Fans sitting in the upper deck of the Superdome turned their backs to the field, where the New Orleans Saints were setting franchise records, and saluted head coach Sean Payton, who was sitting high above in a booth with his broken leg propped up.
He might as well have had both feet up by the middle of the third quarter.
Drew Brees completed 31 of 35 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns, and the Saints set a franchise record for points and victory margin in a 62-7 demolition of the hapless Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.
”I was real proud of how we played tonight, how we handled the week of practice,” said Payton, standing on crutches after the game. ”We spent a lot of time during the week just talking about us beginning to play our best football, because we really felt while we were 4-2, we hadn’t done that.”
Payton had called offensive plays from the sidelines since he took his first head coaching job with New Orleans in 2006, but that changed after he was caught up in a tackle along the sideline during a loss at Tampa Bay last week and was injured. Payton had surgery on Monday and didn’t attend a practice until Thursday.
Sitting high up in the Superdome for the game against the Colts, he had to like what he saw down below, where offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. called plays for the first time.
Brees had two touchdown passes to Marques Colston and one to Darren Sproles in the first quarter. His fourth and fifth touchdown tosses went to second-year tight end Jimmy Graham in the third quarter.
Colston had seven catches for 98 yards.
It seemed the Saints (5-2) could do whatever they wanted, also rushing for 236 yards.
”We had a great game plan. We played with a lot of confidence. Pete did a phenomenal job,” Brees said. ”It was just our night, one of those games that doesn’t come along too often. . . . We needed a win like this, especially after the past week and everything we’ve gone through.”
The Saints’ point total tied the most in a game by any team since the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970.
The Saints’ previous franchise high for points in a game was 51 on three occasions, and their largest previous victory margin was 42 over Denver in 1988.
When the large video board in the Superdome showed Payton peering out from the booth, the crowd erupted. By the time the third quarter ended, there wasn’t much of a crowd left.
Brees, who threw no interceptions, was replaced by Chase Daniel late in the third quarter, a move that prevented New Orleans’ starting quarterback from extending his NFL record of four straight games with at least 350 yards passing.
Mark Ingram rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries but limped to the locker room early in the fourth quarter with what Payton said was a heel injury. The coach added that X-rays were negative. Sproles carried 12 times for 88 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown.
The Saints had 557 yards and a team-record 36 first downs.
The winless Colts (0-7) are guaranteed to have fewer than 10 victories in a season for the first time in nine years. At this rate, they might not win many games at all.
”That team played better than we did in every area, and we just got whooped across the board,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. ”It’s one of those things that once you don’t do the little things right, there is a lot of bad things that happen to you. Obviously, I have to take responsibility for our team and the way that they played.”
Colts quarterback Curtis Painter was only 9 of 17 for 67 yards and had an interception returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Leigh Torrence.
”We just didn’t play near well enough,” Painter said. ”We made a few too many mistakes in the beginning, and any time you’re playing a team as good as them, they’re going to make you pay. We just kind of got off to a rough start, and you’ve got to credit them. They played well.”
For the seventh game this season, Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning was forced to watch because of a neck injury that has sidelined him all season.
As hard as it had to be for Manning to be a spectator in his return to his native New Orleans, it had to be even harder to see his team’s mistake-prone performance. These Colts looked more like the bumbling Saints of old that his father, Archie, starred for three decades ago.
Indianapolis fumbled twice in the opening quarter, giving the Saints a relatively short field both times.
The first came on the opening drive on a botched snap that linebacker Jonathan Vilma recovered on the Colts 41-yard line.
Brees then completed his first three passes, the last a 14-yard scoring strike to Colston, who made a leaping catch in front of defensive back Jerraud Powers to make it 7-0.
The Saints then went 81 yards in six plays, including Pierre Thomas’s 57-yard gain on a screen pass, and took a 14-0 lead when Brees hit Colston again with a quick 4-yard throw over the middle.
The Saints then took over on their 48 when defensive tackle Tom Johnson stripped rookie running back Delone Carter, and Cam Jordan recovered.
Sproles started the drive with a 16-yard run and finished it with a 6-yard touchdown catch.
Brees’ 26-yard completion to Lance Moore ignited yet another touchdown drive, this one covering 69 yards in seven plays and ending with fullback Jed Collins’ 1-yard score on a second-effort plunge through a pile of players.
John Kasay added field goals of 23 and 47 yards. The second came as time expired in the half and was set up by Colston’s 39-yard reception.
Indianapolis trailed 31-0 before scoring on Carter’s 2-yard run, capping a seven-play, 80-yard drive that was highlighted by Carter’s 42-yard scamper on the opening play.
NOTES: Pierre Thomas’ 57-yard reception in the first quarter was his longest gain from scrimmage in his career. … RB Joseph Addai left the game after two offensive series because of a nagging right hamstring injury. … The Colts said reserve TE Jacob Tamme was being evaluated for a possible concussion. … Saints S Roman Harper left the game in the second half after taking a hit to the head. Harper said he would be fine.