NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Before Drew Brees could blow kisses to the adoring Superdome crowd, before he could embrace his wife and children on the sideline, the Saints' 39-year-old quarterback had to shred one of the NFL's top pass defenses with ruthless efficiency.
And so he did.
Brees passed Peyton Manning to become the NFL's all-time leader in yards passing with a 62-yard touchdown to rookie Tre'Quan Smith on Monday night that sent New Orleans on its way to a lopsided 43-19 victory over the mistake-prone Washington Redskins.
"It's hard for me to reflect too much right now just because my career's not done. There are still goals to be accomplished. There are still challenges to be met. And so I'm still very focused on that," Brees said. "And yet, when something like this happens, there are so many people who are responsible for that, that are a part of that, that makes me happy. It makes me proud and it makes me extremely grateful — extremely grateful for the opportunity to play this game, to play it as long as I've played it, to have wound up here in New Orleans.
"It's just been an unbelievable journey."
Brees entered the game needing 201 yards to eclipse Peyton Manning's previous mark of 71,940 yards. He had 250 yards and two touchdowns by halftime and finished 26 of 29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this season. He did, however, make his eighth career reception on his own deflected pass, and pushed across the line of scrimmage to add an extra yard to his career total.
"He throws for 5,000 yards just like he's sleeping at night, and it's crazy to see that," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. "He's at the top of them all right now — and he's not done yet."
The Saints' Smith, a third-round draft choice last spring, caught two touchdown passes from the 18th-year pro. Brees also hit Smith for a 35-yard score down the right sideline early in the third quarter.
Any hope Washington had of coming back was all but snuffed out when Justin Hardee, a special teams regular who was in the game because of Marshon Lattimore's concussion symptoms, snagged Alex Smith's underthrown pass at the Saints' 19-yard line and returned his first career interception to the Washington 4.
That set up change-of-pace QB Taysom Hill's 1-yard touchdown run that put the Saints (4-1) up 40-13.
Smith completed 23 of 39 passes for 275 yards for the Redskins (2-2). He ran for a short touchdown late in the first half that pulled Washington within 26-13.
When Saints began one of their last first-half possessions on their own 38, Brees needed just 35 yards to break the record. On the first play of the drive, Brees launched a pass toward the right sideline to the speedy Smith, who was wide open and easily sprinted away from Nicholson's tackle attempt en route to the end zone.
"I knew we were within striking distance" of the record, Brees said. "I didn't know it was going to happen on the first play to Tre'Quan. But I don't think it could have happened in any better fashion than it did. To have then that moment with my teammates on the field, the offensive line, it played out even greater than I ever could have imagined."
Brees' teammates ran toward their quarterback as he jogged behind the play, and a group of them formed a jumping, celebrating mass of black and gold next to the Saints' fleur-de-lis emblem on the 50-yard line.
Brees then removed his helmet, saluted fans and exchanged hugs on the sideline with his wife, Brittany, their four kids and Saints coach Sean Payton. The ball was handed over to Pro Football Hall of Fame officials.
With the game well in hand after the two-minute warning, Payton subbed Brees out of the game. As Teddy Bridgwater ran onto the field and Brees trotted to the sideline, Brees got one last ovation before fans began chanting: "Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints."
Running back Mark Ingram, playing in his first game this season after serving a four-game suspension, scored two touchdowns on 2- and 1-yard runs in the first half.
He finished with 53 yards rushing and 20 receiving.
"It's great to have him back," Payton said, stressing the Ingram's presence reduces the physical toll on fellow running back Alvin Kamara. "That combination — those are two real good running backs."
The Redskins came in allowing fewer than 190 yards passing per game and spoke of doing what they could to prevent Brees from making history. Instead, they helped Brees pile up first-half yards with third-down penalties that extended two touchdown drives.
Norman's defensive holding penalty during Brees' incomplete pass sustained the Saints' first scoring drive, capped by Ingram's short touchdown run.
In the second quarter, Montae Nicholson's unnecessary roughness penalty for leveling Ingram on Ryan Kerrigan's third-down sack extended a drive that ended with Brees' short TD pass to tight end Josh Hill.
Redskins: Chris Thompson took a heavy hit from Saints linebacker Craig Robertson and received treatment on the field before getting up and walking to the sideline holding his helmet. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he had a rib injury. Gruden also said running back Adrian Peterson has a shoulder strain and will have an MRI. Receiver Paul Richardson Jr. stained his knee and tight end Vernon Davis had a hamstring injury.
Saints: In addition to Lattimore, reserve defensive lineman Taylor Stallworth limped off the field, favoring his right leg.
Redskins: Host Carolina on Sunday.
Saints: Enter their bye week before returning to action at Baltimore on Oct. 21.