ATLANTA — One doesn’t catch 403 passes and 43 touchdowns in the NFL, as New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston has done over the past five-plus seasons, without having huge games here and there.
But the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Colston may have outdone himself, at least in the eyes of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, in the Saints’ key 26-23 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons.
While he didn’t score a touchdown, Colston’s eight-catch, 113-yard afternoon included one highlight-reel catch after another as he wowed a Georgia Dome crowd of 70,359 — including many Saints fans.
“This is as good a game as I could recall him playing,” Payton said of Colston after John Kasay’s 26-yard field goal in overtime sent the Saints home winners. “I’m not talking about touchdowns or any of that, but he was something today.”
Indeed, Colston was a difference-maker against the Falcons’ befuddled defensive backs. Each of his eight catches produced a first down, including one on second-and-14 and two others on third-and-8 and third-and-11.
His clutch grabs helped keep drives going that eventually led to three John Kasay field goals and a 33-yard touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver Robert Meachem in the hard-fought NFC South game.
“Looking back, Marques came up with some huge catches,” a smiling Brees said afterward. “Some of them were above his head, and some they (Falcons defenders) were draped all over him.
“That’s the Marques Colston I know,” he added. “I’ve played with him for six years now, and I hope we’ve got a lot of time left together.”
Colston, who missed two games earlier in the season with a fractured collarbone, recorded his second 100-yard game of 2011 and 18th of his career with an 18-yard catch midway through the final quarter.
It was a typical Colston reception as he went up and snatched the ball out of the air before Falcons safety James Sanders, who stands 5-10, could get in position to break it up.
“I’ve been waiting for this game myself for a while,” Colston said. “Drew was able to find me early, and I was able to get into a rhythm … and it was just a great team win.”
As far as being Brees’ go-to guy on Sunday, Colston said that was just how things worked out. Brees connected with nine receivers over the course of the game.
“It just works as usual,” Colston said. “Drew gets back there and he goes through his reads and he hits the open man. Today, it was me more often. Drew does what he does, and that’s what makes him so great.”
But Brees knows when and where to give credit when it’s due.
“I’m happy for Marques,” he said. “He continues to show us why he’s the best.”