NEW ORLEANS - Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints carved up Bill Belichick's defense, staying unbeaten with a dominant romp over the Patriots.
Brees threw for a season-high 371 yards and five touchdowns, and the Saints harassed Tom Brady all game in a 38-17 victory over New England last night.
By routing one of the NFL's top powers, the Saints joined the Colts at 11-0, the first time two teams have opened with that many wins in the same season.
The convincing win left little doubt about New Orleans' credentials to match the Patriots' 16-0 regular-season mark in 2007.
Brees threw touchdown passes to five players: Pierre Thomas, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Darnell Dinkins and Marques Colston.
"We were able to take some shots down the field, hit some soft spots in the defense," Brees said. "I can't say enough about the receivers, but it all starts up front with the offensive line. A great job all the way around."
Said Saints coach Sean Payton, "I thought we did a lot of things well."
It was the second time the Patriots (7-4) lost to an unbeaten team on the road in 3 weeks.
Unlike in Indianapolis, there was no drama at the end.
Tom Brady, returning to the Louisiana Superdome for the first time since leading the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in 2002, was intercepted twice, sacked once, hit as he threw several times, and was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter with New Orleans leading by three TDs.
Brady finished 21-for-36 for 237 yards and did not throw a TD pass. He did, however, become New England's all-time passer, eclipsing Drew Bledsoe's mark of 29,657 yards passing.
The Patriots were within a touchdown early in the third quarter after marching 81 yards on a drive highlighted by Brady's 47-yard completion to Randy Moss, which set up Laurence Maroney's 2-yard TD.
New Orleans needed only three plays to get it back. Brees hit Colston along the right sideline, and the receiver turned it into a 68-yard gain by eluding Jonathan Wilhite's tackle. That set up tight end Dinkins' first TD of the season on a 2-yard pass to make it 31-17.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his latest unconventional fourth-down call. Unlike in Indianapolis, where the Patriots tried to put the game away by going for it in their own territory late in the fourth quarter, New England this time went for it on fourth-and-4 from New Orleans 10 in the third quarter.
Brady's pass for Moss along the left sideline was broken up by Mike McKenzie, playing for the first time since fracturing his right kneecap a year ago. *