Flag flies again, and Saints cornerback Brandon Browner sets NFL record _lowres

Advocate staff photo by RUSTY COSTANZA -- New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Kasim Edebali (91) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during a game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Monday, December 21, 2015.

Brandon Browner’s penchant for drawing penalty flags now holds an ignominious spot in NFL history.

The Saints cornerback was flagged for penalty No. 23 in the first quarter Monday night, breaking the record for penalties incurred by an individual since the NFL started keeping track in 1999. Browner entered the week tied with former Texans offensive lineman Chester Pitts, who was flagged 22 times in 2003.

Browner was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a hit on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson over the middle as he tried to dislodge the football. Browner later picked up his 24th flag of the season, a penalty declined by the Lions.

Browner, the veteran cornerback brought in on a three-year, $15 million deal during the offseason, has led the league in penalties twice before — including last season, when he drew 15 flags despite playing just nine games.

Elsewhere, Browner has struggled at times in coverage when left alone against small, quick receivers.

“I don’t think he’s much different than where we’ve been as a defense,” Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said two weeks ago. “I think there’s games where he played exceptionally well, and then there’s obviously been games where he hasn’t played quite as well.”

More milestones

Drew Brees, who has spent the season moving up the all-time passing lists into rarefied air, hit another career milestone in the third quarter Monday night.

A 27-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Brandin Cooks lifted the Saints quarterback over the 60,000-yard barrier for his career, placing Brees once again in a list of quarterbacks that can be counted on one hand.

By passing the 60,000-yard barrier, Brees joins an exclusive club populated only by Peyton Manning (71,871 yards), Brett Favre (71,838) and Dan Marino (61,361). Brees had already put himself in their company earlier this season by passing the 400-touchdown barrier and leap-frogging Marino into third place on the all-time completions list.

For Brees, this milestone came while battling through an injury.

Under fire from the Lions pass rush for most of the first half, Brees was taken down by Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah on a pass he threw away while scrambling and came up limping. Brees tested out his right foot on the sideline, got it re-taped and allowed backup Matt Flynn to warm up briefly. A long drive for the Lions, though, allowed Brees to get his right foot back in order, and the franchise quarterback didn’t miss a snap.

Then he moved into company all his own shortly after the touchdown throw to Cooks. With a 15-yard completion to Willie Snead on the next drive, Brees went over the 4,000-yard mark for the season, the 10th time he’s passed that barrier, more than any other quarterback in NFL history.

Brees has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of his 10 seasons in New Orleans.

A legend’s battle

Saints Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer Thursday, a source told The Advocate, and is home resting comfortably.

Jackson, 57, is one of the four members of the Saints’ Ring of Honor, and the legendary linebacker won a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.

The face of the Dome Patrol, Jackson finished his career with 136 sacks, then the third-most in NFL history, and he was the first member of the Hall of Fame to be inducted primarily as a New Orleans Saint.

Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan, who is also battling cancer, was in the booth for Monday’s game against Detroit.

Lagniappe

Saints running back C.J. Spiller was taken to the locker room in the first half, evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return. ... Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, a seven-year veteran, got the first carry of his career on the goal line in the second quarter. He was stopped for no gain. ... Newly signed running back Kendall Hunter got his first carry as a member of the Saints on the game’s second series and picked up 2 yards.