NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Saints protected a one-score lead to keep themselves alive in the NFC wild-card chase.

And that probably means they'll be mighty hungry next Sunday afternoon when they host the Eagles (1 o'clock, Channel 29).

Drew Brees (26-for-30, 315 yards) connected for two touchdowns, capping his day with a clutch 22-yard, third-down completion to Billy Miller. That allowed the Saints to safely run out the clock in a 31-24 victory over visiting Arizona yesterday.

"We're really getting the best out of ourselves right now," Brees said. "This is the time to come together."

When New Orleans (7-7) last played in the Superdome two games ago, a fumble on a botched reverse set up Tampa Bay's winning score in the final 30 seconds.

With a loss severely hurting playoff hopes for either team, the game was a high-anxiety affair.

Played indoors, it was still no less sloppy than some of the weather-affected contests far to the north. Fumbles by each team set up opponents' scores. Roman Harper's interception of Kurt Warner's tipped pass set up another Saints touchdown.

Warner (19-for-30, 233 yards), who turned over the ball and was sacked twice, alternated between his worst and best. He completed six of seven throws on an 80-yard scoring drive in the third quarter that pulled Arizona (6-8) to 28-21.

"We've lost a lot of games we should have won this year," Warner said.

New Orleans' running game also was steady for the second week in a row in the absence of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. The Saints rushed for 114 yards as a team, with third-stringer Aaron Stecker rushing for 95 yards and two TDs. *