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Romp allows Saints to be cautious with ailing Brooks

©Associated Press

December 9, 2002

BALTIMORE -- The Saints had enough working in their favor that they didn't need to risk further injury to Aaron Brooks.

So they pulled their starting quarterback and finished off the Ravens without him.

Deuce McAllister ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns, and the Saints capitalized on a litany of Baltimore miscues in a 37-25 victory Sunday.

Brooks left in the third quarter with New Orleans up 20-7. He bruised his right shoulder one week earlier against the Bucs, and though he wanted to continue, coach Jim Haslett had seen enough.

"We just felt he was struggling a little bit in the third quarter, and we decided to take him out," Haslett said. "He didn't have that much practice this week, and it's tough on a quarterback when he doesn't practice."

Brooks was replaced by Jake Delhomme, who converted a Jamal Lewis fumble into a touchdown on his first drive and led the Saints on a 10-play march that produced a field goal for a 30-17 lead with 6:28 left.

Brooks, who finished 9-for-23 for 123 yards and a touchdown, warned Delhomme that he might be needed.

"In the second quarter, he said to stay loose," Delhomme said. "When he came out for halftime, he said stay loose. So I knew I'd be going in."

Delhomme went 7-for-8 for 103 yards.

The Saints will need Brooks for their planned playoff run, but this victory was secured by special teams and defense.

Lewis scored on a 1-yard run and caught a 77-yard touchdown from Jeff Blake, but he lost two fumbles as Baltimore saw its flickering playoff hopes diminish further.

McAllister's third touchdown run, which put New Orleans up by 20 with 3:08 to go, was set up by safety Fred Thomas' second interception of the game.

Blake, who started for New Orleans in 2000 and was a backup to Brooks last season, went 18-for-39 for 316 yards. He gave the ball away three times.

The Saints capitalized on two mistakes to go up 10-0 within eight minutes. First, Blake dropped back to pass and lost his grip without being touched, a turnover that resulted in a field goal by John Carney.

Four plays later, Ravens punter Dave Zastudil hesitated too long after the snap, and Fred McAfee blocked the kick. Brooks hit Donte' Stallworth with a 28-yard touchdown.

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