NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees and the surging New Orleans Saints made everything look easy against the slumping Giants.
Brees passed for 363 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score as New Orleans rolled to a 49-24 victory Monday night, extending New York’s losing skid to three games.
“There’s that confidence that players around him have, and obviously we have in him,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Brees. “He made some fantastic throws tonight.”
Tight end Jimmy Graham had five catches for 84 yards, including touchdowns of 5 and 29 yards. Brees’ two other scoring strikes went to Lance Moore, who had five catches for 54 yards.
“Can’t say enough about our team. Our coaches, offense, defense — it was a great team win tonight in every aspect,” Brees said.
This was a game New York was desperate to win after losing its previous two to San Francisco and Philadelphia.
Instead, the Giants (6-5) dropped a game behind first-place Dallas in the NFC East and face the possibility of a four-game losing streak when they host the unbeaten Green Bay Packers next weekend.
“We didn’t stop them. How much further explanation do you want?” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose defense was unable to sack Brees. “We prepared well, but when we got in the game we didn’t cover well. When we don’t get to the passer, we have trouble.”
The Saints (8-3), meanwhile, maintained a one-game lead over Atlanta in the NFC South.
They also padded their rushing stats with 205 yards on the ground, including touchdown runs of 12 yards by Pierre Thomas and 35 yards by rookie Mark Ingram.
“Our guys came out sharp,” Payton said. “We felt like this was going to be tough opponent coming in with two losses they had prior to our game. … We had the balance we were looking for. I thought we ran it well tonight.”
Marques Colston had three catches for 78 yards, all on the Saints’ 34-second, 88-yard touchdown drive late in the second quarter that gave New Orleans a 21-3 halftime lead. Colston’s longest reception went for 50 yards when he caught a pass along the left sideline, slipped a tackle and raced up field.
The Giants took a beating on the scoreboard and on the field. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora went out with a sprained ankle and receiver Hakeem Nicks was rocked on a vicious hit by Saints rookie safety Isa Abdul-Quddus.
Nicks stayed in the game despite bruised ribs.
New York already was missing two key players because of injuries: leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Mario Manningham.
“It’s hard not to know when you’re getting your butt whipped, but I didn’t see any moping I was concerned about,” Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. “We played hard, (but) it’s hard to smile when you’re losing like that.”
Eli Manning completed 21 straight passes for the Giants — mostly after the outcome was decided. New York did not get into the end zone until Brandon Jacobs steamrolled safety Roman Harper on an 8-yard scoring run that made it 21-10 in the third quarter, but the Saints went right back down the field and scored on Brees’ 8-yard scramble.
After Giants running back Da’Rell Scott fumbled on his own 29, Brees connected with Graham, who rumbled down the left sideline and dove for the pylon for his second TD of the game, and his team-leading eighth receiving score of the season.
The Saints never trailed, striking first early in the second quarter on Brees’ 4-yard touchdown pass to Moore, who snagged a quick throw on the right side and dove to stretch the ball across the goal line before he was tackled.
The 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive included a 23-yard pass to Graham and a 23-yard run by Darren Sproles, and it was the first of three touchdown drives of more than 80 yards in the opening half.
“We can always get better. There’s always something to prove. The challenges only get greater as you move through the season,” Brees said before looking ahead to his team’s next game. “Sunday night football next week, we got Detroit coming to town, on a short week, so we’re going to have to get ourselves back on track out here pretty quick and ready for that game.”
Back home in the Big Easy, Manning passed for 406 yards. He also was intercepted by linebacker Will Herring in the end zone on the team’s first series.
The only scoring the Giants managed in the first half was Lawrence Tynes’ 42-yard field goal. Tynes also attempted a 61-yarder, which fell short, at the end of the half.
The Giants, who have been struggling to run the ball all season, gained only 73 yards on the ground.
Both teams missed scoring opportunities on their opening drives.
The Saints got close at the 18-yard line, but delay-of-game and offensive pass interference penalties moved them back before they attempted a fake field goal on fourth-and-11. Chase Daniel, the holder and backup quarterback, found Graham in the right flat, but Jason Pierre-Paul made an open-field tackle to stop Graham a yard short of a first down.
The Giants then marched to the Saints 18-yard line before Manning’s pass intended for tight end Jake Ballard was intercepted by Herring.
Manning completed his first four passes for 64 yards, including a 26-yarder to Ramses Barden, before his interception.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)