NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees and the Saints rallied for their first victory, beating the Chargers 31-24 Sunday night.
Brees had an early 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson and had three scoring strikes to Marques Colston. The pass to Henderson eclipsed the mark of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass set by Johnny Unitas from 1956-60.
After Brees set the record, the jubilant Superdome crowd roared and then howled an elongated, "Dreeeeeeew!"
Philip Rivers passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns to former Saint Robert Meachem, but the quarterback had two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter.
The first was Roman Harper's interception and 41-yard return on a pass tipped by fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins. That set up the Saints' final score on Garrett Hartley's 25-yard field goal.
San Diego had a chance to tie in the final minute but penalties moved the Chargers back, then defensive end Martez Wilson stripped Rivers and recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
"We finally put together a great team effort for all four quarters. I can't say enough for the guys in our locker room," Brees said. "We have been through a lot together. Hopefully this will lead to more wins.
"It is special for our team, special they could be a part of this record.''
Colston finished with nine catches for 131 yards, while Henderson had eight catches for 123 yards.
Colston's second touchdown late in the third eclipsed a franchise mark set by Joe Horn in 2006 and pulled the Saints within a field goal shortly after the Chargers appeared to have gone ahead 31-14 on Demorrio Williams' interception return for a touchdown. But Williams' TD was nullified as fellow linebacker Melvin Ingram was called for a late hit on Brees' chin, which drew a roughing-the-passer flag and extended what eventually was an 87-yard scoring drive.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended Saints personnel in the bounty controversy, chimed in on social media to offer congratulations to Brees.
On his Twitter page, Goodell wrote: "Congrats to (at)drewbrees & his teammates on breaking Unitas' record. Amazing accomplishment by great QB & leader. We're proud of you, Drew."
Saints cornerback Jabari Greer left in the second quarter with what team officials said was a hip injury and did not return.