Saints beat Panthers 31-13, claim first place in NFC South

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates hist touchdown pass to wide receiver Marques Colston (12) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) Show caption
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates hist touchdown pass to wide receiver Marques Colston (12) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The enthusiastic, white-towel waving crowd of 73,089 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome never broke that record the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd roar at an indoor stadium on Sunday.

But in the end that was OK, because what the Saints did on the field spoke volumes.

New Orleans reclaimed sole possession of first place in the NFC South and snapped the Carolina Panthers' eight-game winning streak with a 31-13 victory.

New Orleans (10-3) leads Carolina (9-4) by one game with three games left to play in the regular season.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the fifth player in NFL history to throw for more than 50,000 yards. Brees did it in 183 games, setting the record for the fewest career games to surpass the mark.

But Brees and the got off to a slow start offensively.

The Panthers led 6-0 in the first quarter behind field goals of 45 and 24 yards by Graham Gano.

But the Saints came back to take a 7-6 lead when Brees threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marcus Colston.

New Orleans increased its lead to 14-6 when Brees found Colston for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 2:44 remaining in the first half.

Brees threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham to make the score 21-6 with 18 seconds left.

The Saints increased their lead to 24-6 in the third quarter when Garrett Hartley hit a 19-yard field goal.