Chargers vs. Saints: Drew Brees' Historic Day Leads New Orleans to 31-24 Win

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2012

The New Orleans Saints finally earned their first win of the season by beating the San Diego Chargers 31-24 on Sunday Night Football, and they couldn't have picked a better night to do it. 

With Drew Brees set to break Johnny Unitas' record for most consecutive games with a touchdown, the Superdome crowd was at a fever pitch. Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis were in the house as well.

San Diego had a chance to tie the game on its final drive, only to be denied by penalties, time and Philip Rivers' decisive fumble.

Despite the final score, both offenses took a little while to get acclimated. Each squad punted on its first possession, before responding with one touchdown apiece.

Robert Meachem, in his return to New Orleans, got the Chargers on the board at the 7:02 mark with a 15-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers.

Then, Brees did what everyone was waiting for. Allow Bleacher Report's tweet to sum it up for you:

Drew Brees breaks Johnny Unitas' record for most consecutive games with a TD pass. Congrats Drew Brees!…

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 8, 2012


Brees' 40-yard strike to Devery Henderson at the 3:05 mark evened the score at 7-7, pushing him past Unitas' 47-game streak in the process:

Following the historic score, each team would punt again before finding the scoreboard. About five minutes into the second quarter, Nick Novak gave San Diego a 10-7 lead with his 20-yard field goal. 

Brees answered less than three minutes later with a 19-yard touchdown to Marques Colston, before Rivers found Meachem for a 40-yard score to end the half at 17-14 San Diego.

The Chargers started the second half just how they left off the first, but it would be short-lived. Ryan Mathews found the end zone from 13 yards out less than three minutes into the half, only to watch Colston score two consecutive TDs for the Saints.

Rivers tried to lead his squad back from a 28-24 deficit with around six minutes remaining, but Roman Harper's interception was a crucial blow. And Garrett Hartley's 26-yard field goal with three minutes left put the Chargers down an even seven points.

The Chargers got the ball back with less than three minutes remaining, but couldn't capitalize because of penalties. An offensive pass interference call on Antonio Gates brought back a monster gain with under two minutes remaining, only to be followed by an equally huge holding call.

When the game mattered most, the Chargers couldn't get out of their own way.

Both quarterbacks were exceptional in their own right on the night. Rivers finished 27-of-42 with 354 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to find open targets down the field, keeping his team afloat while the Saints offense started to solve San Diego's defense in the second half.

The San Diego signal-caller did have the game's conclusive turnover, but he did everything he could to win the game up to that point.

He was given a surprising effort by the much-maligned Ryan Mathews out of the backfield. The veteran Jackie Battle was given the start, but Matthews wound up with 80 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He also caught six passes.

Brees was even better than his counterpart. In what could be considered his night, Brees went 29-of-45 for 370 yards and four touchdowns, leading an offensive surge in the second half. Brees, however, didn't receive any help from his ground game, instead relying on his pinpoint accuracy and Colston's steady hands.

He was on point in every way, shape and form, leaving no doubt that he's still an elite NFL quarterback. Colston, meanwhile, was on the receiving end of many of his passes, finishing with nine catches, 131 yards and those three critical touchdowns. He was given support by Henderson's eight catches for 123 yards.

Sunday night's bizarre, penalty-laden ending made an exciting game all the more interesting. Watching Brees make history made the game worth watching by itself, but the rest of the game didn't disappoint either.

New Orleans has a bye in Week 6, while the Chargers next welcome the Denver Broncos to Qualcomm Stadium.