HOUSTON - After 10 years of making history together, Sean Payton and Drew Brees did something they'd never done on Sunday. And it wasn't pretty.
That snapped a streak of 155 consecutive games, the second-longest in NFL history. The Saints finished 11 games shy of the record set by the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1969. Worse yet, the Saints lost their third straight game and fell to 4-7 on the year, which virtually eliminated any hope of playoff contention.
"Look, there's a number of losses that get you frustrated, so let's not look for the 'most frustrated ever' headline," Payton said. "It's disappointing to lose a game like that, and certainly it's disappointing to not score a touchdown. That'd be a fair assessment of it."
Brees had his own streak of 45 consecutive games with a TD pass snapped. That was the fifth-longest such streak in NFL history. Brees also ranks first on that list, with a string of 54 straight games from 2009 to 2012. Then come Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas and Brees again.
"I can't say we didn't have our chances," said Brees, who pointed to New Orleans' three trips into the end zone, one of which resulted in an interception in the fourth quarter.
Brees finished 25-of-44 passing for 228 yards, zero TDs and the one interception. He was sacked twice by Houston's sensational defensive end, J.J. Watt. New Orleans finished with 268 total yards. The Saints started 1-of-9 on third downs before finishing 3-of-12. Their eight failed conversions during that stretch came on third-and-9, 14, 12, 23, 11, 10, 20 and 6.
"We talked about, coming into this game, we needed to be really good on first and second down so we were in third-and-manageable situations. Because you get in third-and-long against these guys, you're asking for trouble," Brees said. "And we did that, and you see what the results were. The frustrating part is I know how much better we are. And today we certainly didn't show that."
The Saints' run game wasn't any better. Although they finished with 50 yards because of a couple nice runs by Mark Ingram, they gained minus-4 yards on their first four carries. Their first four screen-pass attempts also got shut down. The Saints committed four offensive penalties in the first three quarters.
"The story of the game was their defense and our inability, offensively, to really sustain a drive," Payton said. "It's a good defense. We knew that going in, and yet we got [missed assignments] on routes, guys busting some basic, basic things. We're on the ground in a couple zone schemes. I mean, there are some things I know when we watch on tape that we're going to be upset about."