SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 2, 2005) -- Aaron Brooks saw an opening and bolted. Crossing the goal line just ahead of a defender, he spiked the ball and raised his arms to celebrate.
That's when he heard it: the deafening roar of a crowd cheering for the New Orleans Saints.
And for one Sunday afternoon at least, San Antonio and the Alamodome felt like home for Brooks and his nomadic teammates.
"From the time we stepped out of the locker room going out there to warm up, they really were into it," said Brooks, who scored the Saints' only touchdown in a 19-7 victory against the Buffalo Bills.
"They were excited about us being here and they embraced us," Brooks said. "We thank them for it."
John Carney kicked four field goals, Donte' Stallworth grabbed eight receptions for 129 yards and Deuce McAllister rushed for 130 yards for the Saints (2-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak.
Hurricane Katrina forced the Saints from their home at the Superdome in New Orleans and into a cross-country journey with three home games scheduled for the Alamodome and four others closer to home in Baton Rouge, La.
After opening the season on the road, their first "home" game was a Monday night loss against the Giants at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
The Alamodome was clearly a more comfortable venue.
Tens of thousands of gold pompoms were distributed to the 58,688 in attendance at the 65,000-seat stadium. Fans used to cheering the NBA champions San Antonio Spurs did the wave and deafening chants of "Dee-Fense" forced the Bills (1-3) to take a delay-of-game penalty in the first quarter.
"It was a mix of New Orleans people and San Antonio people," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "I think you saw the result. It helped our football team."
By the fourth quarter, the crowd was on its feet when the Saints stuffed Willis McGahee on fourth-and-inches, taking possession for a drive that would lead to Carney's third field goal, making it 16-7 with 5 minutes left.
"We're still the New Orleans Saints," Stallworth said. "New Orleans is still cheering for us and we have San Antonio on our side as well."
But it wasn't merely the crowd that made a difference for the Saints. After committing 10 turnovers in their previous two games, the Saints had none against the Bills and generally negated the sloppy play they showed on the road.
"That's the difference in every ball game," Brooks said. "We didn't do that today."
The Bills, meanwhile, continue to struggle behind first-year starting quarterback J.P. Losman, who was handed the reins of the offense over veteran Drew Bledsoe, who left the team and is now the starter in Dallas.
Losman was 7 of 15 for 75 yards with an interception and three sacks before he was replaced by Kelly Holcomb at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bills have only two touchdowns in their past 14 quarters and managed 208 total yards.
"I'm not happy. You're never happy when you're pulled," Losman said. "I'm trying not to take it personally ... but it's tough."
Bills coach Mike Mularkey said Losman will remain his starter.
"J.P.'s the starter, and I'm going with J.P.," Mularkey said. "I think everyone understands that."
Losman looked sharp early, rushing for 23 yards and passing for 28 as the Bills drove 75 yards for a touchdown on their first possession. The quick 7-0 lead looked like it might take the crowd out of the game.
"It kind of gives you the sense we should have been doing that more and more," Mularkey said. "After the first drive we really couldn't put anything together."
But then Losman misfired badly with a throw into double coverage in the second quarter and Jason Craft returned the interception 39 yards. That set up Brooks' 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Saints a 10-7 lead. Brooks dropped back to pass before he spied an opening and slipped across the goal line in front of Troy Vincent and spiked the ball.
Carney's 40-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the half made it 13-7.
The Bills nearly retook the lead in the final seconds of the half when Terrence McGee returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards, crisscrossing the field and ducking through defenders before he was finally tripped up inside the Saints 5 after time expired.
"That was huge," Brooks said. "If that guys scores, that would have taken a lot of air out of us."
- Joe Horn, New Orleans' leading receiver, missed only his second game since 2000 when he was scratched from the lineup with a sore right hamstring.
- Katrina also spoiled a potential homecoming for Losman, who played in college at Tulane.
- City officials had hoped a sellout would help push San Antonio's case as an NFL-worthy area, but there were large sections of empty seats.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved