NEW ORLEANS — A slew of touchdowns marked the early games on Sunday in the NFL. The high-flying Saints offense kept right up with that trend in the night game.
The NFL set a single-day record for touchdowns when New Orleans scored three times in the first half of Sunday night's 31-13 victory over the Panthers.
Drew Brees found tight end Jimmy Graham for a 5-yard score right before halftime for his third touchdown pass, making it 88 touchdowns on a wild day across the league. The previous record was 87 on Dec. 30 last season.
Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns as the Saints regained sole possession of first place in the NFC South and snapped the Panthers' winning streak at eight games.
The Panthers had not allowed more than two touchdowns in a game through the first 12 games and were No. 1 in scoring defense (13.1).
The Saints improved to 7-0 at home. They are the first team not to lose a turnover to the Panthers. Brees completed 30 of 42 en route to becoming the fifth in NFL history to eclipse 50,000 career yards passing.
"We knew the challenge … playing against a great divisional opponent," Brees said. "They were rolling. But we wanted to kind of hit our stride and get our swagger back and no better way than to come in the dome and do that. All three phases played exceptionally well. We got a great team win."
New Orleans owns a one-game lead over the Panthers with three games to go, but must travel to Carolina two weeks. The Panthers struggled to move the ball after the first quarter, when former FSU standout Graham Gano hit two field goals.
Junior Galette had three New Orleans sacks and Cameron Jordan two.
New Orleans trailed 6-0, but seemed ignited by Darren Sproles' 38-yard run late in the first quarter. That set up Marquest Colston's 6-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter.
Colston had nine catches for 125 yards.