Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed the 350th touchdown pass of his 13-year career in the first quarter of Sunday’s 23-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees flipped a 3-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Josh Hill with 44 seconds to play in the opening period to become just the fourth NFL player with 350 TDs.
Brees trails only Brett Favre (508), Peyton Manning (470) and Dan Marino (420).
Brees also became the sixth quarterback in NFL history to reach 49,000 career passing yards — fittingly enough — against the 49ers and finished the day with 49,288 yards. Only Favre, Manning, Marino, John Elway and Warren Moon have more yards.
BREAKING ONE: The Saints’ special teams have had trouble breaking a big return this season, but second-year pro Travaris Cadet changed that with a long kickoff return after the 49ers’ Phil Dawson gave his team a 10-7 on a 55-yard field goal.
Cadet took the kick 3 yards deep in the end zone and was chased down 82 yards later by 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock at the 21.
The return was 50 yards longer than the previous long this season of 32 yards for the Saints, who were averaging just 20.4 yards per return this season, and led to a 1-yard TD run by Jed Collins for a 14-10 halftime lead.
“It was a big play and we executed it well,” said Cadet, who had a 75-yard return at Oakland last season. “I saw a big hole and just hit it. It felt real good because when my number is called, it’s my job to step up and execute.”
WELCOME BACK: Both teams had two key players available Sunday when safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper returned from injuries for the Saints and safety Eric Reid and tight end Vernon Davis played after being questionable for the game.
Jenkins missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and Harper missed seven games in a row with a knee problem. Jenkins started and Harper came in on the game’s third play.
Reid, a former LSU star, and Davis played despite being limited in practice after suffering concussions in last week’s game. Reid tied for second on the 49ers’ defense with six tackles.
INACTIVES: The Saints’ inactives were S Kenny Vaccaro (concussion), TE Benjamin Watson (concussion), DE Tyrunn Walker, T Terron Armstead, CB Rod Sweeting, RB Khiry Robinson and QB Ryan Griffin.
Inactives of note for the 49ers were DT Ray McDonald (ankle), TE Garrett Celek (hamstring) and WR Quinton Patton (foot). Patton played his college ball at Louisiana Tech.
INJURIES: Saints CB Jabari Greer was fitted with an inflatable cast after suffering an injury to his lower left leg while breaking up a deep pass intended for 49ers wide receiver Jon Baldwin in the first quarter. … 49ers CB Tarell Brown suffered a rib contusion in the second quarter and didn’t return.
FAMILIAR FACES: In addition to Reid and Patton, the 49ers also have former LSU defensive tackle on their roster as well as center Jonathan Goodwin, who played for the Saints from 2006-10 and started for their Super Bowl-winning team in 2009.
LAGNIAPPE: The Saints’ 97-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter was their longest of the season. … The Saints’ defense stopped the 49ers on their first three possessions to extend a streak of third-down stops to 16 in a row dating to the New York Jets game on Nov. 3. … The touchdown catch for Hill from Brees in the first quarter was his first scoring grab as a pro. … Former Saints defensive tackle La’Roi Glover was recognized at halftime for his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame on Friday. … Saints linebacker Parys Haralson, who played seven seasons with the 49ers before being traded to New Orleans on Aug. 27, was selected by Brees to start the “Who Dat!” chant before the game. … Saints guard Ben Grubbs played in his 100th NFL game.