Saints pound Patriots, still perfect at 11-0
With one pinpoint throw after another, Drew Brees put New Orleans' pursuit of perfection into overdrive and left Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the dust.
Brees threw for a season-high 371 yards and five touchdowns, carving up coach Bill Belichick's defence like few quarterbacks ever have in the Saints' 38-17 victory Monday night.
"It only counts for one win on the stat sheet, but emotionally, those types of wins can mean a little more," Brees said. "Any time you can win, and win that way, it builds confidence for you."
By harassing Brady all game and routing one of the NFL's top powers, the Saints joined the Indianapolis Colts at 11-0 — the first time two NFL teams have opened with that many consecutive wins in the same season.
The convincing victory left little doubt about New Orleans' credentials as the Saints try to match the Patriots' 16-0 regular-season mark in 2007. New England remains the only team to go undefeated in a 16-game regular season — for now.
Brees threw touchdown passes to five different players: Pierre Thomas, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Darnell Dinkins and Marques Colston. In doing so, the Pro Bowl quarterback kept New Orleans on pace to narrowly eclipse New England's single-season scoring record of 589 points set in 2007.
"He was special," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Let's just say he's playing really well."
It was the first time the Patriots allowed five TD passes in a game since Belichick, a defensive guru for decades in the NFL, took over as head coach in 2000, according to STATS LLC. The Saints averaged 9.6 yards per play, a club record that Brees called "ridiculous."
Brees went 18-of-23 and finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. His average of 16.1 yards per passing attempt also was a team record.
"We were able to accomplish something offensively tonight that was pretty special," Brees said.
It was the second time the Patriots (7-4) lost to an unbeaten team on the road in three weeks. Unlike in Indianapolis, there was no drama at the end this time, only thunderous chants of, "Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?"
"There's obviously a big gap between us," Brady said. "It wasn't nearly as competitive as we all were expecting."
Brady, returning to the Louisiana Superdome for the first time since leading the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in 2002, won't have many fond memories of this game. He was intercepted twice, sacked once, hit as he threw several times and pulled from the game in the fourth quarter with New Orleans leading by three TDs.
"There's a reason why they are 11-0," Brady said. "They played really well and we didn't play up to their level."
Brady finished 21-of-36 for 237 yards and did not throw a TD pass. He did, however, become New England's career passing leader, eclipsing Drew Bledsoe's mark of 29,657 yards.
Brady fell short of tying the record for consecutive games with 300 yards passing. He had done it in his previous five games, one short of the mark shared by Steve Young, Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon.
The Patriots were within a touchdown early in the third quarter after marching 81 yards on a drive highlighted by Brady's 47-yard completion to Randy Moss, which set up Laurence Maroney's two-yard TD.
New Orleans needed only three plays to get it back, though. Brees hit Colston along the right sideline and the receiver turned it into a 68-yard gain by eluding Jonathan Wilhite's tackle. That set up tight end Dinkins' first TD of the season on a two-yard pass to make it 31-17.
Belichick called his defence "really bad."
"We had several blown coverages and they took advantage," he said. "There were enormous mistakes on our part. You can't make those mistakes against a good team."
Clearly worried about his club's ability to stop Brees, Belichick made his latest unconventional fourth-down call.
Unlike in Indianapolis, where the Patriots tried to put the game away by going for it in their own territory late in the fourth quarter, New England this time went for it on fourth-and-four from the New Orleans 10 in the third quarter.
Brady's pass for Moss along the left sideline was broken up by Mike McKenzie, who was playing for the first time since fracturing his right kneecap a year ago. The play preserved New Orleans' two-touchdown lead.
McKenzie apparently had little trouble learning the system of new Saints defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams. McKenzie also had an interception in the first half that stalled a promising Patriots drive and led to a Saints score. Darren Sharper intercepted Brady in the fourth quarter, ending the quarterback's night.
Brees' scoring passes of 18 yards to Thomas, 75 yards to Henderson and 38 yards to Meachem gave New Orleans a 24-10 lead at halftime.
Brees, who threw six TDs in Week 1 against Detroit, made the long TD to Henderson look easy, recognizing that Wilhite's blitz had left the receiver wide open. Brees' 20-yard TD pass to Colston with 7:49 to go left little doubt about the outcome.