#7 - 2012 Week 5: New Orleans Saints - 31 vs. SD Chargers - 24
It’s not every day you break a 52-year-old record in the NFL, especially one that was considered unbreakable up until the point Drew Brees broke it. Entering this Week 5 matchup with the San Diego Chargers, the Saints were 0-4 and just coming off the bountygate hit job from the NFL. Despite this, there was an air of excitement in the Superdome that night as Brees had thrown a touchdown pass in his last 46 consecutive games, equaling the mark set by legendary Colts QB Johnny Unitas during the 1956-1960 seasons, and now had a chance to reach the seemingly unattainable record on Sunday Night Football in the Dome.
The crowd would not have to wait long for Brees to make history, as he hit Devery Henderson for a 40-yard touchdown on the Saints second drive of the game. After a short stoppage to celebrate one of the multitudes of all-time records Brees would break in the Superdome, the game was tied at seven as the Saints and Chargers would trade the lead throughout the first half.
On the other side was another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Philip Rivers and the 3-1 Chargers who would take a 17-14 lead into halftime after throwing two touchdowns to former Saint Robert Meachem. The second half would not start well for the Saints, as Brees threw an interception on the opening drive which the Chargers offense cashed in for a touchdown, widening the lead to 10.
After the teams traded punts on the next two drives, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints would go on two 85+ yard touchdown drives in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters, grabbing a 28-24 lead with 8:50 left in the game.
Despite the 2012 Saints defense allowing the most yards in a single season in NFL history, it would be that same defense that would clinch the game for them and secure the Saints’ first win of the season. Following a sack which set up a 3rd and 18, Malcom Jenkins tipped a Rivers pass into the air that would be picked off by Roman Harper. The Saints would turn this into a field goal setting up a seven-point lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Rivers and the Chargers would drive all the way to the Saints 33-yard line and have a shot to tie the game with 19 seconds left. On third down, second year pass rusher Martez Wilson would beat veteran tackle Jared Gaither who was injured on the previous play but not taken out of the game. Wilson got around the hobbled left tackle to knock the ball out of Rivers’ hands and recover the fumble himself, securing a Saints victory.
The first win of the year in an ultimately lost season in which the Saints would finish 7-9 without Sean Payton would take a back seat to the monumental achievement by Drew Brees. The streak started with a one-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey in Week 6 of the 2009 season against the Giants. A similar touchdown pass to Shockey that year would wind up giving the Saints the lead in their first Super Bowl championship, but we’ll get to that later on this list.
The record would end later in Week 13 of the 2012 season with Brees’ final total at 54 games straight with a touchdown pass. The streak would last three years and one month, about the same time it takes to complete law school. Immediately following the streak ending, Brees would start another touchdown pass streak against the Giants in Week 14 which would wind up lasting 45 games, two shy of breaking Unitas’ record again. This meant Brees threw at least one touchdown pass in 99 out of 100 straight games between the 2009 and 2015 seasons.
.@drewbrees made NFL history on SNF in 2012 by breaking Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) April 3, 2020
(spoiler alert, he keeps the streak going for 6 more games)#FootballWeekNBCSN pic.twitter.com/lursulFMGn
This game earns its spot on the list as it was the first huge record Brees would break with the Saints that spanned multiple season that he still owns. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would wind up also breaking Unitas’ record with 52 and 51 game touchdown pass streaks respectively, and Kirk Cousins just recently had a 39-game streak end in the 2022 season. The longest active streak is Joe Burrow at 23, meaning he will have to throw a touchdown pass in every game between now and Week 16 of the 2024 season to break Brees’ record.
Despite 2012 being one of the most difficult seasons in recent memory due to all the external issues and defensive woes, Brees was the one constant that kept the team going, and his history making performance for three years culminating in this closely contested game on Sunday Night Football earns this game a spot on the list.
Watch highlights of the game here.
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