New Orleans — Justin Forsett ripped off one long run after another, and the Baltimore Ravens battered Drew Brees into a very costly mistake.
Forsett rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and Baltimore beat New Orleans 34-27 on Monday night to hand the Saints their third consecutive loss.
Will Hill had a 44-yard interception return for a go-ahead score for Baltimore in the third quarter. Steve Smith caught four passes for 89 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown catch for the Ravens (7-4), who improved to 4-0 against the NFC South and remained within a half-game of AFC North leader Cincinnati (7-3-1).
Forsett’s scoring runs went for 13 yards in the second quarter and 20 yards late in the fourth quarter to seal it.
“The offensive line did a great job of making those lanes open for me,” Forsett said. “I just tried to seize the moment.”
Brees passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns for New Orleans (4-7), which remained tied for first in its anemic division with Atlanta, which lost to Cleveland a day earlier. Now New Orleans and Atlanta have the dubious distinction of being the first teams in NFL history to occupy first place in a division while three games under .500.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got enough thick skin and be able to have the mental and physical toughness to bounce back and get ready to play next week, because we’re playing obviously an important game,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, whose club visits Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Jimmy Graham had two TD catches for the Saints, who had won 14 straight home night games.
Brees was sacked four times, and his pivotal interception came as he threw under pressure from Terrell Suggs. The pass was behind Graham, allowing Hill to snag it with nothing but open field in front of him. The play broke a 17-all tie and New Orleans never recovered.
By the end of the game, the chants of “Who-Dat,” for which Saints fans are known were replaced by the opening riff to the White Stripes song, “Seven Nation Army,” which Ravens fans also sang in the Superdome after their 2013 Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.
The Saints carried a 17-14 lead into halftime on Brees’ 26-yard scoring pass to Marques Colston, who brought it in while leaping between two defensive backs.
The Ravens tied the game on Justin Tucker’s 31-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was 18 for 24 for 243 yards and one touchdown. Smith and Forsett gave the Saints fits throughout the game. Smith caught four passes for 89 yards, and his first-down catch in the third quarter also precipitated a scuffle for which Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro was assessed a personal foul.
Forsett, whose 5.4 yards per carry coming into the game led all NFL running backs, averaged 8.3 yards per rush. Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil had two sacks, while Suggs and C.J. Mosley each had one.
Brees’ first scoring pass went for 10 yards to Graham.
Joe Morgan, who struggled to crack New Orleans’ lineup earlier this season and then was suspended two games for undisclosed team violations, broke loose for two plays longer than 60 yards the first two times he touched the ball.
He gained 67 yards on a running play on New Orleans’ opening drive, and then caught a 62-yard pass on the Saints’ third series, setting up Graham’s TD.
The Saints were in position to take an early lead after Morgan’s long gain on an end-around. It took defensive back Lardarius Webb’s horse-collar tackle at the 2 to prevent Morgan from scoring.
The play gave New Orleans first-and-goal on the 1, but the Ravens stopped two runs by Mark Ingram and a scramble by Brees before stuffing Ingram again — this time for a loss of 2 yards — on fourth-and-goal.
Taking over at its 3, Baltimore needed just one play to break out of the shadow of its own end zone. Forsett burst through the middle of the line and scampered 38 yards to the 41. Then it was time for Smith, a long-time Saints nemesis from his 13 seasons with Carolina, to torment Saints fans a little more.
He had a clutch third-down catch to sustain the drive, which culminated with his touchdown catch as he crashed down backward at the left edge of the end zone.
That gave Smith 11 career touchdown catches against New Orleans, more than he has against any other team.
Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett (Michigan) is being evaluated for an undisclosed injury, and coach Bill O’Brien said Monday his status will not be known until later this week.
O’Brien wouldn’t say what the injury was amid reports Mallett has a torn pectoral muscle.
“He’s still being evaluated and we’ll have more to report toward the end of the week,” O’Brien said.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry was placed on the non-football injury list after a mass was found in his chest following last week’s game against the Raiders. Trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry might have lymphoma.
Burkholder said Berry was on his way to Atlanta to be examined by specialists at Emory University.
... Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
... Washington placed special teams captain Adam Hayward on injured reserve with a knee injury, ruling him out for the season.
... Browns safety Tashaun Gipson’s season could be over after he sustained a severe sprain to his right knee.