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Jenkins said he chased the play with only one thought — “get the ball out.”

“He didn’t see me from the blind side,” Jenkins said. “A bad play turned good for us. Not only ripped it out, it just kind of fell in my stomach.”

Brees then drove the Saints 89 yards in five plays. He hit Robert Meachem for 55 yards and Lance Moore on a 12-yard touchdown strike.

The Cowboys had one try left, and Kitna got them close enough to give Buehler’s powerful leg a try. The kick had plenty of distance, but fluttered left before reaching the uprights.

The game was filled with would-be heroes like Miles Austin, who kick-started Dallas’ rally by taking an end around 60 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second half, and would-be goats like Reggie Bush, who had a forgettable return from an eight-game layoff because of a broken foot. He dropped a likely touchdown pass with the Saints up 20-13, then fumbled on a punt return to set up the Cowboys’ touchdown that made it 23-20.

Brees finished 23 of 39 for 352 yards with a touchdown and an interception. That was another play that would’ve been a bigger deal had the outcome been reversed — it bounced off the hands of tight end Jimmy Graham and into the hands of Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh, leading to Choice’s go-ahead score.

The Saints opened the game so crisply, they looked capable of returning to Cowboys Stadium for the Super Bowl. Brees marched them 80 yards in four plays on the opening drive, never even seeing a second down. They intercepted a screen pass and Garrett Hartley kicked a career-best 50-yard field goal, then Brees drove for another touchdown and the 17-0 lead.

Marques Colston finished with six catches for 105 yards for New Orleans, and Devery Henderson had 97 yards receiving. Kitna was 30 of 42 for 313 yards, and Jason Witten had 10 catches for 99 yards.