NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints — the top offense in the league last year — had just enough in Thursday’s opener against the Minnesota Vikings to take a 14-9 lead after three quarters.
Drew Brees, who drove the Saints 77 yards to open the game, started the third quarter with a 74-yard scoring drive to regain the lead.
New Orleans shifted its attention to the running game, which gained only 9 yards in the first half, rushing for 31 yards on their opening drive of the second.
Pierre Thomas rushed for 31 yards on the drive and capped it with a 1-yard run up the middle.
Brett Favre’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe late in the second quarter had put the Vikings up 9-7 at halftime.
Favre was 11 of 15 for 127 yards in the first half after going 2 of 4 for 22 yards in the first quarter. But the Saints broke up six passes during the first three quarters and Favre was sacked once and intercepted once.
Favre drove the Vikings 64 yards on five plays for the go-ahead score. The extra point attempt was blocked.
Ryan Longwell’s 41-yard field goal brought Minnesota within 7-3.
The Saints had 223 yards total offense through three quarters, but only 41 yards rushing going into the fourth quarter
Despite moving the team in the second quarter, New Orleans could not score again. The closest they came was after Jonathan Vilma picked off a pass by Favre, only to have Garrett Hartley’s 46-yard field goal sail wide left.
The defending Super Bowl champion Saints, who scored 10 times on the opening drive last year — seven touchdowns and three field goals, — opened the game with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Devery Henderson to take a 7-0 lead.
Brees, who led the NFL with a 109.6 passer rating last season, completed 15 of 21 in the first half for 148 yards. One of the least sacked quarterbacks in the league last season, Brees was sacked in the first quarter, which stalled a promising drive for the Saints.
The Saints held the football for nine minutes in the quarter.