great game and our offense started to step up to the plate, which we knew was going to happen. We knew we had it in us. As long as we don't stop ourselves we know we're going to be good."
Lance Moore caught five passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns for the Saints (11-3), while Marques Colston brought in eight passes for 91 yards.
Darren Sproles caught five balls for 79 yards and a touchdown, while Jimmy Graham snagged seven passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
New Orleans has already clinched a playoff spot, and can lock up the NFC South Division title with a win over the Atlanta Falcons next week. The Saints have won six straight games.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns to Toby Gerhart, while being intercepted once and completing 14-of-31 passes.
Adrian Peterson returned to action for Minnesota (2-12) after missing the last three games with a high ankle sprain, and ran for 60 yards on 10 carries. But the Vikings lost their sixth straight game, the first time that's happened since 1984.
"We obviously have to take advantage of our opportunities," Ponder said. "We didn't do a good job the whole game of keeping the defense off the field. The offense has to play well for those guys and we didn't. To get two fumbles and not put up two touchdowns is not good. As an offense, we have to put points on the board, especially knowing how good of an offense New Orleans has."
Minnesota got on the board first following a turnover by the Saints on the opening possession of the game. Brees completed a pass over the middle to Graham, but he lost the ball and it was picked up by Mistral Raymond and returned 26 yards to the New Orleans 26.
From there, the Vikings were unable to move the ball and Ryan Longwell connected on a 44-yard field goal to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.
The Saints got the offense rolling late in the first quarter as Brees led a 10-play, 84-yard drive, capped by a five-yard touchdown strike to Moore to give the Saints a 7-3 lead. During the march, Brees completed all seven of his pass attempts for 77 yards.
Early in the second quarter, the Vikings got a big break when Saints center Brian De La Puente got his signals crossed at the line of scrimmage and snapped the ball past an unsuspecting Brees. It was scooped up by Everson Griffen, who took it back nine yards to the Saints' 21.
Minnesota was unable to capitalize on the excellent field position again, as the Vikings ran three plays for a loss of 10 yards. Longwell connected on another field goal -- this one from 49 yards out to cut it to a one-point game.
On the ensuing drive, the Saints marched 80 yards in five plays -- aided by a huge defensive pass interference call on 1st-and-25, which put the ball on the Vikings' one-yard line. On the next play, Brees threw a perfect back shoulder fade to Graham for a one-yard touchdown strike and a 14-6 edge.
But, Minnesota kept it close on its next drive, going 61 yards in six plays -- sparked by a big 39-yard sprint by Peterson on 3rd-and-1 to bring the ball to the New Orleans 13. Three plays later, Ponder tossed a 10-yard shovel pass to Gerhart for the touchdown to make it a one-point game again with 6:59 to go before the break.
On the ensuing possession, the Saints used another impressive drive -- 76 yards in 13 plays -- and Brees capped it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sproles to make it 21-13 with 1:33 left before halftime.
Minnesota opened the second half with a three-and-out and Sproles returned Chris Kluwe's punt 22 yards to the Vikings' 44.
From there, Brees hit Graham with an 18-yard completion on first down, then threw a screen pass to Sproles on 2nd-and-4 for 18 more yards to bring the ball to the two. Brees then capped the quick scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to John Gilmore to make it 28-13.
The Saints struck again when Brees connected with Moore on a 47-yard catch- and-run to finish off a three-play, 53-yard drive to make it 35-13 with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Thomas pushed his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run early in the final quarter to make it 42-13, and Gerhart rumbled 16 yards for a touchdown with 5:12 left in regulation to cap the scoring.
Minnesota has an 18-9 lead in its overall regular-season series with New Orleans...It was Brees' seventh career 400-yard game and sixth career five- touchdown game...New Orleans improved to 5-3 on the road this season...Brees has thrown for 20-or-more completions in 34 consecutive games and has gone 21 straight quarters without an interception...The Saints converted eight of their 11 third down opportunities, while Minnesota went 4-for-14 on third down...New Orleans outgained Minnesota, 573-207.
12/18 17:33:14 ET