All week long New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton stressed that his team had to protect the football if they expected to knockoff the defending world champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Well, that didn't happen.
Despite posting 517 total yards of total offense, rookie wide-out Marques Colston catching 10 passes for 169 yards, and having quarterback Drew Brees pass for 398 yards on 31 completions, (the second best individual passing performance in the history of the franchise), the Saints just could not overcome three costly turnovers.
"It's tough to win in this league when you don't protect the ball and you can't force turnovers," Sean Payton said after the Saints lost a hard-fought football affair 38-31. "We have to do a better job protecting the football and we need to coach them to protect the ball in the future."
The Steelers had struggled holding on to the football in their first eight games of the season, turning over the ball an NFL high 24 times, one turnover more than they did in the entire 2005 season, but they did not turn the football over one time against the Saints.
"This was a tough game and I knew it would be. We have played pretty well on offense all season, but it was either a fumble or an interception that would do us in," said Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. "Today we played mistake free football and we needed to because the Saints are a real talented club. We needed a big play or two out of our running game and Willie (Parker) was terrific this afternoon."
Parker, who had publicly complained last week that some of his teammates weren't as hungry or as focused as they were during their Super Bowl run of a year ago, rushed for 213 yards on 22 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns.
The speedy halfback rushed for 187 of his 213 yards in the second half of the game.
The most impressive part of the Saints' loss was the team's fight to overcome mistakes to have a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.
The Saints spotted the Steelers 14 points early in the contest, but the Saints fought back to score 17 second quarter points and take a 24-17 lead at halftime.
Despite giving up 21 unanswered points midway through the fourth quarter, the Saints cut the lead to seven points when halfback Deuce McAllister scored on a four-yard touchdown run to put the score 38-31.
A late scoring drive for the Saints ended with less than a minute to play on the Steelers 20-yard line when wide receiver Terrance Copper fumbled the football after a 25-yard pass reception from quarterback Drew Brees.
Despite the loss, the Saints are still on top of the NFC South Division with a 6-3 mark and if you weren't impressed with the heart and pride of this team before this game, you certainly were after the loss.
Another win from the Tigers…
The LSU Tigers rose to the 11th spot on the recent BCS poll after they defeated Alabama 28-14 in Baton Rouge Saturday night.
The Tigers were again led by the stellar play of quarterback JaMarcus Russell who completed 16 of his 21 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
LSU also rolled up 211 yards rushing with both Jacob Hester and Keiland Williams each rushing for over 60 yards against the tough defense.
The Tigers are still in the hunt to win the SEC Western Division title, but they will need some help along the way. The Tigers could be the West champs if they beat Ole Miss and Arkansas, Alabama defeats Auburn and most importantly Mississippi State defeats a red-hot Arkansas club.
There will be a couple of familiar faces in the crowd when the Tigers host the Ole Miss Rebels this coming Saturday. T-Bob Hebert, the son of former New Orleans Saints quarterback and current WWL-870 radio talk-show host Bobby Hebert, a recent LSU football commitment will bring along with him Peachtree High School in Georgia defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
The 6-3, 275-pound offensive center will help host the son of former Saints fullback Craig 'Ironhead" Heyward, who passed away earlier this year.
Heyward, a 6-6, 280 pound defensive tackle is considered one of the top defensive line prospects in the country and he has been offered scholarships by USC, Georgia, Ohio State and Florida.