NEW ORLEANS — After four years, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore finally got his 1,000-yard receiving season Sunday.

The only problem was, he couldn’t enjoy it, even though he reached that cherished mark with a spectacular 51-yard grab over the middle while falling on top of Carolina Panthers safety Charles Godfrey in the third quarter.

It was impossible to celebrate the milestone catch because the Saints, who increased their four-point halftime lead to 24-13 five plays later, went on to drop a 44-38 decision to the Panthers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

It was that kind of day for Moore, who finished the season with 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns, and quarterback Drew Brees, who went over the 5,000-yard mark in passing for the third time in five seasons with a 19-yard TD strike to Jimmy Graham shortly after Moore’s nifty catch.

Brees already knew what it was like to reach 5,000 yards. He set the NFL record with 5,476 yards a year ago and also has the third- and fifth-highest totals in league history with 5,177 and 5,069 yards, respectively.

With a 7-yard TD to Marques Colston in the second quarter, Brees reached 40 scoring passes for the second straight year — the first time in NFL history a quarterback has had back-to-back seasons with 40 or more, and wound up with 43 to go with the 46 he had a year ago.

But those marks, like the one Moore set, won’t mean much for a while.

“Right now, it’s bittersweet,” said Moore, who had 928 yards in 2008 when the Saints last failed to reach the playoffs. “Any time you can accomplish something like that (1,000 yards), it’s a great thing.

“That’s why you play this game — to try and reach milestones like that. But in a losing effort, I can’t think of anything else but the loss.”

Moore said he didn’t realize he had gotten to 1,000 yards on the long pass from Brees, who threw the ball up while running to his left to try to escape a heavy rush from the Panthers.

“It was kind of funny because on a ball thrown like that, you don’t know where it’s going to end up,” said Moore. “He (Godfrey) was looking for the ball, and I’m looking for the ball, so we both went down. It was kind of an incidental type of thing.

“Thankfully, I was able to adjust and make the play.”

Moore didn’t have to be reminded that he came up 72 yards short in 2008. That day, the Saints also lost to the Panthers, 33-31.

“That’s why it’s so bittersweet,” he said. “You want to have individual accomplishments, but you want to do it in a winning fashion. Since we were not able to do that, it’s a little bit disappointing. Hopefully, in a couple of days, I’ll be able to enjoy it a bit.”