NEW ORLEANS -- Quarterback Drew Brees riddled an injury-depleted Dallas Cowboys defense for 392 passing yards and four touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints set an NFL record with 40 first downs in a 49-17 win Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who now serves in the same capacity for the Saints, exacted a strong measure of revenge against the team that fired him.
In improving their record to 7-2 -- and keeping a one-game edge on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South -- the Saints hounded Dallas quarterback Tony Romo into a scattershot performance. While Brees completed 19 consecutive passes en route to a 34-of-41 night, Romo finished 10 of 24 for 128 yards and one touchdown. He did not complete a pass to a wide receiver until early in the second half.
With the Saints piling up 625 yards of total offense, Brees engineered six touchdown drives of at least 75 yards. The Cowboys, meanwhile, gained only 193 yards. New Orleans dominated Dallas in every category, building a 40-9 edge in first downs.
Brees threw touchdowns to wide receiver Marques Colston (22 yards), running back Pierre Thomas (2) running back Darren Sproles (28) and wide receiver Kenny Stills (52).
The rout was so complete that even the Saints' running game found life. Running back Mark Ingram, who entered the game with just 50 yards on 21 carries and was the target of boos, exploded for 145 yards on 14 attempts. He ripped off a career-high 34-yard run and later scored from 4 yards out, dropping to his knees and raising his arms. It was Ingram's first 100-yard game as a pro.
Ryan transformed the Saints' defense in one season, and his defensive unit stoned the Cowboys on third down. Dallas (5-5) failed to convert on any of its eight third-down situations and dropped into a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
Brees and the Saints' offense were so efficient in the first half it looked as though they were competing in seven-on-seven practice drills.
After Ingram dropped a pass over the middle -- a play that could have gone for a 30-yard gain -- Brees settled down to complete 19 consecutive passes, tying his career best established in a 2009 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brees accounted for 169 yards on those throws, leading the Saints to touchdowns on four consecutive possessions as they built a 28-10 halftime lead. Brees was 26 of 30 for 252 yards in the half.
Dallas led twice early in the game -- 3-0 on a 37-yard field goal by Dan Bailey that came after Sproles muffed a punt at the New Orleans 22, and 10-7 on a 7-yard touchdown by running back DeMarco Murray early in the second quarter.
The Cowboys' ailing defense got weaker when linebacker Sean Lee limped to the sideline in the second quarter due to a left hamstring injury.
NOTES: The Saints unveiled their new Superdome Ring of Honor at halftime with three inaugural inductees: quarterback Archie Manning (1971-82), linebacker Rickey Jackson (1981-93) and left tackle Willie Roaf (1993-2001). Manning was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and he was the league's MVP in 1978. Jackson registered 136 sacks in 15 seasons and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Roaf, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012, made 11 Pro Bowls in 13 seasons. ... The Cowboys' defense received a small lift with the return of DE DeMarcus Ware, who missed three games with a quad injury. He got a first-half sack of Brees. Since the start of the season, the Cowboys suited up 15 defensive linemen in a game, and 32 linemen "have come through the doors," said Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones. "Hopefully, at the end of the day, we will be finding some young players for our future."