NEW ORLEANS — Who dat knew them Saints were this good?
Drew Brees torched the Giants’ league-leading defense, swarming Saints defenders ruined Eli Manning’s homecoming and undefeated New Orleans matched its best start since 1993 with a 44-27 throttling of previously unbeaten New York on Sunday.
“We wanted to really dictate the tempo of the game the whole way through,” Brees said. “Seven different guys scored touchdowns. That’s big. That’s the type of rhythm that, when you get in, you feel like you can call anything and it’s going to work.”
Brees ended his two-game streak without a touchdown throw by completing 23 of 30 passes for 369 yards and four scores, giving him 101 TD passes since the Saints signed him as a free agent in 2006.
The Giants (5-1) came into the game giving up averages of 210.6 yards and 14.2 points. The Saints (5-0) had 34 points and 315 yards by halftime.
The Saints have beaten all comers by 14 points or more and have yet to trail this season, looking more and more like the team to beat in the NFC.
Yet the architect of this juggernaut, coach Sean Payton, bristled at the notion that New Orleans’ latest convincing victory over an undefeated team from New York — they beat the Jets 24-10 in Week 4 — meant that the Saints had established themselves as clear Super Bowl favorites.
“I don’t think you can talk about big pictures after (Game) 5,” Payton said.
Manning looked like his father Archie sometimes did when he played for woeful Saints teams of old, fumbling on a sack by Roman Harper to set up a Saints score and throwing an interception under pressure that stalled a promising drive.
It was Manning’s first game in the Superdome, but not a memorable one for him — or for fellow Louisiana natives Brandon Jacobs and Corey Webster. Manning was 14 of 31 for 178 yards. He lost his cool at least once, yelling at Ahmad Bradshaw and slapping his shoulder pad after the running back’s lapse in protection precipitated a rushed throw that Jabari Greer intercepted early in the third quarter.
“It’s not the way I imagined it during the week, but you’re going to encounter all sorts of games and all sorts of situations,” Manning said before walking across the Superdome field to the team bus, his mother on one side, his father on the other. “I look at it as a loss. We need to go back to work this week, fix some things and try to improve.”
Manning connected with Mario Manningham for a 15-yard score in the second quarter, but also overthrew an open Steve Smith on a deep pass that could have resulted in a touchdown in the first half. He was replaced by David Carr late in the fourth quarter.
By contrast, Brees connected on 15 straight throws at one point, two short of the franchise record he already owns. That stretch included his first three touchdown passes: 1 yard to former Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, 36 yards to Robert Meachem and 12 yards to Lance Moore.
Saints players and coaches praised the offensive line, which routinely gave Brees time and did not allow him to be sacked.
“I don’t know that we ever hit him,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said of Brees, exaggerating only slightly. “At this level, if you’re going to stop the pass, you’ve got to get pressure. You’ve got to force the quarterback not to throw it on his tempo.”
Former Hofstra standout Marques Colston put on a show for his fans watching back in the New York area, often victimizing Webster as he caught eight passes for 166 yards and a 12-yard touchdown. He twisted gracefully in the air to snag passes thrown high and behind him, held the ball while absorbing hard hits and broke tackles while struggling for extra yards.
New Orleans gained more than 500 total yards before a sack of backup Mark Brunell made it 493. Moore caught six passes for 78 yards and Meachem had two catches for 70. New Orleans had 133 yards on the ground, led by Pierre Thomas’ 72. Mike Bell, Reggie Bush and fullback Heath Evans all scored on runs.
The Giants were held to a season-low 84 yards rushing.
By the end, jubilant fans rained down chants of “Who dat say they gonna’ beat them Saints. Who dat! Who dat!”
Colston said he was confident he and his teammates would not let their explosive start go to their heads, though — not after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.
“This group has been together long enough to see some of the great times (the NFC championship game in 2006) and the last two years have been pretty difficult for us, so staying grounded is definitely not an issue in this locker room,” Colston said. “We’ve got some great veteran leadership.”
NOTES: The Saints have scored on each of their opening drives this season, with four TDs and one field goal. … Brees joined Archie Manning and Aaron Brooks as the only other QBs to pass for 15,000 yards and 100 TDs as a Saint. … Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie left with a groin injury in the second quarter. … Saints LB Scott Fujita went out with a left calf injury in the first half.