NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees completed 34 of 41 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints opened a 42-17 lead over the Dallas Cowboys early in the fourth quarter on Sunday night.
Brees connected with Kenny Stills on a 52-yard touchdown pass, with Marques Colston on a 22-yard scoring strike, with running back Pierre Thomas for a 1-yard score and with running back Darren Sproles for a 28-yard score with 5 seconds left in the first half.
Sproles also had a 3-yard touchdown run, and Mark Ingram added a 4-yard scoring run in what was shaping up to be by far his best game of the season.
DeMarco Murray had 82 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown for Dallas, highlighted by his 35-yard scamper on a fake reverse. That set up his 7-yard scoring run, which gave Dallas a short-lived 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Dallas did not score again until Tony Romo's 21-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the last minute of the third quarter.
The Cowboys' porous pass defense entered the game already having set an NFL record by allowing four quarterbacks to throw for more than 400 yards this season. Brees was on track to become the fifth. At one point, he strung together 19 straight completions, tying his personal best and franchise record.
Making matters worse for Dallas was a hamstring injury to linebacker Sean Lee, the Cowboys' leading tackler.
Sproles, whose concussion one week earlier forced him to miss most of the Saints 26-20 loss to the Jets in New York, caught seven passes for 76 yards in the opening half against Dallas.
Getting Colston involved was another encouraging sign for the Saints one week after the veteran receiver sat out the loss to the Jets.
Colston had six catches for 94 yards in the quarter. His touchdown catch was the 60th of his career, all coming from Brees.
On the Colston's touchdown, Sproles made a key block on blitzing linebacker Barry Church, giving Brees enough time to throw over the middle. Colston then slipped safety Jeff Heath's tackle before diving across the goal line.
For Sproles, the key block was the first of several highlights that atoned for an early muffed punt that gave the Cowboys the ball on the Saints' 22-yard line after a diving recovery Dallas' Dwayne Harris.
But with an energized nighttime crowd in the Superdome roaring, the Cowboys had to call timeout on third-and-short, then came back out an committed a false start penalty. Dallas was then unable to convert for a first down and settled for Dan Bailey's 37-yard field goal.
The Cowboys arrived in New Orleans with three wins in their previous four games, but faced a tough task in the Superdome, where the Saints had won 11 straight night games coming in (including two playoff wins).
Dallas was frustrated offensively for much of the game. Star receiver Dez Bryant, covered mostly by Keenan Lewis, did not have his first catch until late in the third quarter.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org