NEW ORLEANS (AP)—After a quiet five games, Joe Horn suddenly looked like the star player he was in 2004, with his shoulder-shaking end zone dances and game-changing catches.
He wasn’t the only one dancing.
A packed crowd in the Louisiana Superdome watched the revamped New Orleans Saints pull out a legitimizing victory over one of most feared teams in the NFL. Kept out of the end zone until Sunday, Horn caught touchdown passes of 14 and 48 yards, then John Carney hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired for a 27-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’ve got to keep doing a better job of getting him involved early on,” Saints first-year coach Sean Payton said of his veteran receiver, who finished with six catches for 110 yards. “He plays hard and has been fantastic. He is everything you want in a player. If he has two catches and we win he is happy. … I admire that about him.”
New Orleans (5-1) enters its bye week atop the NFC South. If anyone still doubts the surprising start of a team that went 3-13 last season, the Eagles (4-2), favored on the road coming in, can’t be counted among the critics. Nor could many in the raucous, sold-out Louisiana Superdome, which rained down earsplitting cheers in support of New Orleans’ defense and erupted in celebration as Carney’s winning kick left his foot clearly on target.
“It’s a whole different team,” said Eagles defensive end Darren Howard, who played for New Orleans last season. “They’re doing it with a young set of guys who don’t remember what happened in years past. … It’s six games and they’re 5-1. It’s hard to say anything but they’re legitimate.”
The Saints’ leading receiver much of the past six seasons, Horn was a non-factor for most of 2005 after pulling a hamstring. Now healthy, the 34-year-old was off to a relatively slow start.
The talkative Horn also has not spoken to reporters for about three weeks and did not meet with the media after Sunday’s game because of what team officials described as a family emergency.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees continued his impressive start in New Orleans after offseason throwing-shoulder surgery. He completed 27 of 37 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and did not take a sack against a defense that has 23 this season.
“Before the game, coach Payton looked that unit dead in the eye and said, ‘No sacks today,”’ Brees said of the offensive line. “That was a big challenge to them and they did an excellent job with it.”
Brees led a 72-yard, 16-play winning drive that chewed up the final 8:26. Deuce McAllister, who missed much of the first half after tweaking his hamstring, made a key first-down run before the game-ending field goal.
Donovan McNabb, off to a torrid start this season, was 19-of-32 for 247 yards and two touchdowns. But the Saints threw him off his rhythm intermittently, sacking him three times.
The Saints built a 17-3 lead on Horn’s first touchdown and a scoring pass from Brees to rookie Marques Colston set up by a muffed punt return deep in Eagles territory.
“We can take something positive out of this game,” McNabb said. “They’re a good team, well coached, and those guys did exactly what they had to do in order to swing the momentum.”
The Saints also held Brian Westbrook to 72 yards rushing and only 3 yards receiving.
Saints defensive lineman Hollis Thomas had six tackles and a sack in his first game against the team with which he spent the last decade.
The Eagles needed only three plays to change the tone of the game in the second half. McNabb found Reggie Brown wide open along the left sideline, then Brown stopped and ran away from five defenders back toward the far side for a 60-yard score.
Brown wound up with 121 yards receiving on six catches. And another Brown reception for 17 yards on third-and-15 extended the Eagles’ next scoring drive, which ended with a 3-yard pass to L.J. Smith to tie the game at 17 late in the third quarter.
The Eagles were back in scoring position three plays later. Brees’ pass to Colston was knocked out of the receiver’s hand by Juqua Thomas,and the ball landed in the arms of defensive lineman Darwin Walker, who was tackled at the New Orleans 15.
On the next play, Brown scored on a reverse, with McNabb blocking.
However, the Saints responded quickly when Philadelphia’s coverage broke down on Brees’ rollout and the quarterback found Horn on a long pass to tie it at 24.
Horn’s second touchdown reception gave him 48 with the Saints, tying the franchise record of Eric Martin, who played in New Orleans from 1985-93. … Receiver Donte’ Stallworth was listed as inactive by the Eagles in his return to New Orleans since being traded shortly before the regular season began. … Brown’s touchdown catch was also his longest career reception.