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Saints 38, Dolphins 17

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- The Miami Dolphins did their best to make Drew Brees earn every yard, but Brees was never one to shy away from delayed gratification.

Brees completed 30 of 39 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns, including scoring strikes of 27 and 43 yards to tight end Jimmy Graham, powering the New Orleans Saints to a 38-17 victory over the Dolphins on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

New Orleans running back Darren Sproles carved up the Miami secondary for 114 yards on seven receptions, all in the first half.

While opening a three-game lead in the NFC South, the Saints (4-0) handed the Dolphins (3-1) their first loss of the season. Fueled by two turnovers by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter, the Saints broke open a 7-3 game with touchdowns on four of their next five possessions.

Graham, who has six touchdowns in four games, wasn't targeted by Brees in the first 22 minutes because the Dolphins decided to double him on virtually every snap. Brees simply checked down to Sproles, and the results were lethal.

Sproles was wide open on several catches, and his 13-yard scoring catch 55 seconds before the half was a dagger, putting the Saints up 21-10. In the third quarter, Brees added a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Ben Watson and a 43-yarder to Graham, who beat safety Chris Clemons in single coverage, to extend the lead to 35-10.

Tannehill hit tight end Charles Clay for a 3-yard score with 13:48 left, cutting Miami's deficit to 35-17. Garrett Hartley capped the scoring for the Saints with a 29-yard field goal with 7:15 remaining.

Graham finished with four catches for 100 yards.

Tannehill completed 22 of 35 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown, but he was picked off three times and lost a fumble.

Tannehill moved the Dolphins well against the Saints' improved defense in the first half, but two key mistakes -- a fumble and an interception -- led to two touchdowns.

Early in the second quarter, linebacker Curtis Lofton separated Tannehill from the ball on a scramble up the middle at the New Orleans 45 -- Tannehill's sixth fumble in four games. Brees drove the Saints 62 yards in seven plays to give New Orleans a 14-3 lead.

The payoff came on a perfect Brees strike from 27 yards to Graham. The tight end was doubled on the scoring play, as usual, but he leaped high over cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Brent Grimes and cradled the ball in his stomach as he fell to the turf. Clemons, who was closing in on Graham, simply threw up his hands in mock surrender.

Tannehill tried to hit Brian Hartline on a slant late in the first half, but cornerback Jabari Greer jumped the route for an interception that set up the Saints at the Miami 23 with 1:23 left. On third-and 11 from the Dolphins 13, Brees looked to the right before firing back to his left for Sproles. Cornerback Nolan Carroll tried to undercut the route but could not get his hands on the ball, and Sproles easily galloped into the end zone.

Sproles opened the scoring with a 5-yard run on the Saints' first possession. Sproles also had the key play in the 82-yard drive, beating the Dolphins on a wheel route for a 48-yard gain.

The Dolphins got a 34-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis and a 5-yard touchdown run from Lamar Miller in the first half, but the two Tannehill turnovers loomed large.

NOTES: Brees moved into sixth place in NFL history for career passing yards. On the Saints' first drive, an 18-yard toss to Kenny Stills gave Brees 47,010 passing yards, pushing him past Fran Tarkenton. ... Brees threw for more than 300 yards for the ninth consecutive game. ... The touchdown pass with 8:01 left in the second quarter was the first time Brees targeted Graham. ... Miami entered the game having scored touchdowns on seven of eight trips in the red zone, the best rate in the NFL. However, the Dolphins failed to convert on third-and-an-inch on their first drive, and they settled for a short field goal.
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