The New Orleans Saints needed every precise completion of the best day of Drew Brees' illustrious NFL career, every yard and degree of accuracy from Kai Forbath's career-long tying field goal, and every octave of support that could be mustered by the 73,019 fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, to pull off one of the most exhilarating wins in franchise history Sunday.
An NFL-record tying and franchise-best seven touchdown passes by Brees, and Forbath's 50-yard field goal as time expired, highlighted New Orleans' 52-49 victory over the New York Giants, the Saints' fourth victory in five games and their third straight since an 0-3 start.
"It was really fun to be a part of something like that," Brees said. "And, obviously, with a game that went back and forth for a little while and had that much scoring and that many yards, it was really interesting.
"We were just in the flow of the game, and every time we got the ball there was a big sense of urgency in terms of just being efficient to go down and get points and score touchdowns. I felt like we had a really nice rhythm there, obviously in the first half, and in the second half as well."
The Saints never trailed until 7:11 remained. They led by scores of 28-14 in the second quarter and 42-28 in the third, then fell behind 49-42 on cornerback Trumaine McBride's 63-yard fumble return. But New Orleans rallied with a couple of scores in the final 36 seconds – Brees' 9-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Spiller, and Forbath's first field goal as a Saint – to cap a finish that boosted New Orleans to .500 for the first time since they were level after eight games last season.
They were led by Brees, the leader in the clubhouse for NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, which would be No. 20 in his career. In addition to the touchdown passes, he completed 40 of 50 passes for 511 yards, with an interception, setting franchise single-game records for completions and passing yards.
"I visualized (having a big game)," Brees said. "It wasn't quite this big. I tried to make it realistic, but I guess this is our reality. All the way around, it was a great win. To be on the winning end of it and keep this three-game streak alive at the midway point in the season is something special, and I still feel like our best is still yet to come."
They needed their best offensive game of the season to date – scoring-wise, the best since they dropped 62 on the Indianapolis Colts in a 62-7 win on Oct. 23, 2011, while ringing up 614 yards and 36 first downs – in order to hold off the Giants, who got six touchdown passes from quarterback Eli Manning (30 for 41 for 350 yards) and three touchdown catches from receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (eight catches for 130 yards), two native New Orleanians who had spectacular days against their hometown team.
But the Saints eked through with a signature drive and a gigantic special teams play when they fell behind.
After the Giants took their 49-42 lead on McBride's fumble return – fumble by Snead, caused by Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – the Saints needed another touchdown in order to tie.
Beginning at their 20 with 7:11 left, they drove nine yards in three plays, then converted on fourth-and-1 from their 29 with 5:51 left when Mark Ingram ran for two yards.
When they were backed up by a false start penalty by right tackle Zach Strief, Brees completed a 12-yard pass to Brandin Cooks (six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns) and a 5-yarder to Marques Colston (eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown) to move to the 43.
After an incompletion on first down, Brees completed a 5-yarder to Snead (seven catches, 76 yards, two scores), a 16-yarder to Benjamin Watson (nine catches, a career-high 147 yards, one touchdown) and a 9-yarder to Snead before Ingram ran three times for 18 yards.
On second-and-8 from the Giants' 9-yard line, Brees connected with Spiller for the touchdown with 36 seconds left to cap a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 6:35.
"Just a little route that we have, a two-way go," Spiller said. "I saw how the linebacker and safety were playing and I was able to get across (the linebacker's) face and I knew I was going to get hit, I wanted to make sure I secured the ball. It was a big play at that time."
Then, an interesting game became one even more so.
The Giants started at their 20 after a touchback and went three-and-out, using a timeout to stop the clock after a five-yard completion on second down. Punter Brad Wing booted a 46-yarder to the New Orleans 29-yard line, where Marcus Murphy fielded.
Murphy broke loose for a 24-yard return to the Giants' 47-yard line but was stripped of the football from behind by safety Craig Dahl, who made the tackle. The ball popped loose into the hands of Snead, who recovered and had his face mask grabbed by Wing during the recovery.
"When I saw Murph take off, he caught the ball, so I was just trying to look for a block at the moment," Snead said. "Then I saw him going down, I saw what was about the happen, the ball got stripped out and it just popped up in the air.
"I just grabbed it, tried to hold on to it, make a play and he ended up face-masking me. I didn't even know that until after the fact. I was just glad I was there at the right time."
The 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the 32 with five seconds left, and set the stage for Forbath to kick the game-winner after the Giants called their final timeout in an effort to freeze him.
"What else do you want besides the game-winner?" Forbath asked. "That's what kickers live for. It's funny, (punter) Thomas (Morstead) actually called it – he said, 'They're going to punt it, we're going to get the ball back and get a game-winner here.' Mentally, I was trying to get ready for it before we got the ball."
The kick was Forbath's first field-goal attempt as a Saint; he lined up for a field goal seven days prior in Indianapolis, only to have the Saints fake the kick and quarterback Luke McCown complete a 25-yard pass to Watson off the fake.
The effort earned Forbath his first game ball as a Saint, despite Brees' record-setting performance.
"It was outstanding," Coach Sean Payton said. "Outstanding. Brees had seven touchdowns and we told him the game ball was going to the kicker.
"I like (Forbath's) demeanor and makeup, he's pretty calm. It's as big a kick as you can have with a new team, right?"
Brees, for one, didn't mind not receiving the prize.
"That's fine," he said, smiling. "That was a big kick, boy. That was awesome. I said, 'Don't get cocky. There'll be more.' "
The more may come Sunday against the Titans, as the Saints attempt to win four consecutive games since they rolled off the first five of the season in 2013.
"We'll focus on the next opponent here," Payton said. "We'll get back in and start up again. But that was impressive. A lot of fight."