BALTIMORE. -- After 18 years, Drew Brees finally found a way to beat the Baltimore Ravens.
The veteran quarterback threw a pair of touchdowns and took down the Ravens for the first time in five career games with a 24-23 victory. Brees joined Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to defeat every team in the league.
Brees also earned the 500th touchdown pass of his career with a 1-yard toss to Benjamin Watson late in the first half.
The loss was especially difficult for Baltimore (4-3).
Quarterback Joe Flacco orchestrated an 81-yard drive and pulled his team to with a point on a 14-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with 24 seconds left in the game.
However, Justin Tucker, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, missed the extra point with the ball sailing wide right of the goal post. Tucker had converted the previous 222 extra point attempts over his seven-year career.
“Every kicker and every football player is going to come across a challenging moment,” Tucker said. “If you play long enough, you’re going to have a kick that you want back. Tonight was that night for me. The only thing we can do is go to work and make the best out of a bad situation.”
After the game, Brees was excited to pull out the victory as opposed to focusing on any personal milestones.
“I am really glad, obviously. We only get to play them every four years or so,” said Brees, who was 22 of 30 for 212 yards with a pair of touchdowns. “But they’ve had tremendous defensive teams in the past. Gus like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Adalius Thomas, Peter Boulware and Haloti Ngata. Those guys are household names in the NFL.”
The gutsy victory was signature Brees.
On a 4th and 1 from the Ravens’ 18-yard line with 7:10 remaining, Brees dove for the first down. New Orleans then took the lead three plays later on his 5-yard pass to Michael Thomas.
After Will Lutz hit a field goal to give the Saints a 24-17 lead, Flacco threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brown. However, Tucker missed the extra point.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was not overly concerned about Tucker’s confidence level following the devastating miscue.
“He’ll handle it great,” he said. “He’s the best in the business. He’ll be back winning games for us next week.”
The Ravens (4-3) entered the game allowing an NFL-low 12.8 points and 270.8 yards per game and had given up only 12 second-half points. Baltimore’s defense played well again, but the Saints were able to put together the key plays in the second half.
“It was a dog fight both ways,” Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr said. “We had our work cut out for us. At the end of the day, they made one more play than us.”
The Ravens extended their lead to 17-7 on a 8-yard pass from Flacco to rookie tight end Mark Andrews with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
The Saints pulled to within three on a 2-yard run by Alvin Kamara with 12:32 remaining in the game. It was the first time Baltimore allowed a second-half touchdown this season.
New Orleans then scored 10 straight points to eek out the win.
Flacco was 23 of 39 for 279 yards with two touchdowns. Brown led all receivers with seven receptions for 134 yards and two scores.
The Ravens held the high-powered Saints to just 145 yards and the one touchdown over the opening two quarters.
New Orleans, however, covered three fourth-down opportunities on the opening drive. On the fourth attempt on the Ravens’ 6, Kamara could not handle a flip from Taysom Hill and Baltimore recovered to end a 20-play, 69-yard drive that lasted 10:03.
That set the tone for the seesaw battle.
The Ravens were thin at cornerback with Marlon Humphrey (tight) and rookie Anthony Averett (hamstring) out with injuries.
In addition, tackle James Hurst (back) missed the first game of his five-year career. Rookie Bradley Bozeman and RT Orlando Brown Jr. made their first starts for the Ravens. Bozeman left in the fourth quarter with an injured left calf.