Drew Brees broke a half-century-old NFL record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, helping the New Orleans Saints win for the first time this season with a 31-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night.
Brees’ 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson topped the mark of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass set by Johnny Unitas from 1956 to 1960. Brees also had three scoring strikes to Marques Colston, giving him a club-record 52 touchdown catches with the Saints.
At Brees’ request, the NFL allowed head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis — all serving various suspensions in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation — to attend the game. They and Johnny Unitas’ son, Joe, saw Brees pass for 370 yards.
After his record-setting completion, Brees ran to the end zone to hug Henderson. The rest of New Orleans’ offense pursued and swarmed around Brees in celebration.
The scoring pass capped an 80-yard drive in which Brees completed all three of his third-down passes, including the touchdown connection with Henderson.
Colston’s second touchdown late in the third quarter eclipsed the club mark set by Joe Horn in 2006 and pulled the Saints back within a field goal shortly after the Chargers appeared to have gone ahead 31-14 on Demorrio Williams’ interception return for a touchdown.
Williams’ touchdown was nullified, though, by Melvin Ingram’s late hit on Brees, which drew a roughing-the-passer flag and extended what wound up to be an 87-yard scoring drive.
In other matches, Andrew Luck capped a second-half comeback by throwing a four-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds remaining that gave Indianapolis a stunning 30-27 victory over Green Bay; the Atlanta Falcons beat the Washington Redskins 24-17; the New England Patriots had a 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos; and Shaun Suisham hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 16-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles (3-2) took the lead on a two-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Brent Celek with 6 minutes, 33 seconds remaining, but the Steelers responded by driving 64 yards, including a pair of key third-down conversions by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to set up the winning kick.
In a pair of lopsided results, the San Francisco 49ers amassed a club record 621 yards in a 45-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears beat the Jaguars 41-3.
Sunday’s other results were: Baltimore 9, Kansas City 6; New York Giants 41, Cleveland 27; Miami 17, Cincinnati 13; Seattle 16, Carolina 12; and Minnesota 30, Tennessee 7.
Green Bay had a chance to force overtime against the Colts, but Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal with three seconds to go. Luck then took a knee and time ran out.
Missing was coach Chuck Pagano, who is in hospital undergoing treatment for leukemia that was recently diagnosed.
Luck came through with just what Pagano wanted — getting the Colts (2-2) to .500, and they did it despite trailing 21-3 at halftime.
The Falcons have started the season with a five-match winning streak for the first time in the club’s history, with Michael Turner running 13 yards for the go-ahead score with 2:46 left to play and Atlanta knocking Robert Griffin III out of the game.
Griffin left the game in the third quarter after being hit in the head on a sack by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin had a “mild concussion.”
Kirk Cousins took over and threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss to give the Redskins a fourth-quarter lead, but the fourth-round pick also threw two interceptions in the final two minutes.
In Foxborough, Massachusetts, Tom Brady won his latest showdown against Peyton Manning with the help of a career-high 151 yards rushing from Stevan Ridley.
In the 13th meeting between the star quarterbacks, and the first since Manning left the Colts, Brady directed four scoring marches of at least 80 yards and the Patriots rushed for 252 yards.
Brady improved to a 9-4 win-loss record against Manning. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown, and ran for another. Manning was 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns, but he lost a fumble on a third-quarter sack.
The fumble led to Ridley’s eight-yard run that put the Patriots (3-2) ahead 31-7 with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
Manning then threw touchdown passes of two yards to Eric Decker and five yards to Brandon Stokley, but Denver lost a fumble with 3:42 remaining.