NEW ORLEANS - After spending most of the 2010 season futilely chasing the Atlanta Falcons in the race for the NFC South title, the New Orleans Saints were determined not to let it happen again.
They showed it on Monday night, especially with an offense that put together five touchdown drives of 73 yards or longer, in a huge nationally televised game with the New York Giants.
The Saints went into the contest holding a half-game lead on the Falcons and came out of it with a full one-game advantage after a dominating 49-24 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
While they still have five regular-season games remaining, the Saints (8-3) prepared for what will be an important December stretch run as quarterback Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes and ran for another in leading his team to 577 total yards in the easy victory.
It was the 11th straight win in November for the Saints. The streak dates to 2009 when they rolled to a 5-0 mark en route to winning Super Bowl XLIV, then went 3-0 in each of the last two seasons.
The Saints ensured themselves of a third straight undefeated November when they jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead on three touchdown passes by a red-hot Brees-two to wide receiver Lance Moore (4 and 10 yards) and the other to tight end Jimmy Graham (5 yards).
They continued the scoring onslaught in the second half with three more touchdowns against the reeling Giants (6-5).
Brees, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 363 yards, ran for an 8-yard TD and hooked up with Graham again in the third quarter for a 29-yard scoring pass before running back Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram had scoring runs of 12 and 35 yards in the final quarter.
While the defense had its moments, intercepting an Eli Manning pass and recovering a fumble that Brees turned into a pair of touchdowns, the offense did a number on the Giants (6-5).
They had touchdown drives of 80, 80 and 88 yards in the first half, then sandwiched backbreaking scoring marches of 73 and 80 yards around a 29-yard scoring drive that was set up when cornerback Tracy Porter forced Da’Rell Scott to fumble with strong safety Roman Harper recovering.
Fresh off a bye week in which coach Sean Payton gave his players a full week off to relax and recharge their batteries, the Saints came out firing.
They marched right down the field after winning the coin toss for the first time in 11 games this season, but didn’t get into the end zone.
They reached the Giants’ 19 and set up for a 37-yard John Kasay field goal. Payton called for a fake, but holder Chase Daniel’s pass to Graham came up two yards short of a first down.
An interception by strongside linebacker Will Herring choked off the Giants’ first possession as Manning tried to loft a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ballard in the back of the end zone.
The Saints took the ball the other way, going 80 yards in nine plays to a 4-yard TD pass to Moore before Lawrence Tynes connected on a 42-yard field goal for the Giants’ only score of the first half.
The Giants forced a punt on the Saints next drive, but they finished the first half with a flourish.
Brees went to Graham for a 5-yard score with 2:21 left and then teamed up with Moore again for a 10-yard TD strike to cap an 88-yard drive that took just 34 seconds.
The second half was more of the same even though Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, a former Assumption High School star, cut the deficit to 21-10 with an 8-yard TD run on their first possession of the third quarter.
Brees then directed a 73-yard drive that ended with him going in from 8 yards out. Later in the quarter, his 29-yard TD to Graham virtually put the game out of reach.
In the fourth quarter, Thomas had a 12-yard touchdown run and Ingram added a 35-yard scoring run with 1:02 left to finish the rout.