With suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, interim coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis watching in person but from a distance, franchise quarterback Drew Brees exceeded the record he shared with NFL legend Johnny Unitas going into the game against the San Diego Chargers having completed at least one touchdown pass in forty-seven consecutive games.
The Unitas record was set in 1960 and was tied by Brees last weekend in Green Bay. Brees broke it on a 40-yard completion to wide receiver Devery Henderson, one of the team’s two players remaining on the roster from the Jim Haslett era.
With that record-setting touchdown completion combined with his other on-field accolades, Brees has all but locked up a first ballot election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when his playing days are over.
Brees wasn’t the only member of the Black and Gold to set a new statistical benchmark on Sunday night.
Wide receiver Marques Colston, a favorite target of Brees, tied Joe Horn’s franchise record of 50 career touchdown receptions in the second quarter, surpassed it in the third quarter and set a new mark in the fourth quarter.
In addition to ending the team’s losing streak at four, the Saints concluded another ignominious run when Roman Harper snagged an interception in the fourth quarter. Until then, a Saint safety had not intercepted a pass since the 2010 season.
The defense also had one of their better games attacking the opposing quarterback, sacking the San Diego signal caller five times, almost doubling the number from the previous four games.
Despite Brees and Colston’s respective record breakings, the game ball for the win should not have been handed to a member of the Black and Gold but to a member of the San Diego Chargers.
Linebacker Demorrio Williams picked off Brees and brought the ball back to the end zone. Had nothing further happened, the game would have been essentially over right then and there and the Saints would have stumbled into the bye week 0-5.
Linebacker Melvin Ingram got through the Saints offensive line (not too grand of an achievement of late) and laid a late hit on Brees, which led to a roughing the passer penalty that not only nullified the Williams’s pick-six but returned the ball to the Saints offense with an extra ten yards and a first down. Brees and the Saints offense did not squander this gift and marched down the field sixty-eight yards for a touchdown.
It can truly (and finally) be said that an Ingram won a game for the Saints.
And speaking of the other Ingram, the Saints offense was handicapped once again by a non-existent running game.
The player the Saints coughed up a couple of high picks to land in 2011 racked up all 16 yards on five carries. Running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles did not fare any better on the ground though they managed to pick up significant yards on receptions.
With the bye week approaching, the Saints should both count their blessings for snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat and figure out a way to play better. The Chargers as much lost this game through sloppiness as the Saints won it by hanging in.
The Saints have to establish a run game and the defense needs to make big plays instead of giving them up on a consistent basis.