"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."
The first late turnover was 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 still had a chance to tie in the final minute until defensive end Martez Wilson stripped Rivers and recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
The Saints' defense, which entered the game ranked last in the league, had a hand in the victory not only with the turnovers but five sacks.
"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. 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.
Still, San Diego regained momentum, taking a 17-14 lead on 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 after 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: Meachem did not have a TD this season before playing in the stadium he called home for his first five seasons. ... 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 TE Jimmy Graham hurt his right ankle in the first half. He returned to the game but was not a factor. ... Saints LB Curtis Lofton had a game-high 10 tackles including a sack.