NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints celebrated their home opener with a victory.
The Minnesota Vikings were left still looking for a running game in the absence of Adrian Peterson — and with a rookie at quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Brees passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns, and the Saints won for the first time this season, 20-9 over Minnesota on Sunday.
For the Vikings, the loss capped a week of distractions as the club first announced that Peterson would play, then later changed course and said the star running back would leave the team indefinitely to deal with child abuse allegations.
Minnesota then lost starting quarterback Matt Cassel with a foot injury early in the second quarter. He was replaced by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 12 of 20 for 150 yards while leading two scoring drives that both ended with field goals.
Brees’ scoring passes went for 34 yards to tight end Josh Hill and 18 yards to receiver Marques Colston.
The Vikings were as close as 13-9 on Blair Walsh’s 40-yard field goal early in the second half, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on what should have been a drive-stalling sack helped New Orleans pull away again.
Captain Munnerlyn got to Brees first, but was called for a personal foul when he swung the star quarterback around and slammed him to the turf while safety Robert Blanton piled on.
Brees tried to get up quickly and angrily shoved Blanton, who was slow getting off the QB, but no more flags were thrown, and the Saints wound up with a first down at their 47.
Soon after, Brees found rookie Brandin Cooks on a screen for a 19-yard gain to the Minnesota 18, and then hit Colston, who surged through Blanton’s tackle attempt to make it a two-score game again.
Colston had two catches for 25 yards, one week after he was held without a catch for the first time in 87 games. His touchdown marked the 64th time he and Brees connected for a score. Only six other quarterback-receiver tandems have combined for more in NFL history.
The score moved Brees and Colston ahead of the Hall of Fame pair of quarterback Johnny Unitas and receiver Raymond Berry.
Cooks had eight catches for 74 yards while tight end Jimmy Graham added five catches for 54 yards.
Greg Jennings led Vikings receivers with five catches for 70 yards, while Cordarrelle Patterson added four catches for 61 yards.
But without Peterson, Minnesota finished with 59 yards rushing as a team and was outgained by New Orleans in total yards, 396-247.
The Saints entered the game looking about as competitive as a winless team could be, having held leads in the final 10 seconds of regulation in each of their first two games before losing by a field goal or less.
Both of those losses came on the road before the Saints returned in Week 3 to the Superdome, where they did not lose all of last season.
The Saints have won their past 18 home games in which coach Sean Payton was on the sideline, going 9-0 in 2011, including a playoff win, before Payton was suspended in 2012 in connection with the NFL’s bounty probe.
Brees looked comfortable early on, completing his first nine passes for 108 yards while engineering touchdown drives on the Saints first two possessions.
Pierre Thomas capped the opening drive with a 1-yard dive over the pile. Hill’s TD made it 13-0 before Shayne Graham’s extra point kick was deflected wide.
Cassel then drive Minnesota deep into Saints territory, but left the game after a 5-yard scramble that set up the Vikings’ first field goal early in the first quarter.
Bridgewater took over on Minnesota’s first series and led Minnesota 51 yards on 10 plays to set up Walsh’s second field goal.