After throwing for just 147 yards in a 34-7 setback against the Seattle Seahawks just six nights earlier, Saints quarterback Drew Brees bounced back in a big way Sunday night.
Brees threw four touchdown passes — three of them in a decisive second quarter — as the Saints rolled to a 31-13 victory against the Carolina Panthers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Along the way, Brees reached three personal milestones — the biggest coming when he became just the fifth player in NFL history to reach the 50,000-yard mark in career passing yards.
Brees, who is the fastest to reach that total in just 183 games — eight games fewer than Peyton Manning — now has amassed 50,026 yards in 13 seasons.
Only Brett Favre (71,838), Manning (64,009), Dan Marino (61,361) and John Elway (51,475) have more yards than Brees.
Brees also reached the 4,000-yard mark for the eighth season in a row, which is an NFL record, and set another league mark with his sixth consecutive season of 30 touchdown passes or more.
EIGHT GRAND: Saints wide receiver Marques Colston, who earlier this season set club records for career receptions and receiving yards, surpassed the 8,000-yard mark with a 21-yard catch in the first period.
The reception gave Colston 8,011 yards for his eight-year career, making him the 87th player in NFL history to reach 8,000. He went on to finish the game with nine catches — including two touchdowns — for 126 yards, pushing his career total to 8,116 yards.
SUPERMAN PLAY: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who likes to think of himself as Superman, celebrates big plays by acting as if he’s ripping off his suit like his superhero.
Saints linebacker Junior Galette mimicked Newton when he sacked him to end the Panthers’ first possession and forced them into a field-goal attempt. Galette pretended to rip off his suit, then slammed it to the turf and stomped on it before trotting off the field.
Galette finished with a career-high three sacks.
INACTIVES: The Saints’ inactives were S Rafael Bush (ankle), LB Keyunta Dawson (calf), DE Glenn Foster (knee), WR Nick Toon, T Terron Armstead, CB Trevin Wade and QB Ryan Griffin.
Bush was injured in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks, while Dawson and Foster each missed their second consecutive game.
Inactives of note for the Panthers were G Chris Scott (knee), LB Jordan Senn (hamstring) and DE Frank Alexander, a Baton Rouge native who played at Southern Lab.
INJURIES: For the Saints, TE Josh Hill injured his left hamstring in the first half and did not return. … NT Brodrick Bunkley left briefly in the second half with a back problem, but returned.
For the Panthers, CB Drayton Florence left in the second half with a knee injury.
TAKING A HIT: The Panthers, who lead the NFL in scoring defense in allowing just 13.1 points per game, gave up more than that in a 13-minute stretch of the second quarter alone.
Brees fired three touchdown passes — two to Colston and one to Jimmy Graham — to turn a 6-0 first-quarter deficit into a 21-6 halftime cushion.
In their first 12 games, the Panthers gave up just 46 points in the second period.
SHORTENED WEEK: Saints coach Sean Payton is 8-5 after a Monday night game and 11-7 overall when he has less than a normal week to prepare for a game.
The win over the Panthers came just six nights after a 34-7 loss to the Seahawks and a delayed plane ride home with the team not returning to New Orleans until Tuesday afternoon.
LAGNIAPPE: The Saints are 9-0 on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” — 7-0 under Payton — since he arrived in 2006. … Graham surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in receiving for the second time in his four seasons. He had 58 yards against the Panthers and has 1,046 for the season. … Rookie nose tackle John Jenkins started the game because Bunkley missed practice time during the week with an ankle injury. … The Saints had the ball for just eight plays and 3 minutes, 30 seconds in the first quarter. … The Superdome crowd observed a moment of silence before the game for Nelson Mandela.