CINCINNATI - Drew Brees isn't just a Super Bowl MVP. He's also a convincing actor with the game on the line.
Brees passed Archie Manning as the Saints’ all-time leading passer Sunday, then rallied New Orleans to its fifth straight win, 34-30, over the Cincinnati Bengals, with a little impromptu at the line of scrimmage in the final minute.
Sold it pretty well, too.
Down by three, the Saints (9-3) drove to a fourth-and-2 at the Cincinnati 7 with 34 seconds left. A field goal would have set up overtime.
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New Orleans decided to run a gambit aptly called “No-Brainer Freeze.” The Saints line up as if they’re going to snap it and try to draw the Bengals offside. If it doesn’t work, they let the play clock run out, take the 5-yard penalty and send in the kicker.
“That’s a very realistic situation for us,” Brees said. “We’re not going to snap it if we can get them to jump.”
To the surprise of the 59,963 fans and both sidelines, that’s exactly what happened.
Brees moved around in the backfield, trying to get the Bengals’ nerves on edge. He settled under center and, with the play clock under 10 seconds, started calling signals as the crowd screamed.
“Drew Brees did a great job with the snap count and tried to create the illusion we were going for it, when really we’re just going to let the time run out,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Lineman Pat Sims bought it, jumping across the line for a penalty that gave the shocked Saints a first down. Brees threw the winning 3-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston on the next play.
“What is that guy doing?” Saints defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis said. “You have to be smarter than that.”
The Bengals (2-10), the defending AFC North champions, have lost nine in a row for only the third time in franchise history.