NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees’s latest assault on a prestigious NFL passing record lifted the embattled New Orleans Saints to their first victory of the season.
Brees broke a half-century-old record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, and the Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers, 31-24, Sunday night.
Brees’s 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson eclipsed the mark of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass set by Johnny Unitas from 1956-60.
‘‘First of all it’s a team record, not an individual record. So many people were responsible for this, coaches and people in the organization,’’ Brees said.
‘‘Certainly the man who held this record stands for everything great in this league. It couldn’t have happened in a better way.’’
Brees finished with four touchdown passes, including three to Marques Colston, giving the seventh-year receiver a franchise-record 52 TD catches with the Saints (1-4).
At Brees’s request, the NFL allowed head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, and general manager Mickey Loomis — all serving various suspensions in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation — to attend the game. They and Unitas’s son, Joe, saw Brees pass for 370 yards.
‘‘It gave us a good mojo for sure,’’ Brees said of Payton’s presence. ‘‘I love my coach, so glad he could be here. Mickey and Joe Vitt as well. It is special for our team, special they could be a part of this record.
‘‘We finally put together a great team effort for all four quarters. I can’t say enough for the guys in our locker room,’’ Brees said.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the one who suspended Saints personnel in the bounty matter but also granted Brees’s request for Payton, Vitt, and Loomis to attend the game, chimed in on social media to offer his own congratulations.
Philip Rivers passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns to former Saint Robert Meachem, but had two costly turnovers in the final quarter.
The first was Roman Harper’s interception and 41-yard return on a pass tipped by fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins. That set up the Saints’ final score on Garrett Hartley’s 25-yard field goal. San Diego (3-2) still had a chance to tie in the final minute when defensive end Martez Wilson stripped Rivers and recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
Colston finished with nine catches for 131 yards, while Henderson had eight catches for 123 yards. Colston’s second TD late in the third quarter eclipsed a franchise mark set by Joe Horn in 2006 and pulled the Saints back within a field goal shortly after the Chargers appeared to have gone ahead 31-14 on Demorrio Williams’s interception return for a touchdown. Williams’s TD was nullified, however, by Melvin Ingram’s late hit on Brees’ s chin, which drew a roughing-the-passer flag and extended what wound up to be an 87-yard scoring drive.
Rivers staked San Diego to a 7-0 lead with a 15-yard TD pass to Meachem, marking the former Saint’s first touchdown since signing with the Chargers last winter.