NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Denver’s Justin Simmons used a perfectly timed leap over the offensive line to block an extra-point kick that would have given New Orleans a late lead, Will Parks ran it back 84 yards for a defensive 2-point conversion, and the Broncos pulled out a wild 25-23 victory over the Saints on Sunday.
The decisive play came while the Superdome crowd was still celebrating Brandin Cooks’ twisting, 32-yard touchdown catch between two defenders. That put New Orleans in position to take the lead with 1:28 left. Simmons’ block of Wil Lutz’s kick was scooped up by Parks, who nearly stepped out of bounds as he raced down the left sideline.
It was the first such play to provide the winning points in an NFL game.
The Broncos then recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
Safety Darian Stewart intercepted Drew Brees twice and recovered a fumble for the Broncos (7-3), while Trevor Siemian overcame two interceptions by passing for touchdowns to Jordan Taylor and Demaryius Thomas. Siemian finished with 258 yards passing and completed other clutch throws as Denver converted 11 of 19 third downs.
The Broncos’ league-leading pass defense got the best of its matchup with New Orleans’ top-rated passing offense, thanks in large part to turnovers – three of which came on passes intended for Saints rookie sensation Michael Thomas. Thomas fumbled twice after catches, and one of Stewart’s interceptions came on a pass Bradley Roby deflected out of Thomas’ grasp.
Still, Brees managed to complete 21 of 29 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, with the first two scoring passes going to Willie Snead.
Brees final TD pass capped a six-play, 75-yard drive that began with 2:50 left and no timeouts. It put the Saints (4-5), who won four of their previous five games, in position to climb above .500 for the first time this season following an 0-3 start. It was not to be.
MOMENTUM SHIFT: The Broncos controlled the first 29 minutes. Stewart intercepted Brees twice – joining the currently injured Aqib Talib as the only Broncos with multiple interceptions in one game. The second turnover set up Brandon McManus’ 50-yard field goal, which gave the Broncos a 10-0 lead.
Late in the second quarter, Denver was across midfield and looking for one more score when Sterling Moore anticipated Siemian’s short throw toward the left flat and intercepted it. Brees marched New Orleans 50 yards in less than 29 seconds, setting up Lutz’s short field goal to make it 10-3 at halftime. It was the beginning of 17 straight Saints points.
AGGRESSIVE FRONT: The Saints’ defense entered the game with 11 sacks through their first eight games, or 1½ more than Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller had by himself. But New Orleans created more pressure up front and sacked Siemian six times. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, DT Nick Fairley, end Cameron Jordan, safety Kenny Vaccaro and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Craig Robertson all had sacks. Meanwhile, Denver’s defense sacked Brees once to increase its season total to 29. Linebacker Shaq Barrett got the lone sack.