INDIANAPOLIS -- Drew Brees kept Indianapolis off balance all day. Eventually, he was able to finally put away the Colts.
After building a 27-point lead, then watching Andrew Luck rally his team within one score, New Orleans recovered an onside kick and Brees ran out the clock to preserve a crucial 27-21 victory at Indianapolis.
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Brees threw for 255 yards and one touchdown and got plenty of help from his ground game, too. Mark Ingram rushed for 143 yards and one score and Khiry Robinson had two TD runs.
Since starting the season with three straight losses, the Saints (3-4) have won three of four to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Brees was 28 of 44 with one interception in what might be his final game in the state of Indiana. But this was about much more than a curtain call for the Purdue alum.
Ingram and Robinson gave the offense balance, while the Saints' oft-criticized defense pressured Luck into bad throws and two interceptions.
At times, Luck, who returned last week from an injured throwing shoulder, looked as bad as he ever has. He started the game with five straight incompletions, a first, and Indianapolis played so poorly in the first half that the fans loudly booed the Colts (3-4) as they walked to the locker room at halftime.
But Luck turned things around with third-quarter touchdown passes of 87 and 46 yards to T.Y. Hilton, which cut a 27-0 deficit to 27-14, and then threw an 8-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief with 3:05 left in the game to make it 27-21.
Indy, still with one timeout and the stoppage for the 2-minute warning, tried an onside kick but the Saints recovered and Brees ran out the clock.
Luck finished 23 of 44 with 333 yards and three touchdowns. Hilton caught four passes for 150 yards and the two scores.
It was a strange afternoon -- even before the dramatic second-half turnabout.
New Orleans lost both of its coaches' challenges on one first-quarter series and kept the drive moving when Luke McCown pulled off a fake field goal with a 25-yard completion to Ben Watson. Robinson finished the drive with a 1-yard TD run to make it 7-0.
The Saints used some kicker trickery in Super Bowl XLIV, a surprise onside kick to start the second half that swung momentum their way against Peyton Manning's Colts in Feb. 2010.On Sunday, the Saints took control quickly after this chicanery.
Stephone Anthony intercepted Luck on the first play of the next series. Five plays later, Robinson scored on a 6-yard run.
Griff Whalen, who snapped the ball on last week's botched fake punt, compounded things by fumbling the ensuing kickoff. Three plays after that, Brees hooked up with Michael Hoomanawanui for a 16-yard TD pass. The missed extra point made it 20-0.
How dreadful was the half for Indianapolis? It took almost 17 minutes for the Colts to pick up a first down, Luck watched the Saints run 18 out of 19 plays during one stretch and then threw away Indy's first scoring chance when he was picked off by Kyle Wilson in the end zone.