NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Saints took over sole possession of first place in the NEIF South with a dominating 31-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The win improved the Saints to 10-3 (7-0 at home) while dropping the Panthers into second at 9-4.
"Obviously, it was an important win for us." Saints Coach Sean Payton said after ending the Panthers' eight-game winning streak. "The concern I had coming into the game was having the energy we needed to play a divisional game on a short week."
It was a game full of milestones for the Saints as quarterback Drew Brees joined the exclusive 50,000-yard club, set an NFL record with eight consecutive seasons of passing for more than 4,000 yards and notched his sixth consecutive season with 30 or more touchdown passes, breaking a tie with Brett Favre.
Brees was spectacular, completing 30-of-42 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns, giving him a rating over 124.4. The four TDs were equally divided between his two favorite targets - receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham.
Colston had the best game of his season with nine catches for 125 yards while Graham cracked the 1,000-yard mark with six catches for 58 yards.
Brees now has 50,026 yards on his career joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and John Elway as players who have passed for more than 50,000 yards in their career. Brees did it in just 183 games, the fastest of the five.
The Saints' defense - which was coming off a subpar outing last Monday against Seattle - was equally as impressive, sacking Carolina quarterback Cam Newton fives times and holding the Panthers to just two first quarter field goals and a late 17-yard TD pass to Steve Smith. Defensive end Junior Galette had three sacks while fellow end Cameron Jordan finished with two.
The Saints play at St. Louis (5-8) next Sunday at 3:25 p.m. and then travel to play Carolina again on Dec. 22. They will end the regular season at home on Dec. 29 against Tampa Bay.