8:30 PM ET, December 8, 2013
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
NEW ORLEANS -- Drew Brees saw his face on giant Superdome video boards, then nodded and smiled as a jubilant crowd applauded the star quarterback's latest milestone and the meaningful way in which he hit it.
Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns and the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 31-13 on Sunday night to regain sole possession of first place in the NFC South and snap the Panthers' winning streak at eight games. In the process, Brees became the fifth quarterback to eclipse 50,000 career passing yards.
"Love this offense. Love what Sean Payton's put together," Brees said.
More Saints-Panthers coverage
The Panthers learned Sunday what a humbling loss feels like from a team that was coming off one of its own, writes David Newton. Blog
The Panthers' defense had not allowed more than two touchdowns in a game this season until the Saints (10-3) scored three in the second quarter alone, when Brees completed 14 of 16 passes for 159 yards.
The Saints also became the first team this season to score more than 24 points against Carolina (9-4), which entered the game No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing 13.1 points per game.
"We just had great balance," Brees said. "Marques came up with some huge catches, as did Jimmy. The line did a great job ... and the defense did a great job of getting us the ball."
The Panthers had the ball for 11:30 of the first quarter, showing an early ability to move the ball in the face of an energized and loud Superdome crowd, but got only two field goals out of it after New Orleans came up with clutch third-down stops, including one on third-and-goal from the 6.
"I'm surprised and disappointed. We're a better team than we played today," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "They have the crowd behind them and they're on turf, not natural grass, which is a little bit different. It helps them as far as their speed and their timing. The things that they do here, they do very well. We'll see how things go when they come to Carolina."
Last Monday night, New Orleans visited the Seattle Seahawks looking to lead the race for the top playoff seeding in the NFC, only to fall 34-7 and drop into a tie with Carolina atop their division.
But the Saints looked like legitimate contenders again in their return home, where they are 7-0. They became the first team not to lose a turnover to the Panthers all season.
Brees completed 30 of 42 passes in becoming the first quarterback to pass for at least 4,000 yards in eight straight seasons and pass for 30 TDs in six straight seasons.
New Orleans owns a one-game lead over the Panthers with three games to go but travels to Carolina in two weeks.
"Here we are, attempting to make another run at it," Brees said. "Obviously, some records and some other things, milestones along the way that you get to share, but I'm just glad to be on the journey with this group of guys."
Brees' best drive began with 2:01 left in the first half and New Orleans at its 24. He immediately found Lance Moore for 21 yards, Colston for 19 yards and Darren Sproles for 20, setting up Graham's 5-yard TD catch to make it 21-6.
Newton was 22-of-34 passing for 160 yards, and DeAngelo Williams returned from a quad contusion that sidelined him last week, gaining 52 yards on 13 carries.
"It was a great measuring stick for who we are and where we have to go," Newton said. "The best thing about this is we have an opportunity to face this team again in two weeks. Those guys just were better than us today. Are they better than us? No."
The Panthers struggled to move the ball on most drives after the first quarter, when Graham Gano hit field goals of 45 and 24 yards.
Brees' other TD passes went for 8 yards to Graham and for 6 and 15 yards to Colston, who was hardly surprised by the QB's quick return to form.
"You've just got to see him throughout the week," Colston said. "The man works like I've never seen. He deserves every bit of success that he gets."
The other four QBs with 50,000 yards: Brett Favre (71,838), Peyton Manning (64,009), Dan Marino (61,361) and John Elway (51,475). ... Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart left the game with a knee injury and was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday.
Information from ESPN.com's David Newton and The Associated Press was used in this report.
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers scrambles to escape the defense...(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||3.9||6.1|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||1-2||4-5|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|FG||8:47||Graham Gano 45 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 13 plays, 53 yds, 6:18
|FG||1:59||Graham Gano 24 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 9 plays, 26 yds, 5:12
|TD||13:40||Marques Colston 6 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 3:21
|TD||2:49||Marques Colston 15 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 86 yds, 5:44
|TD||0:22||Jimmy Graham 5 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 76 yds, 1:43
|FG||4:21||Garrett Hartley 19 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 13 plays, 60 yds, 6:01
|TD||9:58||Jimmy Graham 8 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 58 yds, 3:46
|TD||5:22||Steve Smith 17 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Graham Gano Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 61 yds, 4:37
Drew Brees was 22-of-26 (85%) against four or fewer pass rushers Sunday, the highest completion percentage the Panthers have allowed in a game in the last six seasons when sending standard pressure. The Panthers allowed three touchdowns when sending a standard pass rush; they had allowed a league-low five touchdowns against such pressure entering the game. - Brees was 7-of-9 with two touchdowns against standard pressure when targeting Marques Colston.[+]
Panthers Pass Defense With 4 or Fewer Rushers, 2013
Drew Brees completed 67% of his passes that traveled 15 or more yards downfield Sunday. Last week against the Seahawks, Brees didn't complete a deep pass for the second time since 2006. - Cam Newton was 1-of-5 on passes traveling 15+ yards downfield. He has completed more than two deep passes in only one game this season. Last year, he completed at least three deep passes in 12 games.[+]
Drew Brees Passing 15+ Yds Downfield, Last 2 Gms
The last time the Panthers defense allowed at least 21 points in the 1st half: Week 17 of 2011 (allowed 24 points - also at Saints).
In divisional games in the last two seasons, only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have a higher Total QBR than Cam Newton. After going 2-4 against the NFC South in his rookie season, Newton is 6-3 in divisional games in the last two seasons (and 3-0 this season).[+]
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