NEW ORLEANS — With a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson late in the first quarter of Sunday night’s 31-24 win over San Diego, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas’ 52-year-old NFL record for consecutive games with a scoring strike.
Brees’ streak started three years and three days prior to his record-breaking night but it will last in his mind and the memories of those involved forever.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brees said after the game. “I just tried to take in the moment a little bit after the game, walking around the locker room and sharing that with my teammates, guys that are obviously as big a part of this record as anyone.”
After the game, Brees was able to meet with suspended head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who were given permission by the NFL to attend the record-breaking game.
“It was great to see (Payton),” Brees said. “He looks good. Obviously I felt like this night wouldn’t have been the same without him in the building. And Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt. To have all those guys (here) and to spend a little time with them, to share in the historic moment, was special.”
The streak now stands at 48 straight games after Brees’ long ball to Henderson with 2:58 to play in the opening quarter. The Saints were in third-and-six at the Chargers’ 40-yard line when the strike happened, tying the game at 7.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod pushed out a late rush from his side, giving Brees a pocket to step into. All the quarterback had to do from there was locate Henderson, who was streaking wide open down the right sideline for the easy score.
“It was a double-move route,” Henderson said. “I was so wide open coming out of the route that I hoped he saw me. I knew once he threw it out that I would catch it. When the play was called, I had it in my mind that this could be the play and I could be a part of history.
“Drew and I connected and it turned out pretty well.”
Unitas’ streak spanned four seasons in which he threw 102 touchdowns and guided Baltimore to a 31-16 record. His son Joe Unitas was at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Sunday night’s game.
During the run, Brees has thrown 22 touchdown passes to Marques Colston, 20 to Lance Moore, 19 to Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachem, nine to Darren Sproles, five to Henderson, four each to Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey, three each to Jed Collins, David Thomas and Pierre Thomas and one to Darnell Dinkins, Heath Evans, John Gilmore and Joe Morgan.
And it’s likely that Brees remembers each play. He rattled off the play call on the very first one – a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey in Oct. 2009 against the New York Giants.
“Fire 82 X Banana,” Brees quickly said.
Now Brees gets to decide what part of the history-making night goes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I haven’t gotten that far,” Brees said. “Definitely going to be sending something to the Hall of Fame. More than likely it’ll be the ball.”