EDITOR’S NOTE: At press time, New Orleans led Miami 35-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for 337 yards and four touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints began to turn a clash of unbeaten teams into a laugher by taking a 35-10 lead over the Miami Dolphins through three quarters Monday night.
Brees was 23 of 31 passing, including scoring strikes of 27 and 43 yards to tight end Jimmy Graham as the Saints closed in on their first 4-0 start since their Super Bowl title season of 2009.
Brees also had scoring passes of 13 yards to Darren Sproles and 4 yards to tight end Benjamin Watson.
Sproles scored the game’s first touchdown on a 5-yard run, but really gave Miami fits in the passing game, hauling in seven receptions for 114 yards, including a 48-yarder on the game’s opening series to set up his scoring run. Marques Colston had five catches for 76 yards.
Miami’s Lamar Miller had 62 yards rushing on 11 carries, including a 5-yard scoring run late in the second quarter that made it 14-10, but the Saints began to run away with the game after that.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 16 of 26 for 189 yards, but accounted for two Dolphins turnovers on a fumble and interception — each one starting a Saints touchdown drive.
As the Saints pulled away, they also turned up their pass rush, sacking Tannehill three times in the third quarter.
Brees completed his first three passes for 70 yards. He followed up his long pass to Sproles with an 18-yard completion to rookie Kenny Stills. Soon after, Sproles ran it in, untouched, on a draw play.
During the drive, Brees became only the seventh quarterback to pass for more than 47,000 yards. He ended the drive with 47,030, surpassing Fran Tarkenton’s 47,003 for sixth most yards passing all-time.
Later, Brees’ eighth completion gave him 4,124 in his career, one more than John Elway for fourth all-time in that category.
Miami responded quickly to New Orleans opening score, surprisingly by running the ball. The Dolphins came in averaging 70.3 yards rushing per game, but gained 57 on the ground on their opening series. Miller had 33 yards on one run and Tannehill had a 26-yard gain.
However, New Orleans’ defense tightened up at its 10-yard line, and rookie nose tackle John Jenkins’ tackle behind the line forced Miami to settle for Caleb Sturgis’ 34-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
It was the seventh made field goal in as many tries for Sturgis, a rookie.
Miami was driving for a potential go-ahead score when Tannehill tried to scramble up the middle and was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton. Safety Rafael Bush recovered on the New Orleans 38. That set up a drive that ended with Graham’s leaping, juggling catch as three defenders converged on him.
Later in the half, Jabari Greer intercepted a pass intended for Brian Hartline, and returned it 22 yards to the Miami 23. Several plays later, Sproles made a catch along the left sideline, spun away from a converging defender and scored his second touchdown with 55 seconds left in the half to make it 21-10.