Broncos run over Saints
STEPPING UP n Denver Broncos running back Mike Anderson (38) breaks up the middle for a touchdown as New Orleans Saints defenders Darren Perry (39) and Keith Mitchell (59) try to stop him during the 2nd quarter Sunday. Anderson ran 37 times for 251 yards and four touchdowns Sunday, breaking the NFL rookie single-game rushing record in the Broncos' 38-23 victory. AP Photo
By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Dec. 4, 2000
NEW ORLEANS The New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos squared off in a "Backup Bowl" of sorts Sunday.
And the sellout crowd inside the Louisiana Superdome quickly found out the Broncos reserves were much better than those from the Crescent City.
Denver's third-string running back Mike Anderson, subbing for the injured Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary, humiliated the Saints for an unheard of 251 yards on 37 carries an NFL single-game record for rookies to help propel Denver (9-4) to a 38-23 victory over the Saints.
Those opportunities were created by the stellar play of the Broncos offensive line, which thoroughly whipped the Saints defense en route to racking up a whopping 483 yards of total offense.
The Saints (8-5) air corps was into service early. In just his second NFL start, quarterback Aaron Brooks threw 30 completions on 48 attempts for a team single-game record of 441 yards.
The Saints' final rushing play of the day by a running back came with 12 minutes to go in the first half, and the score tied at seven.
But the Saints steadily began to lose the gunfight in the second quarter.
Anderson found the end zone for the second of his four touchdown runs on the day by capping off a five-play, 57-yard march with a 5-yard burst to put the Broncos up 14-7. The ensuing Saints drive was hampered by penalties and the hosts had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Doug Brien.
The Broncos then continued to slash right at the heart of the Saints' defense, scoring on their next two possessions. The first came on a 43-yard catch and run by Dwayne Carswell from Broncos qb Gus Frerotte who was playing in place of the injured Brian Griese. The reserve finished the day a sharp 11-of-16 for 201 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
The next Saints' drive ended before it began when Kevin Mathis, who was returning kicks in place of an injured Chad Morton, fumbled on the return. Replays showed Mathis' knee to be down, but an instant replay challenge by Haslett wasn't overturned. It was one of three challenges concerning turnovers that went against New Orleans.
They don't give you explanations, but obviously I challenged it so I thought it was a bad call," Haslett said.
With the short field, Denver capitalized five plays later when Anderson busted in again this time from seven yards away.
Staring down a 28-10 barrel with 2:29 to go before the half, the Saints put together a frenzied production that looked like it would produce six when receiver Robert Wilson caught a short pass and broke through the secondary, only to be stopped by a shoestring tackle from behind at the 2 with one second left.
Instead Brien came in and inched the Saints to within 28-13, where the margin remained until Broncos placekicker Jason Elam booted a 22-yarder at the 10:05 mark of the third to finish off a nine-play drive that covered 61 markers.
The Saints, despite being down by three scores, held onto the ball for the next five minutes and had to settle for another Brien field goal instead of a touchdown due to more offensive penalties.
Denver drove home the ball-control issue as well as the win/loss issue by responding with 78 yards on nine plays, including a healthy dose of Anderson.
The rookie back continued to waltz through gaping holes, due in part to the loss of former Ole Miss standout Norman Hand, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a sprained foot. Without the usual double-teams the enormous Hand almost always commands, linemen were free to tee off on La'Roi Glover.
The Saints' defense only recorded one sack all day, a microcosm of the Denver dominance.
The home team added a garbage time score in front of mostly empty seats when Brooks led his team 97-yards in eight plays, hitting Willie Jackson on the 28-yard strike for the final margin.
It was the second such impressive lengthy output of the day, as New Orleans began the day with a five-play, 95-yarder. Brooks found tight end Andrew Glover on the 19-yard hookup to tie the game at seven with 28 ticks left in the opening frame.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.