Colston remains a go-to guy for Saints

Marques Colston catches one of his nine receptions Sunday night against division rival Carolina. Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to believe, but New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston had actually managed to slip under the radar again before a vintage performance in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night. He was the Saints’ go-to guy with nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in their 31-13 rout of the Carolina Panthers.

Colston's numbers have taken a bit of a dip in his eighth season. He’s on pace for 70 catches, 880 yards and five touchdowns (including one game missed with a knee injury).

But the Saints’ all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns showed Sunday night that he’s still as reliable as ever.

“He has been amazingly consistent,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who said earlier this year he had found himself comparing Colston’s career numbers with those of former New York Jets standout Al Toon (father of Saints receiver Nick Toon).

Colston and Toon are a good comparison based on their size and style. And it is funny to see how much the passing game has evolved. Toon was a three-time Pro Bowler with two career 1,000-yard seasons and 31 touchdowns in eight years. Colston has never made the Pro Bowl despite six 1,000-yard seasons and 62 touchdown catches in eight seasons.

“We started looking at every number Marques has, and he just goes about his job in a (quiet) way,” Payton said. “I think at times the way we utilize receivers doesn’t help in regards to postseason accolades. But I am glad we have him. Each week -- we are going on eight years now, it doesn’t seem that long -- but he is good in the slot, he’s strong, he has strong hands in traffic. And he made some big plays tonight and got us going.”

Colston’s first catch of the night was especially clutch. He extended to make a sensational 21-yard grab near the sideline on third-and-9, when the Saints were trailing 6-0 and in danger of starting the game with two straight three-and-outs. After that, the Saints got rolling. Colston scored the first two touchdowns and had a third that was overturned by replay review because his knee hit down inside the 1-yard line.

Quarterback Drew Brees has thrown all 62 of Colston’s TD passes since they arrived in New Orleans together in 2006. That’s the most TD connections of any current duo in the NFL and seventh in NFL history.

“He absolutely is one of the most underrated players in this league. Has been for his entire career here,” Brees said. “He’s so durable, so reliable, such a big-time playmaker. If you match his numbers up against anybody, I think his consistency ranks up there with just about any name that you’d want to throw out. So certainly I appreciate him very much.”