Saints earn first win as Brees breaks Unitas' record
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Drew Brees broke a 52-year-old record in the first quarter and then orchestrated a 10-point comeback in the second half as the New Orleans Saints downed the San Diego Chargers, 31-24, on Sunday.
Brees completed 29-of-45 passes for 370 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.
He has now thrown a touchdown pass in 48 straight games, snapping Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas' mark of 47 that had held since 1960.
"You really couldn't have written a better script for tonight," Brees remarked. "To break the record, to get the win, in the fashion in which we won, it was really a complete effort all the way around."
Marques Colston caught nine balls for 131 yards and three scores, while Devery Henderson had eight receptions for 123 yards and a score for the Saints (1-4), who avoided their first 0-5 start in 16 years.
Philip Rivers went 27-for-42 through the air for 354 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for San Diego (3-2), which was looking to go 3-0 on the road this season.
Ryan Mathews carried the ball 12 times for 80 yards and a score, and added 59 yards on six receptions in defeat.
The Saints received the ball to start the third quarter trailing 17-14, but Quentin Jammer was able to intercept a tipped Brees pass on the third play from scrimmage and return it to the New Orleans 25, resulting in Mathews' 13- yard touchdown run off the left side.
San Diego seemed to have increased its lead late in the third when Demorrio Williams intercepted a Brees pass and returned it for a touchdown, but Melvin Ingram was called for a roughing the passer penalty on the play to give the ball back to New Orleans.
The Saints capitalized on the call as Pierre Thomas' 36-yard gain on a screen pass set up Colston's 16-yard score, bringing New Orleans back within 24-21 with 11 seconds left in the third.
The Saints took the ball back at their own 10-yard line following a San Diego three-and-out, and Brees led a 9-play drive that saw just one third down to take the lead, connecting with Colston on a 5-yard jump ball on the left side of the end zone with 8:50 remaining in the game.
Faced with a 3rd-and-18 at their own 41-yard line on the Chargers ensuing drive, Roman Harper settled under a deflected Rivers pass and returned it 41 yards down to the San Diego 23.
New Orleans would manage just one first down, though, and were held to a 26- yard field goal by Garrett Hartley to keep it a one-possession game with 2:56 left.
The Chargers quickly moved the ball past midfield on their next possession before a sack and a couple of offensive holding penalties put the team in a 2nd-and-37 hole.
The Saints bailed San Diego out with an illegal use of hands penalty that resulted in a fresh set of downs, and Rivers connected on four straight passes to move the ball to the New Orleans 33-yard line.
But Rivers then had the ball slapped out of his hands during a sack by Martez Wilson, who recovered the ball with 14 seconds left to seal the victory.
"They are outstanding offensively and they made plays when they had to," Chargers coach Norv Turner said of the Saints. "We had a couple errors on our penalties that cost us obviously a great deal late in the game. You can't make those kinds of errors and we'll learn from them."
The Chargers struck first on their second possession of the game as Rivers twice found Malcom Floyd down the right sideline for gains of 39 and 32 yards to move the ball deep into Saints' territory before Robert Meachem stole the ball away from a defender during a 15-yard touchdown grab on the left side of the end zone.
New Orleans answered with Brees' record-breaking score to knot the game at 7-7.
After converting a pair of third downs with completions of 12 yards to Colston and 13 yards to Greg Camarillo, Brees found a wide open Henderson deep down the right sideline on a 3rd-and-6 at the San Diego 40 and he raced into the end zone with 2:58 remaining in the first quarter.
San Diego later regained the ball at its own 35-yard line less than a minute into the second quarter and quickly moved across midfield with a 12-yard run by Mathews and an 11-yard reception by Eddie Royal.
A defensive pass interference penalty on Jabari Greer moved the ball down to the New Orleans 6-yard line, but the Chargers could not punch the ball across the goal line and were forced to settle for Nick Novak's 20-yard field goal.
However, the lead was short lived again as Colston reeled off a 40-yard catch- and-run across the middle before capping a 7-play, 80-yard drive with a 19- yard grab in the back of the end zone with 7:19 remaining in the half.
Novak was wide left on a 55-yard field-goal attempt on San Diego's next touch, but the Chargers were able to go back on top following a New Orleans punt when Rivers connected with Meachem on a 44-yard score to finish off a 4-play, 86- yard march, making it a 17-14 game at the break.
Brees hasn't had a game without a TD pass since Oct. 4, 2009 against the New York Jets ... Floyd finished with 108 yards on five receptions ... San Diego leads the all-time series between the teams, 7-4 ... The Saints went 9-for-16 on third downs, while San Diego was 4-for-12 ... The Chargers totaled 427 yards of offense, compared to 404 for New Orleans.
10/08 01:54:42 ET