Saints' Michael Thomas channels Joe Horn with cellphone TD celebration

NEW ORLEANS -- Michael Thomas brought back one of the most memorable touchdown celebrations in NFL history on Sunday, channeling former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn from 2003 when he retrieved a hidden cellphone from around the bottom of the goalpost.

The celebration followed a 72-yard touchdown catch that gave the Saints a 45-35 lead over the Los Angeles Rams and gave Thomas 12 catches for 211 yards. That wound up being the final score in the battle for NFC supremacy.

Thomas was penalized for the celebration, which obviously was premeditated. He will be fined at least $13,369. Horn was fined $30,000 15 years ago, but it was his second violation of that season.

Thomas was coy on some details, including where he got the phone and whether anyone else helped him put it there.

"Umm, I think someone ... I think Joe Horn left it," he said.

But he acknowledged that he had a cellphone waiting in both end zones and said he decided to do the celebration Sunday morning.

Thomas said he doesn't know Horn well and didn't speak to him about the celebration. But he said he studied YouTube clips and made sure to track down an old-school flip phone to add a vintage touch.

"I paid a tribute to him, tried to get the crowd going a little bit more, set the tone, have fun out there, giving people a show," Thomas said. "You gotta have fun. All these guys just catching touchdowns and celebrating with each other, having fun, getting the crowd involved. I felt like I had an opportunity to make it happen, put the game away and make a call."

Horn told ESPN the gesture "absolutely" meant a lot to him. Horn said he texted Thomas and "thanked him for doing what most athletes in his position would never do."

Horn also let Thomas know that he ordered the receiver's No. 13 jersey to wear when he attends any Saints events -- "hopefully the Super Bowl."

"It took a lot of courage ... and I appreciate that, and I'll never forget that," Horn said.

Saints coach Sean Payton didn't give the celebration his approval, saying after the game, "He played outstanding today. I mean, I wasn't all fired up about the penalty -- we'll get it figured out and handled -- but he had a great game."

Thomas said Payton told him to "just be smart."

"Be smart and don't hurt your team," Thomas said. "And he loves the way I play, and of course he knows I'm not doing anything to hurt the team. But as the coach and the leader of this organization, [he reminded me] you gotta be smart."

Several of Thomas' teammates praised his celebration.

"That's a legend move, right?" Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan told reporters. "I don't even know, where do you get a flip phone this day and age? Is that a Walgreens plug? A Walmart plug? I'm looking forward to where he got that from. Cricket? Boost Mobile?"

Running back Mark Ingram gave Thomas a free pass for the penalty, saying the kickoff coverage team has to back him up in that instance.

"When your man's done something like that -- like, legendary like that -- the kickoff team's gotta go cover because that was legendary," Ingram said.

As for the touchdown play, Payton said the Rams' defense doubled down on running back Alvin Kamara low, which freed up Thomas to beat cornerback Marcus Peters one-on-one -- a matchup Payton said he liked "a lot" heading into the game.

Thomas' catch-and-run was the biggest play on an afternoon when several of the NFL's biggest offensive stars were on display. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns, and Kamara scored three touchdowns to outduel Jared Goff, Todd Gurley II & Co.

The Saints (7-1) have emerged as the NFC's team to beat after handing the Rams (8-1) their first loss of the season.

Thomas' 211 receiving yards were the most in a single game in Saints history, though his 12 catches weren't even a personal best. He had 16 catches in Week 1 and 12 in Week 2 this season. The Saints' previous single-game receiving record, 205 yards, was set by Wes Chandler in 1979.

A second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2016, Thomas has shared his desire to be considered among the NFL's top receivers, saying through social media and in a recent conversation with ESPN's Josina Anderson that he thinks he still has something to prove.

Thomas has had some volatile moments on social media, including an intense back-and-forth with Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. He came out for pregame introductions before a recent home game against the Redskins wearing a ski mask, which Payton said he didn't care for.

Asked if the cellphone celebration was part of his desire to get more recognition, Thomas said, "This was a big stage. Every week, we preach that the next game is the biggest game, and just preparing the right way, being honest with myself, correcting my mistakes during the week, taking detailed notes.

"I live for games like this," he added, saying of the touchdown catch specifically, "and I live for those type of moments."

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this week that Thomas' agent, David Mulugheta, terminated his relationship with the wide receiver, even though Thomas is likely in line for a huge payday in the next year or two.

Thomas declined to discuss the split, saying, "I'm just playing football. I'm just trying to play the best football of my career. I'm not here to talk about agents. I'm here to talk about the Saints."

Brees, meanwhile, has completed 19 touchdown passes of 70-plus yards in his career, breaking a tie with Eli Manning for the most by any player since the 1970 merger.

The Saints actually had two notable touchdown celebrations Sunday. Tight end Benjamin Watson announced that he and his wife are expecting twins (their sixth and seventh children) by tucking the football under his shirt to mimic a pregnant belly and holding up seven fingers.

"Going from the Watson 5 to the Watson 7," he said.

ESPN's Darren Rovell contributed to this report.