EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The Saints trudged back to the Meadowlands for the second time this season. Ironically enough, they fared better as the road team.
Aaron Brooks threw three touchdown passes, and New Orleans broke a six-game losing streak with a 21-19 win over the Jets on Sunday night, sending New York to new depths of despair.
The Saints (3-8) returned to East Rutherford, having played their “home” opener here against the New York Giants after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area and ruined the Superdome. The Saints lost 27-10, and receiver Joe Horn later said the NFL was making a “mockery” of the team.
“I told them we’re 1-1 at home,” Saints coach Jim Haslett said. “It’s a better feeling tonight.”
Brooks made sure they came out with the victory this time, handing the Jets a sixth straight loss of their own. He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson with 8:32 remaining for the winning score, and finished 17-of-23 for 181 yards.
Mike Nugent made a career-high four field goals for the Jets (2-9), but his 53-yard attempt with 15 seconds left came up short.
“We faced so much adversity this year, that we’re always playing an away game,” Brooks said. “This was just another place we had to come to to try and get a win.”
The Saints had to sweat it out at the end. The Jets got the ball back at their own 46 with 1:37 remaining and drove to the Saints 34. On second-and-11, Brooks Bollinger fumbled the shotgun snap, picked it up and lost 3 yards. He got 3 yards on the next play, but it was a difficult field goal to make for any kicker.
But if the Jets hadn’t messed up on second down, they could have gotten closer for Nugent. Snapping problems have been an issue all season, especially since Pete Kendall moved to center after Kevin Mawae got hurt.
“In that situation, I have to get him a ball he can handle. I have no excuse,” Kendall said.
Nugent, who connected from 29, 45, 41 and 38 yards, thought his last kick was good.
“When I hit it, I thought it was going to go,” Nugent said. “Right before I looked up, it kept sailing and sailing and then at the last second it just didn’t get the last few feet.”
Though the Jets and Saints are the worst two teams in the league in turnovers, they played a clean game. Bollinger went 19-of-28 for 251 yards, and his pretty 27-yard touchdown pass to Justin McCareins in the third quarter gave the Jets a 16-14 lead. It was the first touchdown for the Jets since the fourth quarter of a loss to San Diego on Nov. 6.
The Jets would have never scored their touchdown without a running into the kicker penalty on Will Smith early in the drive, giving New York a first down. The Jets had another touchdown reversed just before halftime. Bollinger threw a 28-yard pass for Laveranues Coles in the corner of the end zone, but replay officials overturned the reception because Coles bobbled the ball as he was going down.
Coles turned away from reporters and out of the locker room without commenting.
Bollinger ended up throwing for a career high and the most yards for a Jets quarterback since Chad Pennington had 264 in the opener against Kansas City.
“It’s just disappointing,” Bollinger said. “You just want a win so bad, obviously since I’ve been starting I haven’t won one so I really wanted to help us win a game. To come up short again, it’s tough.”
The Jets built their lead to 19-14 when Nugent made his 38-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. For once, New York showed some life on offense. It was the once reliable defense that let the Jets down.
New Orleans promptly answered, driving 81 yards on 11 plays to take the lead for good on Henderson’s touchdown reception.
“We’re proud of getting a victory,” Brooks said. “Breaking a six-game losing streak is the best feeling this team can have at this point.”
New York scored in the first quarter for the first time since Week 2 against Miami, when Pennington was still the quarterback. Nugent connected on a 29-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. That equals the same amount the Jets scored in their previous two games combined.
The rare New York lead was brief. The Saints took the ensuing possession and moved 70 yards, completing the drive when Brooks tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Donte’ Stallworth. The Saints took a 14-6 lead when Brooks added a 15-yard touchdown pass to Zach Hilton.
“We still almost let it slip away,” Horn said. “I’m hoping for the game we score 35 and they score 13. Every week is a nail biter to the end and I know our team is better than that.”
Haslett said DE Will Smith was dehydrated and WR Az-Zahir Hakim bruised his back. … Jets running back Curtis Martin became the fourth NFL player to rush for 14,000 yards, joining Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. He also became the third player with 3,500 carries, joining Smith and Payton.