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What we learned from Saints' victory over Colts

*Monday night was Drew Brees' night. Led by a record-breaking performance by the future Hall of Fame quarterback, the New Orleans Saints (11-3) trounced the Indianapolis Colts (6-8) in the Superdome, 34-7, to close out Week 15. Here's what we learned from the historic evening: *

  1. Drew Brees' legend in New Orleans and the NFL grew three sizes on Monday night, as the Saints quarterback broke yet another career passing record -- and tossed in an in-game passing record to boot. Brees threw four touchdown passes against a beleaguered Colts secondary, one more than was necessary to top Peyton Manning's record mark of 539. Brees tied Manning's record with his second TD pass in the second quarter and nearly broke it right before halftime, but an offensive pass interference call on Tre'Quan Smith nullified a potential record-breaker to the wideout and New Orleans settled for a field goal. Out of the half, though, Brees finished the job. His five-yard play-action TD pass to backup tight end and human trivia answer Josh Hill gave Brees No. 540, sent the Superdome into hysterics and essentially clinched the easy, Breesy prime-time victory.

Brees wasn't through, though. Not only did he add another touchdown pass to Taysom Hill later in the third quarter, but the Saints QB finished the game having completed 29 of 30 pass attempts for an NFL-record 96.7 completion percentage, breaking Philip Rivers' record (96.6). A quintessential evening for the future Hall of Famer: Brees was prolific (307 yards), efficient (96.7 comp. pct.), lethal (four TDs) and generous (four TDs caught by four different receivers). New Orleans' offense, fresh off a disappointing defeat in a shootout with San Francisco, is in a good place, in part due to its unflappable and immortal quarterback, Saint amongst men, king of the dome, holder of records.

  1. As impressive as Brees' night was -- and it was -- the Saints will be most pleased as they rest their heads on Tuesday morning with the bounce-back performance from their defense. One game after surrendering 48 points to the 49ers in the dome, New Orleans gave up just seven to the contending Colts (a late fourth-quarter TD), allowing a season-low 205 total yards and 16 first downs in the process. Sure, Indianapolis was short-handed and on its last legs in the playoff race, but the Saints were not at full strength either. Gone from the defensive line were Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins, shelved on injured reserve. Vonn Bell, Kiko Alonso and Patrick Robinson were all inactive. Between those five players, that's 1,927 defensive snaps on the sideline! In their stead, Demario Davis, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and a deep defensive line stepped up -- eight Saints defensive linemen logged at least 20 snaps on Monday, and none more than 27. Help is on the way -- New Orleans claimed cornerback Janoris Jenkins off waivers Monday -- but the Saints defense doesn't need much if Monday night is any indication.
  1. Here lie the 2019 Colts. Indy's defeat on Monday night, its fourth in a row and sixth in the last seven weeks, clinched the Colts' elimination from playoff contention. In the span of four weeks, Indy went from AFC South darlings and potential favorites to win the division to out of it before Dec. 17. The Colts' quick fall from grace can be attributed to injuries on offense (T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack) and a dangerous stretch against Houston, Tennessee, Jameis Winston and New Orleans. But Indy didn't look at all the part of a playoff team on Monday night, letting Brees celebrate his milestones with ease and failing to put up much of a defense on offense. Jacoby Brissett completed just five of 15 first-half passes and received no help from a run game that picked up 17 yards on 10 first-half carries. By the time Indy received the ball for the first time in the second half, the Colts were down 27-0, with the game, and their season, well over.
  1. Michael Thomas watch: With 12 more receptions on 12 targets for 128 yards and a touchdown (Brees' first of the night), Thomas grew his league-leading receptions total to 133. The Saints wideout needs 11 receptions in New Orleans' final two games to pass Marvin Harrison for most catches in a season (143). Thomas might do that in the first half next week. Not to be outdone by his QB, Thomas broke a few records of his own Monday night: His eighth game with at least 10 receptions is tied for the most in a single season in the Super Bowl era. Thomas became just the fourth player to ever haul in at least 130 catches in a season, joining Harrison, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. TL;DR: He's good.
  1. Hilton returned Monday night from a calf injury that had sidelined him for five of Indy's last six games but had little impact on the proceedings. The veteran wideout saw half of the Colts' offensive snaps (26), fewer than that of Marcus Johnson, Zach Pascal and Dontrelle Inman. Hilton was targeted nine times in those snaps though, catching four balls for 25 yards. Too little, too late for T.Y.
  1. The Colts are cooked, but the Saints are cooking in the NFC. New Orleans, already champions of the NFC South, holds an 11-3 record with two games to play and is tied for the best record in the conference with Seattle, Green Bay and San Francisco. The logjam atop the conference currently slots the division-leading Seahawks and Packers above the Saints due to superior conference record (8-2 vs. 8-3). New Orleans finishes with the playoff-hungry Titans in Tennessee on Sunday and the absent Panthers in Carolina in Week 17. The Saints can still clinch a first-round bye and even home-field advantage but that fate is not in their control.
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