Drew Brees' latest assault on a prestigious NFL passing record lifted the embattled New Orleans Saints to their first victory of the season.

Brees broke a half-century-old record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, and the Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers 31-24 on Sunday night in New Orleans.

At Brees' request, the NFL allowed head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis -- all serving various suspensions in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation -- to attend the game. They and Johnny Unitas' son, Joe, saw Brees pass for 370 yards.

"It gave us a good mojo for sure," Brees said of Payton's presence. "I love my coach, so glad he could be here. Mickey and Joe Vitt as well. It is special for our team, special they could be a part of this record."

Brees' 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson eclipsed the mark of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass set by Unitas from 1956-60.

"Certainly the man who held this record stands for everything great in this league. It couldn't have happened in a better way," Brees said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the one who suspended Saints personnel in the bounty matter but also granted Brees' request for Payton, Vitt and Loomis to attend the game, chimed in on social media to offer his own congratulations.


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On his Twitter page, Goodell wrote: "Congrats to (at)drewbrees & his teammates on breaking Unitas' record. Amazing accomplishment by great QB & leader. We're proud of you, Drew."

Brady-Manning: The familiar showdown had a new twist -- Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos uniform. It ended as it usually does with Tom Brady winning the matchup of marquee quarterbacks. But not before Manning nearly pulled off another fourth-quarter comeback.

In their 13th meeting, and first since Manning left the Indianapolis Colts, Brady directed four scoring marches of at least 80 yards and the host Patriots won 31-21. He's 9-4 in his career against Manning.

"Nobody I'd rather have than Tom Brady," New England coach Bill Belichick said, "but Manning's a great player."

Manning had led his teams back in the fourth quarter to 36 comeback wins. And the Broncos (2-3) rallied from a 31-7 deficit with about five minutes left in the third quarter on Manning's scoring passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to Brandon Stokley.

Brady downplayed his meeting with Manning.

"It's Patriots-Broncos," he said. "It was a great team win."

Falcons: Most of the current Atlanta Falcons aren't really into historical relevance. But center Todd McClure, who's been with the team since 1999, can appreciate how far the franchise has come.

With a 24-17 victory over the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., the Falcons reached 5-0 for the first time since they began play in 1966.

"This," McClure said, "is pretty special."

The Falcons previously had 4-0 starts in 2004 and 1986.

Vikings: A split-second after Minnesota safety Harrison Smith pushed back judge Steve Freeman aside during a confrontation with several Tennessee Titans, the rookie already knew he made a big mistake.

Smith was ejected after pushing the official in Minnesota's 30-7 victory over the Titans. It was the first time a player has been ejected from a game this season.

"Right after it happened, I realized I put my hands on the official," Smith said. "You just can't do it, period. So, I apologize to him. I apologize to my coaches, to my teammates, to the fans. It's just unacceptable."

Wire services contributed to this report.