It hasn't been an easy season for the New Orleans Saints, but for a brief moment during Sunday night's game against the San Diego Chargers, the breaking of an NFL record shoved aside an ugly offseason and a forgettable 0-4 start.
With 3:05 left in the first quarter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees made history, snapping Johnny Unitas' mark for consecutive games with a touchdown pass by tossing a 40-yard scoring strike to Devery Henderson. Brees now has thrown a touchdown pass in 48 straight games, the latest in a 31-24 victory that makes the Saints 1-4.
Unitas' record of 47 stood cemented in league lore since 1960, but Brees -- who shattered Dan Marino's single-season passing-yardage record last season -- was well-positioned to break it in this high-octane offense.
"My father always said that records were meant to be broken," Unitas' son, Joe, wrote in a letter to Brees earlier this month. Joe Unitas was at the Superdome to watch his father's record pass into the shadows.
Also present: Saints coaches Sean Payton and Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis. Though they're serving suspensions of one season, six games and eight games, respectively, for their involvement in the team's bounty scandal, the NFL decided to allow all three to attend the game upon Brees' request.
Brees and Unitas share similarities. Both were let go by the teams that drafted them (Unitas by the Pittsburgh Steelers; Brees by the Chargers), and we can only imagine that Brees drew some delight out of setting the mark against his former squad. When Unitas died in 2002, Brees was just beginning his run as a starter with San Diego.
Nobody knew back then what would come of Brees' career, but he now belongs to the city of New Orleans, whose denizens -- especially Sunday night -- wouldn't dream of letting him go.
UDPATE: Shortly after Brees made history, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted his congratulations:
Congrats to @drewbrees & his teammates on breaking Unitas' record. Amazing accomplishment by great QB & leader. Weâre proud of you, Drewâ Roger Goodell (@nflcommish) October 8, 2012
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.