Drew Brees’s record-setting game carried the New Orleans Saints to their first win of the National Football League season, while the Indianapolis Colts rallied to upset the Green Bay Packers 30-27 less than a week after coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.
Brees threw four touchdown passes as the Saints beat the San Diego Chargers 31-24 last night in New Orleans. He’s now thrown at least one scoring pass in 48 straight games, breaking the NFL record he shared with Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas.
“It’s a team record, not an individual record,” Brees said in a televised interview. “Certainly the man who held this record, Johnny Unitas, stands for everything that’s great about this league and was one of the pioneers of this game. It couldn’t have happened in a better way.”
The New York Giants erased a 14-point first-quarter deficit yesterday in defeating the winless Cleveland Browns 41-27 and the Atlanta Falcons beat the Washington Redskins 24-17 to become the first NFL team to start 5-0 this season.
In a matchup of quarterbacks with multiple NFL Most Valuable Player awards, the New England Patriots and Tom Brady beat the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning 31-21.
The Colts knocked off the Packers as 7-point underdogs when rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw a winning 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds left in Indianapolis. Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal for the Packers with three seconds left that could have forced overtime.
The Colts earlier this week learned that Pagano, 52, was unlikely to coach again this season after being diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer of the bone marrow. Pagano, who is in his first season coaching the Colts after replacing Jim Caldwell, said he “will beat this” in an e-mail sent to his players this week.
“Everyone knows how much this means,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in the team’s locker room as he held a game ball he said would be presented to Pagano.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Philadelphia Eagles 16-14 on a 34-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham as time expired, while the Chicago Bears routed the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-3 as Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs scored on interception returns for the second straight week.
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Kansas City Chiefs 9-6 in a battle of field goals; the Seattle Seahawks topped the Carolina Panthers 16-12; and the Miami Dolphins beat the Cincinnati Bengals 17-13 as Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush each had touchdown runs. The Minnesota Vikings eased past the Tennessee Titans 30-7 and the San Francisco 49ers racked up a franchise-record 621 yards of offense in a 45-3 rout of the Buffalo Bills.
Week 5 concludes tonight in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as the New York Jets host the unbeaten Houston Texans.
Brees broke Unitas’s 52-year-old record in front of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, who applauded the milestone from a luxury box at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Payton, interim coach Joe Vitt and General Manager Mickey Loomis -- all of whom were suspended by the NFL in the Saints’ bounty case -- got approval last week from the league to attend the game after a special request from Brees. They had no contact with the team.
“It gave us some good mojo for sure,” said Brees, who played his first five seasons with San Diego. “It was special for our team that they could be a part of this night.”
Brees set the record with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson in the first quarter and also threw three scoring passes to Marques Colston as the Saints avoided an 0-5 start and dropped the Chargers to 3-2.
In East Rutherford, Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown for the Giants, who pulled away from the Browns by scoring 27 straight points spanning the second and third quarters.
Eli Manning and Victor Cruz hooked up for three touchdown passes as New York improved to 3-2 and dropped the Browns to a league-worst 0-5. Cleveland had opened a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game and led 17-7 in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
“It’s obviously not the way you want to start, but we never get down or frustrated or start to panic,” Manning said. “We were able to put some good drives together offensively. We didn’t force things and took what the defense had given us.”
The Falcons stayed unbeaten with 17 fourth-quarter points, including Michael Turner’s 13-yard touchdown run with 2:46 remaining. Atlanta has won its first five games for the first time in franchise history while the Redskins (2-3) lost their eighth straight home game.
Matt Ryan passed for 345 yards and two scores for the Falcons, who are one of the NFL’s two unbeaten teams along with the Texans (4-0). The Arizona Cardinals fell to 4-1 on Oct. 4 with a 17-3 loss to the St. Louis Rams.