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Saints Inspired by Swilling's Familiar Face, 14-3 : NFC: New Orleans linebackers play like former teammate in victory over Detroit.

September 20, 1993|From Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Pat Swilling was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Detroit Lions before this season, but the 1991 defensive player of the year still played a prominent role for the Saints on Sunday.

Inspired by seeing Swilling on the other side, Saint linebackers Renaldo Turnbull and Rickey Jackson helped the Saints beat the Lions, 14-3, for their third consecutive victory.

Turnbull had three sacks, two of which forced fumbles that Jackson recovered deep in Detroit territory. The first sack led to one of Wade Wilson's two touchdown passes, a 12-yarder to Eric Martin. The second knocked Detroit quarterback Rodney Peete out with a knee sprain.

Jackson's two fumble recoveries gave him 25 for his career. He is tied for second place all-time with Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, four behind Jim Marshall.

"I'm putting my neck on the line saying this," said Jackson, a 13-year veteran, "but I think this is the best team we've had since I've been here."

The Saints limited the Lions to 165 total yards.

"We're just good," Turnbull said. "Good on offense, good on defense. Good on special teams."

Rookie Derek Brown rushed for 121 yards in 25 carries for the Saints.

Overall, the Saints (3-0) had five sacks of Peete, who completed 12 of 17 passes for 99 yards. Playing against a Detroit offensive line missing starters Lomas Brown and David Richards, the Saints limited Barry Sanders to 76 yards in 16 carries.

"We feel Barry Sanders is the best back in football and we wanted to get as many people around him as we could," Saint Coach Jim Mora said. "Our pursuit was excellent. We missed some tackles, but he'd make Superman miss tackles."

Swilling, playing despite the death of his father on Saturday, had two tackles and jumped offside three times. Swilling was traded the day before last April's draft for the Lions' first-round pick, which the Saints used to take offensive tackle William Roaf.

Wilson completed 11 of 22 passes for 99 yards as the Saints returned to their conventional conservative style.

But the defense and special teams did enough as punter Tommy Barnhardt and kicker Morten Andersen also played major roles.

The Lions' first nine possessions started at their 20 or worse because Andersen's kickoffs were into the end zone. Barnhardt's punts and the subsequent coverage forced the Lions to start drives at their six, 10, 11, 15, and 18.

Barnhardt and Anderson neutralized Pro Bowl return man Mel Gray, a former Saint.

"Mel's a great return man," Mora said. "With Morten sticking the ball in the end zone, we took (Gray) out of the game.

"Plus with punting by Tommy and coverage, we kept them penned."

Jason Hanson gave the Lions a 3-0 lead with a 41-yard field goal.

But the Saints used the next six minutes to drive 73 yards. Wilson's 17-yard touchdown pass to Hoby Brenner was the 13-year veteran tight end's first since Oct. 21, 1990.

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