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Saints pip San Diego at Wembley

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Lance Moore scored off Drew Brees's second touchdown pass

By Martin Gough
BBC Sport, Wembley Stadium

Drew Brees gave a passing masterclass to 83,226 fans as the New Orleans Saints triumphed 37-32 over his former side San Diego at Wembley.

But rival QB Philip Rivers threw for three scores of his own as the second NFL regular-season game in London went down to the wire.

Rivers threw an interception with 70 seconds left then failed to connect with a heave off the final play.

Brees completed 30 of 41 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns.

Rusher LaDainian Tomlinson returned to form with 105 yards and a TD but San Diego were careless and conceded penalties at key times.

New Orleans voluntarily conceded a two-point safety with eight seconds remaining in an attempt to secure the result.

But hearts were still in mouths as Rivers' last-gasp throw from 50 yards out was broken up by New Orleans defenders.

The footing was bad, the field was slick and choppy... we knew it would be a sloppy field regardless of whether it rained

New Orleans coach Sean Payton
The Saintsí performance through the air more than made up for the absence of the star rusher Reggie Bush, who was forced to miss the trip to undergo surgery on his left knee.

And the game stayed alive right to the end after Rivers covered 56 yards in five plays to hit Vincent Jackson for the score that brought the Chargers within eight points.

Brees said afterwards: "I'm glad we won but it's not about me proving a point or saying, 'You shouldn't have let me go.'

"We beat a very good team that needed a win as badly as we did and I'm glad we're the ones with the win because it was a hard-fought game."

Tomlinson joked of Brees: "He's supposed to be my friend - I was waiting for him to throw an interception. I expected him to have a great game - the guy's phenomenal, he's a great quarterback."

BBC Sport's Tim Love
San Diego conceded 14 penalties for 134 yards Ė more than twice the total New Orleans gave up.

"It's uncharacteristic of our team to have that number of penalties," said Tomlinson.

"It was frustrating and tough to make a big play then look back and see it's a penalty."

Double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington became an honorary Saint for the day at the coin toss, with weather damp but a massive improvement on that for the NFL's first London fixture last season.

After the teams traded early field goals, Brees was key as the Saints scored 20 points in the space of just over eight minutes in the second quarter.

Rebecca Adlington
Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington was one of the star faces
The Texan passer first found Devery Henderson uncovered in the left corner of the endzone with a 12-yard pass.

In a rare occurrence for the NFL, Taylor Mehlhaff failed to add the extra point as his kick bounced off the left upright.

But Usama Young scooped up Darren Sproles's fumble on the ensuing kick-off and Deuce McAllister bashed his way in from a yard out to put the Saints 16-3 up.

Tomlinson, who has been struggling with a toe injury all year, kept his side in the contest, turning a short-yardage play into an exquisite 40 yard run to set up his own score on a pass from Rivers.

Brees was perfect with three pass attempts on the following drive, though, the third finding an overjoyed Lance Moore - again in the left corner - from 30 yards out.

After several miscues, San Diego's passing game finally clicked under Rivers as he found tight end Antonio Gates with 68 seconds left in the half.

Reaction: Chargers v Saints

New Orleans, who gave up a home fixture to allow an NFL regular season game to be played in London for the second year running, appeared to seal the game from there.

Brees found tight-end Mark Campbell from a yard out then full-back John Karney rumbled in for his second score in as many games - and just the fifth of his five-year career.

In between, a touchdown pass from Rivers to Brandon Manumaleuna that would have taken San Diego to within six points at 30-24 in the third quarter, was annulled by a holding call.

But Rivers kept his cool as the New Orleans defence tired for an impressive finale.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton said the quality of the field was poor and blamed it for the struggles endured by his defenders.

He said: "The footing was bad, the field was slick and choppy and generally it comes in favour of offences.

"After our run-through on Saturday we knew it would be a sloppy field regardless of whether it rained."

San Diego coach Norv Turner said: "It was obviously looser than other fields we play on but I donít think it affected the quality of play."

see also
Why you should watch the NFL in London
24 Oct 08 |  American Football
NFL star Bush out of London clash
20 Oct 08 |  American Football
Giants beat Miami at wet Wembley
28 Oct 07 |  American Football
Superdome reopens in New Orleans
26 Sep 06 |  Americas
NFL fixtures
05 Jan 08 |  American Football
NFL results
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL standings
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL in a nutshell
19 Oct 05 |  American Football
American Football on the BBC
05 Feb 08 |  American Football

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