NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees threw a long touchdown pass to take ownership of another prestigious NFL passing record, hit three more scoring passes in an emotional victory, and then spoke hopefully of salvaging a season that had looked lost after defeats in New Orleans' first four games.
"While you never want to start 0-4, if you do, you've got the right guys in the locker room to turn that thing around and certainly not turn on each other," Brees said. "We understand we have a little bit of a mountain to climb here. ... We got the right people in the locker room, and that makes you feel you always have a chance."
Brees broke Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas' half-century-old record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, and the Saints beat the San Diego Chargers, Brees' former team, 31-24 on Sunday night.
"I guess you really couldn't have written a better script," Brees said.
Brees' 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson eclipsed the mark of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass Unitas set from 1956-60.
Brees' last three scoring passes went to Marques Colston, giving the seventh-year receiver a franchise-record 52 TD catches with the Saints (1-4).
At Brees' request, the NFL allowed head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis — all serving various suspensions in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation — to attend the game. They and Unitas' son, Joe, saw Brees pass for 370 yards, enough to put him over 30,000 yards passing as a Saint in his 100th game with the club.
Afterward, Brees took an elevator to the Superdome's suite level to share a few moments with Payton, Loomis and Vitt.
"It was great to see him. He looks good," Brees said of Payton. "Obviously, I felt like this night wouldn't have been the same without him in the building. And Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt — to have all those guys (here) and to spend a little time with them, to share in the historic moment, was special."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the one who suspended Saints personnel in the bounty matter but also granted Brees' request for Payton, Vitt and Loomis to attend the game, chimed in on his Twitter page shortly after the record fell, writing, "Congrats to (at)drewbrees & his teammates on breaking Unitas' record. Amazing accomplishment by great QB & leader. We're proud of you, Drew."
Philip Rivers passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns to former Saints receiver Robert Meachem, but had two costly turnovers in the final quarter.
"I can't tell you how tough it is to lose a game like this," Rivers said. "We were right there. We were up by 10 points and just didn't get it done. We have a great team, a championship-caliber team. But we have to win close games like this."
Rivers' first turnover came on Roman Harper's interception and 41-yard return on a pass tipped by fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins. That set up the Saints' final score on Garrett Hartley's field goal. San Diego (3-2) still had a chance to tie in the final minute until defensive end Martez Wilson stripped Rivers and recovered the fumble.