Playing at home, under the Sunday night spotlight and with three of the greatest players in franchise history looking on, the New Orleans Saints routed the Dallas Cowboys 49-17 before 73,018 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Saints (7-2) spotted the Cowboys (5-5) a three-point lead and then proceeded to dominate every facet of the game on the night the franchise inducted Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf into the team's new Ring of Honor.
The man who led the Saints on Sunday, quarterback Drew Brees, eventually will get his place alongside those three greats but right now he's too busy re-writing the Saints and NFL record books.
The Saints franchise player was 34 of 41 for 392 yards and four touchdowns, an amazing night but not out of the ordinary for Brees. He did complete 19 consecutive passes in the first half, matching his franchise mark, most coming in a 21-point second quarter when New Orleans seized control. He also had a 139.0 passer rating. The Saints set an NFL mark with their 40 first downs and they were an exceptional 9 of 12 on third down while not allowing Dallas to convert a third down in nine attempts.
Brees' touchdown barrage started with a 22-yard strike to receiver Marques Colston, the 60th time they have hooked up for a score since both joined the franchise in 2006. Then Brees swung a pass to running back Pierre Thomas for a 1-yard score. Following a short Darren Sproles touchdown run Brees hit the dynamic play-maker with a 28-yard TD pass on a screen play.
Rookie Kenny Stills joined in on the fun when he came down with a 52-yard bomb that gave the Saints a 42-17 lead.
But Brees' passing wasn't the only aspect of the Saints' offense that was clicking. Coach Sean Payton commtted to the run early and it paid off late as Mark Ingram cracked the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career. The former Heisman Trophy winner, who had been sideline most of the year with a toe issue, had runs of 32 and 31 yards plus a 4-yard TD run. In by far his best game as a Saint, he finished with 145 yards on 14 carries as the Saints ran the ball 35 times for 239 yards and three TDs.
The Cowboys also stressed the running game early as Demarco Murray had an effective first half with 80 yards on 11 carries and a TD but it appeared to hurt Tony Romo's passing attack. The Cowboys' star quarterback never got in a groove and finished 10 of 24 for 128 yards and one TD. Receiver Dez Bryant, who torched the Saints for two touchdowns last season, didn't make his first catch until the third quarter.
The Saints dominated every statistical category. The Saints' 625 yards of offense was a franchise record, they had 80 plays to the Cowboys' 43 and held Dallas to 193 yards of offense and just nine first downs. The 625 yards is the most by an NFL team in a non-overtime regular-season game since San Diego gained 661 yards against Cincinnati on Dec. 20, 1982. According to the website database Pro Football Reference, the Saints are the first team since 1960 (and perhaps ever) with at least 230 rushing yards and 380 passing yards in the same game.
Brees and Ingram weren't the only offensive players to put up big numbers. Colston had seven catches for 107 yards, Sproles had seven catches for 76 yards and Pierre Thomas ran the ball 17 times for 87 yards and a TD and caught seven passes for 24 yards. Jimmy Graham, who has been the team's top receiver, had a quiet five catches for 59 yards.
The Saints will take on another NFC contender next Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers (6-3) come to the Superdome. The 49ers lost to the Carolina Panthers 10-9 on Sunday. That win keeps the Panthers (6-3) one game behind the Saints in the NFC South.