"You really have to credit our defense getting pressure on the quarterback," Interim head coach Aaron Kromer said. "That's what made a difference in the game."
After his record-setting completion, Brees trotted to the end zone to hug Henderson. The rest of New Orleans' offense pursued and swarmed around Brees in celebration while the jubilant Superdome crowd roared and then howled an elongated, "Dreeeeeeew!"
Brees took the game ball to the sideline where he continued to accept congratulations. The scoring pass capped an 80-yard drive in which Brees completed all three of his third-down passes, including the touchdown.
Colston finished with nine catches for 131 yards, while Henderson had eight catches for 123 yards.
Colston's second TD late in the third quarter eclipsed a franchise 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' TD was nullified, however, by Melvin Ingram's late hit on Brees' chin, which drew a roughing-the-passer flag and extended what wound up to be an 87-yard scoring drive.
"Obviously it was a critical play," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "You can't make those kinds of errors, and we will learn from them."
Vitt is expected to take over the coaching staff when his six-game suspension ends. Loomis was docked eight games. As the Saints headed into their bye week, the desperately needed win offered hope, however faint, of making a run for a fourth-straight playoff appearance when Vitt and Loomis are back.
Colston made his first touchdown catch on a pass Brees lofted perfectly to the back of the end zone. That gave New Orleans a 14-10 lead that lasted until Meachem's 44-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of the half.
San Diego went ahead 24-14 on Ryan Mathews' 13-yard run around left end, capping a three-play drive that started when Henderson tipped a pass that Brees threw behind him, allowing Quentin Jammer to intercept it and give San Diego the ball on the New Orleans 25.
Notes: Brees set his latest passing record against the team that drafted him in 2001 and for which he played his first five seasons in the NFL before coming to New Orleans in 2006. ... The last game Brees played without throwing for a TD was Oct. 4, 2009, in a victory over the New York Jets. ... Chargers PK Nick Novak, who was filling in for the injured Nate Kaeding, made a 20-yard field goal but missed a 55-yard attempt in the second quarter. ... Saints CB Jabari Greer left the game with what team officials said was a hip injury. He was hurt late in the second quarter and did not return. ... Saints TE Jimmy Graham hurt his right ankle in the first half. He returned but was not a factor.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL