Drew Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham over the middle for an 18-yard gain early in the first quarter. Graham then fumbled and Minnesota defensive back Mistral Raymond returned the ball 26 yards to the New Orleans’ 26 yard-line.
That set up a Ryan Longwell 44-yard field goal and the Vikings jumped out to 3-0 lead at Mall of America Field.
That was their only lead of the game.
Drew Brees then erupted for 412 yards and 5 touchdown passes, one of those going to the aforementioned Graham (7 rec. 70 yds. 1 TD).
Number nine also hit Darren Sproles, the under-appreciated John Gilmore, and Lance Moore twice as the Saints improved to 11-3 with a 42-20 victory over the Vikings in Minnesota.
On his birthday, Pierre Thomas also scampered in for a score.
The Saints have now won six straight games, giving the San Francisco 49ers legitimate worries about control over the #2 seed in the NFC.
Brees, Graham, and Moore (5 Rec. 91 yds. 2 TD) all proved to the Vikings that they have the same championship mentality, if not more now than ever, as they did when they defeated them in the 2009 NFC Championship Game in New Orleans two seasons ago.
These Saints are now two games ahead of the potentially dangerous Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South division race.
But with Brees at the helm, who’s to doubt the Saints can’t go further?
“I’m as comfortable now in this offense as I’ve ever been”, Brees said post-game.
When a teammate hears that coming from his already Super-Bowl MVP quarterback, that has to make him feel confident. Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks spoke about his offensive leader after the game, “We’re used to it. When he doesn’t have good games, we’re like, ‘What?’ “.
One person who is not “used to it” is Dan Marino, who almost surely will have his record broken by Brees at seasons’ end.
Brees now has 4,780 yards on the season, bringing him 304 yards away from the record with two games to play, both in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I’m aware that we’re close,” Brees said of the praised feat, “I just know if we keep doing what we’re doing all of that stuff will take care of itself.”
With Brees’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore with 2:51 to go in the first quarter, he also continued his streak of 41 games with a touchdown pass, six away from Johnny Unitas’ unbelievable mark.
Many fans are recognizing Green Bays’ Aaron Rodgers for his amazing 2011 campaign, and rightfully so. But Brees should definitely be considered a serious MVP candidate with the way he’s been playing.
Although Brees and his prolific offense aren’t the only members of the team stepping up in late regular season play.
For lack of a better term, the Saints defense has been “crunk”.
For six straight weeks, the Gregg Williams-led unit has not given the opposing offense any opportunity to win.
Widely regarded throughout the NFL as the leagues’ best running-back, Adrian Peterson presented a big challenge for the Saints.
The defense stepped up, allowing only 60 yards on 6 carries with no scores for the All-Pro back.
Quarterback Christian Ponder finished with 120 yards on 14 of 31 passes with two touchdowns to Toby Gerhart, although most of those stats came in garbage-time after New Orleans had already developed a wide lead.