Saints struggle but still hold off hapless Jets

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Mark Ingram gave the Saints much more than the first-down run they needed to wind down the clock on the Jets.

His determined burst across the line of scrimmage thrust him into New York's defensive backfield with too much speed and vigor for anyone to catch him — a fitting finish to one of his better days in a memorable season.

Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage , capped by his late 50-yard TD run, and New Orleans overcame three turnovers to defeat the reeling Jets 31-19 on Sunday.

"Getting the ball into his hands is obviously what we want to do," Saints center Max Unger said of Ingram, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for a second straight season. "We've got to get him going because when he has a chance to make plays like that — you can see it — he's explosive."

Ingram's 54-yard gain on a screen, which set up a field goal, was the longer of his two 50-yard plays.

"He's making people miss. He's creating," said fellow running back Alvin Kamara, who added a 10-yard touchdown catch.

The Saints (10-4) needed to beat the Jets (5-9) to maintain a tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South. New Orleans leads Carolina (10-4) on head-to-head results. Atlanta (8-5) can pull one game behind by beating Tampa Bay on Monday night.

The Jets, who were eliminated from the playoffs, kept it close until Saints receiver Michael Thomas' fourth-quarter touchdown on a 4-yard slant made it 24-13.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback for New York this season, completing 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice — once by Craig Robertson on a tipped pass and once by Marshon Lattimore on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

"As far as understanding the game plan and knowing what you see out there, I felt really confident," Petty said. "The more times I get out there, the better I'm going to get."

Jets coach Todd Bowles offered a more tepid assessment, but said the third-year QB remains the starter.

"He just didn't make any plays," Bowles said. "Plays that we needed him to make to win the game, he didn't make. He will get better at that."

Petty's 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed.

Drew Brees completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but also was intercepted deep in New Orleans territory to set up a Jets field goal at the end of the first half.