The New Orleans Saints (1-4) picked up their first win of the season and 300th win in franchise history on Sunday Night Football, 31-24, against the San Diego Chargers (3-2), who made their first trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the regular season since 1997.
The Chargers now lead the all-time series, 7-4, while New Orleans has captured the last two contests between the teams. The Saint won 37-32 at London's Wembley Stadium in 2008. The seven point margin is the largest in series history in a Saints win.
The Saints were able to capture their first victory headed into the bye week. The Black and Gold will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers in an NFC South contest on October 21, 2012. The Chargers will return home and prepare to face the Denver Broncos next Sunday.
"I said we were close; we had to get over the edge," said Offensive Line/ Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer. "We brought our climbing shoes to walk to climb that mountain and we did it tonight. I am happy for our team and I am happy for everyone involved, but it's just a start."
QB Drew Brees, while making his 100th start as a Saint, moved into sole possession of first place in NFL record books with 48 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Brees moved past Johnny Unitas on a 40-yard completion to WR Devery Henderson in the first quarter.
Brees completed 29-of-45 passes for 370 yards, four touchdowns and a 110.4 rating. Brees also moved passed Warren Moon into seventh place on the NFL career passing touchdown list, finishing the evening with 295.
RB Pierre Thomas rushed for 30 yards on nine carries while also adding 40 yards receiving on two catches. RB Darren Sproles added nine yards rushing, 28 yards receiving, and 51 total yards in the return game.
WR Marques Colston caught nine passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns, tying his career-high for scoring grabs. Colston moved past WR Joe Horn for the most career receiving touchdowns in club history, now with 52. Henderson caught eight passes for a total of 123 yards and one touchdown.
LB Curtis Lofton registered 10 tackles (nine solo) and one sack for a loss of 12 yards. S Roman Harper recorded six tackles (five solo), three pass defenses and one interception that he returned 41 yards. The defense recorded five sacks in total.
The Saints won the battle through the air, 351-310, while averaging 7.3 yards per passing play. The Saints only recorded 21 first downs, 19 through the air, while the Chargers were able to move the chains 27 times. New Orleans was penalized 10 times for a total of 99 yards.
San Diego won the coin toss and elected to receive the football to start the game.
Neither team had much success on their opening drive. QB Philip Rivers completed his first pass of the game to TE Antonio Gates but the Chargers went three-and-out on their first offensive possession.
After moving the chains for a first down, the Saints were hurt by a penalty that they were unable to recover from. P Thomas Morstead punted the ball away 60 yards and WR Courtney Roby downed the football at the San Diego four-yard line.
San Diego was able to move the ball on the Saints defense more effectively on their second drive. Rivers completed four-of-five passes on the drive for 89 yards on a seven-play drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to WR Robert Meachem. K Nick Novak made the extra point and gave the Chargers a 7-0 lead.
The Saints took to the air on their next drive. Brees completed five-of-seven passes for a total of 73 yards including two passes to Colston for 16 yards and a completion to WR Greg Camarillo for 13 yards. Brees then hit Henderson with the 40-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline. With the touchdown pass, Brees set an all-time NFL record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass with 48. Brees moved into sole-possession of first place after tying the record previously set by Johnny Unitas last week. K Garrett Hartley made the extra point and tied the game, 7-7.
RB Ryan Mathews helped the Chargers on the next possession but he couldn't do enough. Mathews gained 35 yards on three plays but the Chargers were stopped by the Saints defense as the secondary forced two consecutive incompletions to return the ball to Brees and the offense.
A penalty on the punt moved the Saints back to their own nine-yard line to start the drive. A four-yard rush by RB Pierre Thomas ended the first quarter but the Saints went three-and-out on the possession.
San Diego took over from the Chargers' 35-yard line. Mathews carried for two first downs, rushing for 24 yards and Rivers complete two passes. Then, with the offense faced with second-and-11, CB Jabari Greer was called for pass interference, a 25-yard penalty that moved Rivers and the San Diego offense to the New Orleans six-yard line. The Saints defense held strong, forcing two incomplete passes from their own two-yard line, including a pass breakup by S Roman Harper on third down. Novak came on and made a 20-yard field goal that gave San Diego a 10-7 lead.
The Saints answered back on a seven-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 2:39. Brees completed four-of-five passes for 76 yards including a 40-yard strike to Colston. The drive was capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Colston for a touchdown. With the touchdown, Colston moved into a tie with Horn for the most touchdown receptions in franchise history with 50. Hartley made the PAT and gave the Saints a 14-10 lead.
The Chargers were then able to drive down the field once again. Rivers completed a 20-yard pass to WR Eddie Royal and DE Will Smith was called for roughing the passer on the play that lead to another 15 yards. Rivers complete a seven-yard pass to Gates on second down but was sacked by Smith for a loss of eight yards on third-and-short, forcing a long field goal. Novak missed the 55-yard attempt and returned the ball to New Orleans.
After a Saints three-and-out, the Chargers took over from their own 14-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. RB Ronnie Brown carried for a 21-yard gain on the ground before Rivers completed three consecutive passes for 65 yards. Rivers connected with Meachem on a 44-yard deep pass for a touchdown. Novak made the extra point and gave the Chargers a 17-14 lead.
The Saints weren't left with much time on the clock in the first half. Brees completed three passes to Sproles for 23 yards but was forced to take a knee and end the first half with the Saints trailing, 17-14.
The Saints received the ball to start the second half and carried on first and second down. On third down, Brees' pass was tipped and intercepted by CB Quentin Jammer who returned the ball nine yards to the New Orleans 25-yard line.
After a short gain on the ground, Mathews then caught a 10-yard pass from Rivers to move the chains. Mathews then carried the ball the rest of the way, 13 yards for a touchdown. Novak made the extra point to give San Diego a 24-14 lead early in the second half.
Later in the third quarter, the Saints took over following a San Diego punt deep inside New Orleans territory at the 11-yard line. The offense drove down the field on a nine-play, 72 yard drive that lasted 4:28. At one point, Brees was sacked by LB Shaun Phillips for a loss of 6 yds. On the next play, initially it appeared that Brees was intercepted by LB Demorrio Williams who could have returned the ball for a touchdown, however, there was no play, as LB Melvin Ingram was charged with roughing the passer, instead giving New Orleans a first down at their 32-yard line. Brees connected on a short pass to Pierre Thomas who took the football for a 36-yard gain. Brees then hit Colston on a 16-yard touchdown pass. Hartley made the extra point and reduced the Chargers' lead to 24-21. With the touchdown reception, Colston moved into sole possession of first place in club record books with 51 career touchdown receptions.
After a Chargers three-and-out, the Black and Gold started from the New Orleans 10-yard line. Brees completed six-of-six passes for 89 yards while picking up four first downs through the air on the nine play drive that lasted 5:49. Brees completed consecutive passes to Camarillo for 13 and 11 yards. Brees then connected on a 41-yard strike to Henderson. After two carries, Brees completed two consecutive passes to Colston, including a 5-yard touchdown throw. Hartley made the extra point to give the Saints a 28-24 lead.
San Diego started their next drive from the 18-yard line. Rivers completed three consecutive passes while picking up two first downs. Then, after an incompletion, Rivers was sacked by DE Junior Galette for a loss of eight-yards. On the next play, faced with third and long, Rivers' pass intended for Floyd was tipped by S Malcolm Jenkins and intercepted by Harper who took the ball 41-yards the other way.
The Saints weren't able to move into the end zone, as they had to settle for Hartley connecting on a 26-yard field goal to give the Saints a 31-24 lead.
San Diego started the game's final drive at their own 15-yard line. Rivers completed a 24-yard pass to Floyd before completing two consecutive passes to RB Ronnie Brown for a total of 16 yards before the two-minute warning. Rivers was then sacked by DE Cameron Jordan for a loss of seven yards. Rivers completed a deep pass to Gates, but the tight end was called for offensive pass interference and the play did not count. San Diego was then called for holding to set up a 3rd-and-32. Then, DE Martez Wilson was called for illegal use of the hands which gave San Diego a fresh set of downs. Rivers completed an 11-yard pass to Brown on first down and then two passes to Floyd. Rivers picked up the Chargers' sixth first down of the drive on a 10-yard pass to Brown before throwing two incomplete passes. On third down, with time running out, Rivers was sacked by Wilson. Wilson forced a fumbled and recovered the football, sealing a Saints victory. Brees took a knee to let the time expire with a 31-24 win.