Saints quietly get back to .500 with a blowout win at Oakland

If you quit paying attention to the Saints after September, nobody would blame you.

New Orleans was 0-4, with a home loss to the Chiefs (!!!). The Saints didn't have their head coach and didn't seem to have much of a chance.

But since the Saints fell off the grid, they've actually played really good football.

[Also: Cincinnati's A.J. Green delivers catch of the year candidate]

The Saints' easy 38-17 win over Oakland was their fifth in six games. Their only loss in that stretch was at Denver, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

The key for New Orleans is that Drew Brees has been his normal self, and the Saints defense has been respectable. New Orleans isn't elite on defense, but it has climbed a long way from being pathetic, which it was in September. The Raiders had just 10 points until deep into the fourth quarter, when the game was decided. And with New Orleans' offense, the defense doesn't have to be great. Just passable.

[Also: Matt Ryan's horrid first quarter included three INTs]

Brees had a typical game on Sunday. He hit three touchdowns, including two nice scoring throws to Lance Moore. One was on a deep throw in which he bought time for Moore to get free deep over the middle, and another in the end zone when he impossibly fit the pass into Moore just before the Raiders' defense got to him.

The Saints have a tough road to get a playoff spot. The NFC has a strong wild-card pool, with Dallas, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Seattle among the teams in the mix. And the Saints have a tough remaining schedule, including games at home against San Francisco and Tampa Bay, and road games against the Giants, Dallas and Falcons. Their regular-season finale against Carolina might not mean anything. But given where the Saints were at the quarter mark of the season, even being in the conversation is impressive.

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