Drew Brees threw for 342 yards and three touchdown passes as the New Orleans Saints extended their winning streak to four games with a 31-17 victory over the visiting Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
Brees went over 4,000 yards for the sixth consecutive season to help New Orleans (9-3) improve to 6-0 at home and open a two-game lead over the Atlanta Falcons atop the NFC South.
Despite a season-high 408 yards from Matthew Stafford, Detroit (7-5) lost for the fifth time in seven games, enabling Green Bay to clinch the NFC North title.
Brees' third TD pass, a 6-yarder to Darren Sproles with 9:44 to play, blunted a comeback attempt by the Lions, who had erased a pair of 17-point deficits and pulled within 24-17 early in the fourth quarter.
During the Saints' four-game winning streak, Brees has thrown 11 scoring passes and been intercepted only once to reach 30 touchdown passes for the fourth season in a row.
Brees extended his own NFL record by completing at least 20 passes for the 32nd consecutive game and threw a TD pass in his 39th straight game to move within eight of tying Johnny Unitas' all-time record.
The Lions repeatedly killed themselves with penalties, committing 11 for 107 yards. They were also forced to play without star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who served the first of a two-game suspension for stomping on a Packers player on Thanksgiving Day.
Detroit fell into a 17-0 hole midway through the second quarter as Brees led a nine-play 97 yard drive capped by rookie Mark Ingram's 14-yard run and followed it with a 67-yard strike to Bobby Meachem on New Orleans’ next possession.
Kevin Smith's 2-yard run capped an 80-yard drive to cut the deficit to 17-7 with 2:28 left in the half, but Brees responded by driving the Saints 80 yards before hitting Lance Moore between defenders in the end zone for a 24-7 halftime advantage.
Brees was 17 of 22 for 252 yards and two touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes.