NEW ORLEANS — Saints quarterback Drew Brees made history again on Monday night, throwing the 540th and 541st touchdown passes of his career, surpassing Peyton Manning for the top spot in NFL history.
The Saints defeated the Colts 34-7 to move to 11-3, a record they share with Seattle, Green Bay, and San Francisco. The Saints though will need some help to secure a top seed in the NFC playoffs. But that's for another day.
Brees trotted along the sideline holding his helmet and a Hall of Fame-bound ball in his left hand while using his right hand to wave and blow kisses to an adoring Superdome crowd.
Another milestone, another memory, for an undersized and once underestimated player who has broken just about every significant record a quarterback can break — and doesn't look anywhere near done at age 40.
“It was special, everything about the night,” Brees said. “It just kind of makes your whole life and career flash before your eyes, because I never thought I’d have a chance to be part of something like this.”
On this great day, Brees lofted a five-yard lob pass to Josh Hill for a touchdown early in the third quarter for his 540th touchdown pass - one ahead of Manning and two ahead of Tom Brady.
"Pretty incredible moment," said Brees afterward. "To be able to share it with my team and the Who Dat Nation, everyone here in the Superdome and my family and friends. You don’t think about these things when you start out, you just want to make the team."
The pass gave the Saints a 27-0 lead in the third quarter over the Indianapolis Colts.
Brees threw the four touchdown passes before the end of the third quarter in a masterful performance where the ball rarely hit the ground.
In fact, Brees was so good (How good was he?) that he set an NFL record for single-game passing percentage by hitting 29 of 30 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
"He was outstanding tonight," said Sean Payton. "It was efficient and it was impressive. As a play-caller, the sheet looks bigger when he’s playing like that."
The fourth, to Taysom Hill late in the third quarter, gave the Saints a 34-0 margin.
Now in his 19th season, the 6-foot Brees — a 2001 second-round draft choice — came into the game already holding NFL records for completions with 6,792 and yards passing with 72,577. He built on those numbers while also setting a record for completion percentage in a game. He completed 29 of 30 passes — 96.7% — for 307 yards before being relieved by Teddy Bridgewater in the fourth quarter. That broke the mark Philip Rivers had held since completing 28 of 29 (96.6%) against Arizona last season.
“He had a hot hand, obviously,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Guys were making plays, but that’s awfully difficult to do.”
The victory kept the Saints (11-3), who'd already won the NFC South, in the running with Seattle (11-3), San Francisco (11-3) and Green Bay (11-3) for one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs.
“There’s a lot at stake right now relative to these games when you look at the top of the NFC,” Payton said. "It’s about winning and winning and winning and trying to give yourself the best chance in the postseason.”
Colts defenders had no answer for Michael Thomas, who caught 12 passes for 128 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. Thomas' eighth game this season with at least 10 catches give him 133 for the season, which is also the fourth-highest single-season total in NFL history.
With four more catches, Thomas will pass Antonio Brown and Julio Jones for second-most in a season. He needs 11 to eclipse Marvin Harrison's record of 143 from 2002.
Tre'Quan Smith caught a 21-yard touchdown pass for New Orleans.
While Brees holds the career touchdown pass record, for now, the Patriots' Tom Brady is only three behind at 538.
“It’s a fluid record,” Payton said. “There's still another quarterback in New England, so that will go back and forth as long as those two are playing.”
The next-closest active player is Rivers with 395.
Brees wasn't about to underestimate Brady's ability to keep pace.
“He’s such a stud. He’s got a lot of rings and records,” Brees said of Brady. “He’s awesome.”
Brees said the ball with which he threw his record-breaking TD would go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also sounded particularly pleased by who caught it.
“I love the fact it was Josh Hill," Brees said, noting that Hill made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2013 and has been reliable both on offense and special teams ever since.
“The epitome of a great teammate, kind of an unsung hero,” Brees said. “He’s done an unbelievable job. I have so much trust and confidence in him.”
Colts: Reserve safety Rolan Milligan left the game with a foot injury in the first half. Cornerback Quincy Wilson left with a shoulder injury.
Saints: Right guard Larry Warford needed help to the sideline with a left knee injury early in the third quarter. Defensive back C.J. Gardner Johnson left the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter.
Saints: Visit Tennessee on Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.