Drew Brees breaks Unitas' mark

NEW ORLEANS -- Drew Brees set an NFL record Sunday night with touchdown passes in 48 straight games, breaking the mark set by Johnny Unitas a half-century ago.

The record-setting scoring strike, the first of Brees' four touchdown passes in the Saints' 31-24 win over the San Diego Chargers, was a 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson. After the completion, Brees raced to the end zone to greet Henderson, who incidentally wears the same No. 19 that Unitas wore for the Baltimore Colts.

The rest of New Orleans' offense pursued and swarmed around Brees in celebration.

"I guess you really couldn't have written a better script for tonight," Brees said. "To break the record, to get the win, and the fashion in which we won -- really a complete team effort all the way around.

"The amazing thing about a record like this is it spans over the course of four seasons and hopefully we can keep it going to for a while," Brees said. "There are so many people that are a part of this."

Brees took the game ball to the sideline where he continued to accept congratulations.

"Congrats to @drewbrees & his teammates on breaking Unitas' record. Amazing accomplishment by great QB & leader. We're proud of you, Drew@," commissioner Roger Goodell tweeted.

Unitas set the record between 1956 and '60 and no one had come within 10 games until Brees began to close in late last season. Tom Brady has the third-longest streak, extending his to 37 games Sunday in a victory over Denver.

Coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis -- all three suspended in the NFL's bounty investigation -- were permitted by the NFL at Brees' request to attend the game.

Unitas' son, Joe, also was present.

Times have changed since his father was breaking the touchdown mark.

Unitas earned $7,500 his rookie season in 1956. The NFL rookie minimum this year is $390,000. The most Unitas earned in a year was $250,000 in 1973. Brees will make $40 million this year in bonuses and salary.

Brees, meanwhile, continued to play at the prolific pace that had put him in position to break Unitas' record in the first place. His pinpoint pass to the back of the end zone in the second quarter helped Marques Colston snag his 50th touchdown catch, tying the franchise record set by Joe Horn in 2006.

Brees threw his third TD pass of the night to Colston late in the third quarter, and yet another in the fourth, to help his receiver break Horn's record.

Information from ESPN's Darren Rovell and The Associated Press was used in this report.