Before Drew Brees could blow kisses to the adoring Superdome crowd, before he could embrace his wife and children on the sideline, the Saints’ 39-year-old quarterback had to shred one of the NFL’s top pass defenses with ruthless efficiency.
And so he did.
Brees passed Peyton Manning to become the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing with a 62-yard touchdown to rookie Tre’Quan Smith on Monday night that sent New Orleans on its way to a lopsided 43-19 victory over mistake-prone Washington.
“It’s hard for me to reflect too much right now just because my career’s not done. There are still goals to be accomplished. There are still challenges to be met. And so I’m still very focused on that,” Brees said. “And yet, when something like this happens, there are so many people who are responsible for that, that are a part of that, that makes me happy. It makes me proud and it makes me extremely grateful – extremely grateful for the opportunity to play this game, to play it as long as I’ve played it, to have wound up here in New Orleans.
“It’s just been an unbelievable journey.”
Brees entered the game needing 201 yards to eclipse Peyton Manning’s previous mark of 71,940 yards. He had 250 yards and two touchdowns by halftime and finished 26 of 29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this season. He did, however, make his eighth career reception on his own deflected pass, and pushed across the line of scrimmage to add an extra yard to his career total.
“He throws for 5,000 yards just like he’s sleeping at night, and it’s crazy to see that,” Washington cornerback Josh Norman said. “He’s at the top of them all right now — and he’s not done yet.”
The Saints’ Smith, a third-round draft choice last spring, caught two touchdown passes from the 18th-year pro. Brees also hit Smith for a 35-yard score down the right sideline early in the third quarter.
Any hope Washington had of coming back was all but snuffed out when Justin Hardee, a special teams regular who was in the game because of Marshon Lattimore’s concussion symptoms, snagged Alex Smith’s underthrown pass at the Saints’ 19-yard line and returned his first career interception to the Washington 4.
That set up change-of-pace QB Taysom Hill’s 1-yard touchdown run that put the Saints (4-1) up 40-13.
Smith completed 23 of 39 passes for 275 yards for Washington (2-2). He ran for a short touchdown late in the first half that pulled the visitors within 26-13.
When Saints began one of their last first-half possessions on their own 38, Brees needed just 35 yards to break the record. On the first play of the drive, Brees launched a pass toward the right sideline to the speedy Smith, who was wide open and easily sprinted away from Nicholson’s tackle attempt en route to the end zone.
“I knew we were within striking distance” of the record, Brees said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen on the first play to Tre’Quan. But I don’t think it could have happened in any better fashion than it did. To have then that moment with my teammates on the field, the offensive line, it played out even greater than I ever could have imagined.”
Brees’ teammates ran toward their quarterback as he jogged behind the play, and a group of them formed a jumping, celebrating mass of black and gold next to the Saints’ fleur-de-lis emblem on the 50-yard line.
Brees then removed his helmet, saluted fans and exchanged hugs on the sideline with his wife, Brittany, their four kids and Saints coach Sean Payton. The ball was handed over to Pro Football Hall of Fame officials.
With the game well in hand after the two-minute warning, Payton subbed Brees out of the game. As Teddy Bridgwater ran onto the field and Brees trotted to the sideline, Brees got one last ovation before fans began chanting: “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints.”
Running back Mark Ingram, playing in his first game this season after serving a four-game suspension, scored two touchdowns on 2- and 1-yard runs in the first half.
He finished with 53 yards rushing and 20 receiving.
“It’s great to have him back,” Payton said, stressing the Ingram’s presence reduces the physical toll on fellow running back Alvin Kamara. “That combination – those are two real good running backs.”
Washington came in allowing fewer than 190 yards passing per game and spoke of doing what they could to prevent Brees from making history. Instead, they helped Brees pile up first-half yards with third-down penalties that extended two touchdown drives.
Norman’s defensive holding penalty during Brees’ incomplete pass sustained the Saints’ first scoring drive, capped by Ingram’s short touchdown run.
In the second quarter, Montae Nicholson’s unnecessary roughness penalty for leveling Ingram on Ryan Kerrigan’s third-down sack extended a drive that ended with Brees’ short TD pass to tight end Josh Hill.
Patriots prep for Mahomes
When Bill Belichick was asked Monday what he liked about Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, his answer sounded a lot like everyone else’s this season.
“Pretty much everything,” Belichick said of the second-year player as the Patriots began preparations for Sunday night’s matchup with Kansas City (5-0).
“He gets the ball to all of his receivers quick, quick release, sees things quickly, can extend plays, got a great arm, got a fabulous arm, can throw the ball out of the stadium.”
It was glowing praise from a coach that has a track record of finding ways to make things difficult for young quarterbacks.
Belichick will now turn his attention to the 23-year-old Mahomes, who has been the talk of the NFL, throwing for 1,513 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions through five games.
He appeared in just one game last season, leading the Chiefs to a three-point victory in their regular-season finale against the Broncos.
But it was enough for Kansas City to believe Mahomes could be their quarterback and played into its decision to trade Alex Smith to Washington in the offseason.
Mahomes has taken control of Andy Reid’s offense, using his legs and arm to lead a group that is averaging a league-best 35 points per game.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said during his weekly radio appearance on Boston’s WEEI that young quarterbacks such as Mahomes and rookies Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen are taking advantage of the early opportunities they’ve gotten.
“A lot of those guys are being thrown into the mix,” Brady said. “Some of those guys are playing really well. It’s pretty awesome. I was a fourth-string quarterback when I was a rookie, so I was sitting in the stands, eating nachos before games. I wasn’t playing. … Some other guys have had those chances. And when you’re thrown into the mix it’s really impressive.”
It will be a big challenge for New England’s defense, which is giving up 366 yards per game and had trouble defending the pass during a 1-2 start to the season, including a loss against the Lions at Ford Field.
Patriots cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer said one of the underrated parts of Mahomes’ game is his ability to use his legs to set up deep passes.
“With Mahomes in particular, one, he can make all the throws he needs to make, has a very strong arm.
“He also has a great ability to extend plays, whether he’s going to do that running or extending it and scramble to give his receivers time to get open,” Boyer said.
Lewan having tests
Titans coach Mike Vrabel says two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan (Michigan) is having tests on his right foot after leaving Tennessee’s loss in Buffalo.
Lewan played 17 snaps before being replaced by Tyler Marz. Lewan told reporters after the game he felt like he was a liability to the team because he couldn’t push off the foot and didn’t have any power.
Lewan says he hurt the foot in the 2017 season opener and “did some stuff to it” in March. Lewan said his foot was swollen after last week’s win over Philadelphia. He doesn’t expect this to be a “long-term thing.”
'It’s not fantasy football'
Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald, still steaming Monday about a receiving a costly penalty, said rules protecting the safety of offensive players are hurting the game.
“It’s getting out of hand, man,” McDonald said. “We’ve got a job to do. It’s not fantasy football. It’s getting kind of crazy.”
McDonald was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty when he hit intended Bengals receiver C.J. Uzomah during Cincinnati’s 27-17 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday. The penalty came on a third-down incompletion and extended a Bengals’ touchdown drive.
“I was just trying to make sure he didn’t catch the ball,” McDonald said. “I didn’t take the kill shot. What do you do?”
Ryan 'good to go'
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had negative results on an X-ray of his foot following Sunday’s blowout loss at Pittsburgh.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Ryan is “100 percent good to go” this week against Tampa Bay after getting sacked six times and hit 11 additional times.
Ryan, an 11-year veteran and the 2016 NFL MVP, has been sacked 16 times, tied for third-most in the league.
NFL Week 6
■ Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants, 8:20
■ Seattle vs Oakland at London, 1
■ Chicago at Miami, 1
■ Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets, 1
■ Buffalo at Houston, 1
■ Tampa Bay at Atlanta, 1
■ Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 1
■ Arizona at Minnesota, 1
■ L.A. Chargers at Cleveland, 1
■ Carolina at Washington, 1
■ L.A. Rams at Denver, 4:05
■ Jacksonville at Dallas, 4:25
■ Baltimore at Tennessee, 4:25
■ Kansas City at New England, 8:20
■ San Francisco at Green Bay, 8:15