MINNEAPOLIS — Drew Brees is chasing Dan Marino. His New Orleans Saints are breathing down on the suddenly mortal Green Bay Packers. The Minnesota Vikings? They’re chasing down a nightmare.
All that came together at Mall of America Field Sunday in a 42-20 Saints victory.
The win gave the Saints (11-3) their sixth straight victory and kept them poised for a division title and Brees, who completed 32 of 40 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns, 4,780 passing yards for the season, putting him 304 away from Marino’s single-season record set in 1984 with the Dolphins.
For the Vikings (2-12), it was their sixth straight loss, their first such streak since 1984, when the team posted a franchise-worst 3-13 record. That is an ignominious record this season’s Vikings are threatening to break.
But this day belonged to Brees.
The Saints let the Vikings hang around in the first half, thanks to two turnovers, some costly penalties and an on-sides kick that didn’t work. But Breese threw two TDs to Lance Moore, one each to Darren Sproles, John Gilmore andJimmy Graham and the Saints scored 35 straight points after that slow start to bury the Vikings.
“We say it all the time, he’s just Drew being Drew out there,” said Moore, who had six catches for 91 yards. He was one of four Saints players with 70 or more receiving yards. “He does that every day in practice. Everybody else only gets to see it once a week. But we get to see it every day.”
Brees certainly showed it Sunday while becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards with at least five passing TDs and no interceptions.
With Brees leading the way, the Saints outgained the Vikings 573 yards to 207; Brees had all five of his TDs and was watching from the sidelines before Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had his fifth completion.
“I keep saying it’s a product of his preparation,” said receiver Marques Colston of Brees. “When you come into a game that ready to play, you’re going to do the kinds of things that he has done.”
That said, it took a while for the Saints to really get rolling.
Graham fumbled after a catch on the Saints’ first possession. A TD pass was wiped out by a penalty and Brees also lost a first-half snap and Saints coach Sean Payton called for an unsuccessful on-sides kick. That’s why theVikings were still hanging around at 14-13 when Brees took over.
His TD pass to Sproles near the end of the first half keyed that 35-point outburst that ended with Pierre Thomas scoring from one yard out early in the fourth quarter.
Brees was just too much for a Vikings secondary depleted by injury.
“We started off a little sloppy,” Brees said. “We went in at halftime feeling we had played well when we hadn’t shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Saints came out firing on all cylinders in the second half while putting the game away. And give the Saints defense credit, too. The Saints held a Vikings offense that had running back Adrian Peterson back to just 105 rushing yards. Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder was sacked four times and held to a 14-for-31 day with 120 passing yards. He had two TD passes, both to running back Toby Gerhart. But much of Ponder’s yardage came after the game was decided.
“He struggled today,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of Ponder. “But we have two more games so there is more time for him to continue to improve and get some work.”
Brees, by comparison, was hot start to finish.
“Drew is playing out standing,” said Payton when asked if Brees deserved to get MVP attention during a season in which Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers had dominated that discussion. “We have two weeks left in the season and he is having a great year and obviously Aaron is having a great year.”
The Vikings, meanwhile, are trying to avoid a record-breaking bad year.
“It was terrible,” said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who was held without a sack. “We didn’t stop the run and we didn’t stop the pass. It is what it is at this point.”
Game notes: The Vikings defense set another record for futility. Minnesota has now gone nine straight games without an interception, a record in the post-merger NFL. … Benny Sapp started at right cornerback in place of Cedric Griffin. … Vikings cornerback Asher Allen suffered a concussion in the first quarter and guard Steve Hutchinson was lost early in the third quarter with a facial laceration.