METAIRIE — The comparison seems natural: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak vs. Drew Brees’ touchdown streak.
But to Bob Costas, trying to make one is meaningless.
“They’re not apples and oranges,” NBC’s Sunday Night Football studio host said Monday, the day after Brees’ record setting 48th straight game with a touchdown pass. “They’re apples and watermelons.
“We’re not only talking about different accomplishments from different sports, but both of those sports have changed so much over time. They’re both long streaks, but apart from that, I don’t think they have much in common.”
But, Costas added, that’s not to diminish Brees’ accomplishment. “The proof is how long it stood (52 years) and who held it (Johnny Unitas),” Costas said. “Among NFL records, it ranks very high.
That, ex-Saints quarterback Archie Manning said, is because throwing a touchdown pass in an NFL game, particularly in 48 games in a row, is easier said than done.
“It’s just hard to put a streak like that together,” he said. “I know some people are saying in this day and time where you see everyone throwing the ball more that we’re in a passing generations.
“But every now and then you get nicked up or your receivers get nicked up or something else happens. Baltimore and Kansas City had a 9-3 game on Sunday when there wasn’t a touchdown in the whole game.”
Manning actually held the old Saints’ record — 13 — until Brees came along.
That’s also still second in the Manning family.
Surprisingly, Peyton Manning’s longest streak is 16 set over the 2003-04 seasons, although he’s currently on a 12-game run, the last seven games of his 2010 season in Indianapolis and his first five this year with Denver (Manning missed the entire 2011 season, but missed games do not stop the streak).
Eli Manning’s longest streak with a TD pass was 12 games in 2009.
The longest active streak behind Brees is 37 by Tom Brady, who surpassed Brett Favre’s for third all-time on Sunday.
But, Costas said, Brees may never be caught, at least not for years.
“As long as Drew remains healthy, I think he can keep it going indefinitely,” he said. “You look at the weapons he has and their running game isn’t exactly setting records.
“There are so many variables. And just because the game has changed, in any era the streak is a great accomplishment.”
Still, Costas is reluctant to put Brees among the top 10 quarterbacks of all time, although he did point out Brees’ records of yardage in a season (5,476), completion percentage in a season (71.2) and being a Super Bowl MVP have punched his ticket for Canton.
“In every sport, including baseball which has the most legitimate comparisons, raw numbers can never be the sole determining factor,” he said. “Quarterbacks from different eras are very hard to compare.
“But Brees has some rock-solid Hall of Fame credentials.”
Unitas’ son, Joe Unitas, said in a congratulatory letter to Brees last week that his late father would want Brees to break the record he set from 1956-60.
Perhaps there was something to that when Brees threw his record-setting touchdown to Devery Henderson, who wears the same jersey number — No. 19 — that Unitas wore throughout his 18-year NFL career.
Henderson also now has been on the receiving end of two of the most famous passes in Louisiana sports history, Sunday’s from Brees and the Bluegrass Miracle against Kentucky when he was a junior at LSU.
An interception by Roman Harper in the fourth quarter off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was the first for a Saints safety in 24 regular-season games — 27 when you count playoff games.
The last interception was from free safety Malcolm Jenkins, who actually had two against the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 12, 2010 in the Superdome.
Jenkins had a hand in Harper’s pick Sunday night as he tipped the ball away from intended receiver Malcom Floyd with the ball going right to Harper who made a 41-yard return to the San Diego 23.
“He tipped it right to me,” Harper said. “And I broke a tackle, which I usually don’t do.
“It’s a stat that everybody else keeps up with, but I really don’t care that much about it. It was just good to get some momentum from a big turnover when we needed it.”
Although they didn’t score in the final 27 minutes of the game, the Chargers did gain 427 yards Sunday, making them the fifth straight Saints opponent to get at least 400 yards.
Though five games, the Saints have allowed 2,280 yards, second only to the 1950 Baltimore Colts, who gave up 2,431 yards in their first five games, finished 1-11 and folded at the end of the season.
Small wonder defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Monday, “I just got done watching the tape. We have a lot of work to do. The Good Lord helped us out on a number of plays yesterday.
“That happens in this league. Sometimes when you lose, it doesn’t go your way. It’s such a competitive league. You need a break here or there.”
Sunday’s victory was the 300th in the regular regular-season for the Saints in the 46-year history of the franchise.
They are now 300-390-5 in the regular season; 305-398-5 counting playoff games.
Proud as a peacock
The Saints have won seven Sunday night games in a row, with the last six coming since NBC took over the Sunday night time slot from ESPN in 2006.
Overall, the Saints are 7-2 in NBC primetime games with those two losses coming in Kickoff Weekend games played on Thursday night.