NEW ORLEANS —
Afterward, Brees took an elevator near the Saints' locker room up to the Superdome's suite level to share a few moments with Payton, Loomis and Vitt.
''It gave us a good mojo for sure,'' Brees said of Payton's presence. ''I love my coach, so glad he could be here. Mickey and Joe Vitt as well. It is special for our team, special they could be a part of this record.''
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the one who suspended Saints personnel in the bounty matter but also granted Brees' request for Payton, Vitt and Loomis to attend the game, chimed in on his Twitter page shortly after the record fell, writing, ''Congrats to (at)drewbrees & his teammates on breaking Unitas' record. Amazing accomplishment by great QB & leader. We're proud of you, Drew.''
Philip Rivers passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns to former Saint Robert Meachem, but had two costly turnovers in the final quarter.
''I can't tell you how tough it is to lose a game like this,'' Rivers said. ''We were right there. We were up by 10 points and just didn't get it done. We have a great team, a championship caliber team. But we have to win close games like this.''
The first late turnover was Roman Harper's interception and 41-yard return on a pass tipped by fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins. That set up the Saints' final score on Garrett Hartley's field goal. San Diego (3-2) still had a chance to tie in the final minute until defensive end Martez Wilson stripped Rivers and recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
The Saints' defense, which entered the game ranked least in the league, had a hand in the victory not only with the turnovers but five sacks.
''You really have to credit our defense getting pressure on the quarterback,'' Interim head coach Aaron Kromer said. ''That's what made a difference in the game.''