NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees rediscovered his Super Bowl form in time to make the defending champion New Orleans Saints look like contenders again.
After taking a pounding and throwing an early interception, Brees connected on all but two of 22 passes he attempted in the second half, including two fourth-quarter touchdowns that lifted the Saints to a 20-10 victory over the Steelers on Sunday night.
“We knew what a big game this was,” said Brees, who threw for 191 yards in the second half to finish with 305 yards spread among nine receivers.
“There was no better way to get back on track than to beat these guys. I felt like we played as complete a game as we’ve played all year, especially in the second half.”
Brees’ first TD went to Marques Colston for 16 yards and the second went for 8 yards to Lance Moore with 2:37 left, breaking open a defensive struggle in which neither team scored a touchdown through three quarters.
Leigh Torrence then intercepted Ben Roethlisberger to seal it for the Saints (5-3), who were coming off an embarrassing 30-17 loss at home last week to the scuffling Cleveland Browns.
“We have a special group,” Brees said. “I think we all knew that from the start. We just had to come out and prove it. It’s a long season. … You’re going to have your ups and downs.”
Rashard Mendenhall had the only touchdown for Pittsburgh (5-2) on a 38-yard run in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger was 17 of 28 for 195 yards.
“This is definitely a gut check for us,” Roethlisberger said. “We got knocked down a little bit tonight and now it will be interesting to see how we bounce back.”
A packed Halloween night crowd howled throughout much of the matchup of the past two Super Bowl champs, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the Saints’ defense seemed to thrive off of the noise.
o The Saints defense held the Steelers to 279 total yards and has held its last five opponents to under 300 total yards.
o Ben Roethlisberger (20,056) became the second quarterback in franchise history with 20,000 passing yards. Terry Bradshaw is the other with 27,989 career passing yards.
o The Steelers defense forced two takeaways and has forced two-plus turnovers in six straight games. On the season, Pittsburgh has 19 takeaways (22 total last season).
o Drew Brees has completed 7