x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Saints finding their groove

Drew Brees is piling up gaudy passing numbers again and sounding confident about the New Orleans Saints repeating as champions.

Drew Brees is piling up gaudy passing numbers again and sounding confident about the New Orleans Saints repeating as champions.

"The time you want to be playing your best is now," Brees said. "You want to be escalating here as November and December come around. Here we are, we've won three in a row. I feel like we're playing better and better each week."

If the Saints can improve on their 34-19 home victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, they will be difficult to defeat.

The Saints amassed 494 yards, their most since the first game of their 2009 championship season. Brees found 10 different receivers while completing 29 of 43 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns.

It enabled him to claim his latest franchise record, completing his 1,850th pass as a Saint to surpass a mark Archie Manning set in 1982.

"Their offence and Drew Brees did what they were famous for — threw the heck out of the football," said Pete Carroll, the Seattle coach. "We couldn't slow them down when we needed to."

The Saints, 7-3 and one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South, even looked good when Brees was handing off, despite the absence of their top rushers from last season, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.

Chris Ivory, an undrafted rookie, filled in admirably, with 99 yards and a touchdown dive.

"We played at times as well as we've played all season," Brees said. "That gets you excited because you feel like, man, we're knocking at the door. We are on the cusp. Just imagine if we can continue to kind of get all the weapons back."

Two of Brees' scoring passes went to Marques Colston, for 23 and 22 yards. The other two went to Robert Meachem for three and 32 yards.

Before the third quarter was over, Brees had eclipsed 300 yards in a game for the 35th time as a Saint, extending another record he already held.

With the tight end Jeremy Shockey sidelined by bruised ribs, Brees found Shockey's rookie understudy, Jimmy Graham, five times for 72 yards.

"We had some weapons last year," Brees said, "but I think we have some guys emerging now that we really have a lot of places that we can spread this ball around."

The Saints, who have won four of their past five games, did not have things all their own way as Seattle (5-5) showed they could throw on New Orleans' top-ranked pass defence like no one had all season. Matt Hasselbeck was 32 of 44 for 366 yards, the most allowed by New Orleans in 2010.

Hasselbeck connected with Mike Williams six times for 109 yards. He also hit Ben Obomanu five times for 87 yards, including one 42-yard gain and a short touchdown.

Seattle had trouble keeping up on the scoreboard because of Marshawn Lynch's two fumbles and because four promising drives ended with field goals.

"It's really tough when you are playing against a great player like Drew Brees," Hasselbeck said. "Obviously he was real hot and when a guy like that is making plays and throwing touchdowns like he did and keeping drives alive, well, it's really hard to win."