NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Patrick Robinson returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown, Drew Brees extended his touchdown pass record to 51 consecutive games and the New Orleans Saints built a 21-3 halftime lead over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
Chris Ivory, playing for the first time this year, scored for the Saints on a 22-yard run.
In a matchup of struggling teams, the Eagles moved the ball effectively in the early going and looked to strike first after Bryce Brown broke off a 40-yard run to the New Orleans 5. After losing 1 yard on a run, the Eagles went to the air looking for the touchdown.
Instead, it was the Saints who scored. Michael Vick’s pass went off the hands of tight end Brent Celek – right into the arms of Robinson, the right cornerback. He took off down the sideline in front of the shell-shocked Philadelphia bench, tying Darren Sharper’s record for the longest interception return in New Orleans history.
Vick was the only guy who had a chance at Robinson, but he instead took a low shot at Saints safety Roman Harper, who was setting up to deliver a block for his teammate. That sparked a brief scuffle while Robinson celebrated. Vick was flagged for a personal foul, though it didn’t really matter.
Philadelphia again drove deep into New Orleans territory, only to stall again. This time, at least, they picked up three points on Alex Henery’s 22-yard field goal.
But the Saints dominated the rest of the half.
Last in the league in rushing, New Orleans fans had been clamoring for the team to give some carries to Ivory, the team’s leading rusher just two seasons ago. He had only dressed for two games this season, and had yet to get on the field.
Finally, New Orleans gave Ivory a shot – and he sure took advantage On his first carry of the season, he rumbled for a 9-yard gain. Then, breaking several tackles, he ripped off a 22-yard touchdown run that put the Saints ahead 14-3.
After another promising Philadelphia possession was ruined by a silly play – an unnecessary roughness penalty on Riley Cooper for a blind-side hit – the Saints took it down the field for another score.
Brees hooked up with Jimmy Graham on two completions for 30 yards, Pierre Thomas ran for 19 yards, and Brees hooked up with Marques Colston in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown that stretched the lead to 21-3.
Philadelphia has been outscored 45-10 in the first half over the past two games. Last week, the Eagles trailed Atlanta 24-7 at the break.
Both teams came into the game desperate for a win, after starting the season with high expectations.
Philadelphia had lost three straight, sparking constant speculation about whether Vick would lose his starting job and turning up the heat even more on longtime coach Andy Reid.
The Saints were coming off a dismal 34-14 loss at Denver, dropping their record to 2-5. As if they needed any further distraction, there was a report that a contract extension for suspended coach Sean Payton had been voided by the league, prompting speculation that he might not return to New Orleans in 2013.
The Eagles had 207 yards at halftime, on pace to become the eighth straight team to put up 400 yards on the Saints. But Philadelphia simply had too many breakdowns to take advantage.
On their lone scoring drive, LeSean McCoy got loose for runs of 13, 25 and 34 yards, the last of them on a fourth-and-1 play at the New Orleans 38.
But the Eagles couldn’t finish the job. Brown was stuffed at the line, Vick completed a pass to McCoy that also was stopped for no gain, and Vick’s pass over the middle went off the hands of DeSean Jackson, who appeared caught off guard by the throw. He was free in the back of the end zone but made only a halfhearted effort, the ball bouncing off his left hand.
At the half, Vick was 10 of 18 for 72 yards and had been sacked three times, his rating for the first two quarters a dismal 41.9. The Eagles were running the ball effectively. McCoy already had 101 yards on 13 carries, while Brown had carried four times for 49 yards.
Brees was 9 of 14 for 110 yards. Ivory had 39 yards rushing on three carries, while Thomas totaled 35 yards on his three carries, and Mark Ingram was also impressive with four carries for 32 yards. The Saints already had eclipsed their league-low rushing average with 106 yards on just 10 carries.
Garrett Hartley missed a 52-yard field goal attempt for the Saints.
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