The Saints needed a win in the worst way when they walked into London's famed Wembley Stadium on Sunday. But so did the San Diego Chargers.
So when two teams desperate for a win to perhaps save their season and avoid a miserable flight home on Monday got together, it was a game of survival. And it was the Saints who dug a little deeper to make that plane ride a lot easier to take with a 37-32 win over the Chargers.
With both teams having a bye this week, the last thing they needed Sunday was another demoralizing setback -- which would make a possible second-half playoff run a lot tougher.
But Saints quarterback Drew Brees wasn't about to let that happen.
Motivated by his departure from the Chargers after the 2005 season, Brees dazzled many of his former teammates in connecting on 31 of 40 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a passer rating of 121.9.
But while Brees put on a clinic for the Chargers, it was the Saints defense that saved the day in the end. With the Chargers moving to a possible game-tying score in the final two minutes, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma intercepted a Philip Rivers pass deep in Saints territory that virtually sealed the win.
"This game was not about me proving a point or proving anybody wrong -- or saying they shouldn't have let me go," Brees said. "We beat a very good team today that needed a victory as badly as we did."
The Chargers, who went into the game with the NFL's 32nd-ranked pass defense, never stopped Brees. He was 28 of 36 for 322 yards through the first three quarters and could have put up even bigger numbers had the Chargers not controlled the ball in the final period as they mounted a comeback that fell just short.
Even close friend LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown and had 65 receiving yards, couldn't help but marvel at Brees' passing exhibition.
"I was sitting on the sideline watching him work his magic," Tomlinson said. "I just kept on thinking, 'When is he going to miss one?'"
Brees didn't miss many, although he did have three incompletions in the final quarter. But he did enough in the third period to get his team over the hump and earn a game ball from coach Sean Payton.
"I thought Drew did a great job," Payton said. "He managed the game and he was crisp and located the ball. I couldn't be happier for him."
RB Reggie Bush did not play against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week.
C Jonathan Goodwin was inactive for Sunday's game with the Chargers because of a left knee injury that he suffered last week at Carolina.
DT Brian Young, who was held out of practice late in the week with knee and foot problems, was inactive Sunday.
WR David Patten, who returned to practice last week after missing three games with a groin injury, did not play against the Chargers.
DT Sedrick Ellis started Sunday after missing three games following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Oct. 3.
CB Aaron Glenn played against the Chargers after missing five games with a right ankle injury.
CB Jason David was a healthy inactive for the first time this season because CB Aaron Glenn was dressed for Sunday's contest.
LG Jamar Nesbit, who missed the last four games because of an NFL suspension, was activated before Sunday's game.
WR Terrance Copper was released to open up a roster spot for LG Jamar Nesbit.
QB Joey Harrington was the Saints' third quarterback.