NEW ORLEANS — When Drew Brees got his record Sunday night, the action didn’t stop.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was rocking and a national television audience was looking in, but officials didn’t halt the first half and hand Brees a microphone. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wasn’t there to offer and handshake and a hug; after all, in this town, we know how well that would’ve gone over.
No, there was none of that. The Saints had business to tend to. They absolutely needed their first win of the season, and they had to find a way to get past the San Diego Chargers.
And somehow, they did.
Before we get too deep here, let’s be clear: In overcoming a bushel of mistakes to rally past the Chargers for a 31-24 win, the Saints did not remind anyone of the ’85 Bears.
Surely, as exiled coach Sean Payton watched from a suite inside the building (nice seeing you again, coach), even Payton must’ve thought that this year’s team was nowhere near the group he led to Super Bowl XLIV three seasons ago.
But after dropping their first four games, the Saints did quite a few things right Sunday against the Chargers.
Perhaps most importantly, they discovered a backbone when they could’ve easily rolled over.
Lest anyone forget, the end of the first half was a rip-roaring disaster for New Orleans. The Saints had just taken a 14-10 lead when the Chargers knifed through their defense with no problem. Traveling 86 yards in 1:12, San Diego scored to take a 17-14 lead into the break.
Then it got worse. Brees began the third quarter with an interception — his only one of the night — to Quentin Jammer, and the Chargers quickly added another touchdown, and just like that, the Saints were down 10 points in their own building.
This, of course, simply made the Saints look like the way they looked during that 0-4 start, which put them in an incredibly deep hole.
Somehow, the Saints barreled back.
Their defense, rightly and roundly described as punchless and inept, shut out San Diego the rest of the way and forced two key turnovers — the first on Roman Harper’s tip-drill interception, which led to a field goal, and the second on Martez Wilson’s game-clinching sack and strip of Philip Rivers.
Pierre Thomas gave the team a big boost, with tough rushing yards and an expertly executed screen.
Marques Colston started working his magic, to the tune of 131 yards and three touchdowns — the last of which gave New Orleans the lead.
And the Saints also took advantage of several Chargers mistakes — none larger than Melvin Ingram’s third-quarter roughing-the-passer penalty, which negated a San Diego interception and seemed to spark Brees, who led his team down the field for an important score.
Brees, of course, set that new record, throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th consecutive game, moving ahead of Johnny Unitas.
Brees also reached another milestone Sunday, moving into seventh place on the all-time list for career passing touchdowns. In doing so, he surpassed Warren Moon — another man who quarterbacked a 1-4 team.
We’ve mentioned this before, but Moon and his 1993 Houston Oilers were among the very few teams in NFL history to lose four of their first five games and still reach the playoffs.
The Saints, of course, are a long way from there.
Their ground game is inconsistent. Their run defense is in need of some serious TLC. And their pass rush is still very suspect.
But as of Sunday night, as they headed into their bye week, the Saints had a reason to smile. They left the Superdome happy and wandered into the streets of a city that loves comeback stories.
As of Sunday night, they had a win.
That was a start.