The Saints are rolling, yet making little progress in the powerful NFC South.
New Orleans won its third straight game Sunday, beating Seattle 34-16 as Drew Brees became the Saints’ all-time completions leader, throwing for four touchdowns. The victory lifted the defending Super Bowl champions to 7-3.
All that’s worth is a tie for the runner-up spot in the division with Tampa Bay, which handed the 49ers their first home shutout since 1977.
Both teams trail Atlanta (8-2), which won its fourth in a row, 34-17 at St. Louis.
“Today we played at times as well as we’ve played all season,” Brees said. “That gets you excited because you feel like, man, we’re knocking at the door.”
All three NFC South teams might storm through that door into the postseason.
“These guys are playing great,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. “I told you guys, stats are for losers. We don’t deal with that. We deal with playing hard, playing fast, playing smart and playing consistent.”
Elsewhere Sunday, the Patriots and Jets remained on top of the AFC East as New England edged Indianapolis 31-28 and New York rallied to beat Houston 30-27; Philadelphia beat the New York Giants 27-17 for the NFC East lead; Pittsburgh and Baltimore still share the AFC North lead after the Steelers routed Oakland 35-3 and the Ravens did the same to Carolina , 37-13; Green Bay moved back into a tie with Chicago atop the NFC North by romping over Brett Favre and Minnesota 31-3; Kansas City broke a tie with Oakland for the AFC West lead by beating Arizona, 31-13; Jacksonville lifted itself even with Indianapolis in the AFC South at 6-4 with a 24-20 win over Cleveland; Seattle remained in the NFC West lead despite the loss at New Orleans; Washington beat Tennessee 19-16 in overtime; Dallas handed Detroit its 26th straight road loss, 35-19; and Buffalo rallied past Cincinnati 49-31.
The Bears blanked Miami 16-0 to open the weekend on Thursday night.
San Diego (4-5) hosts Denver (3-6) on Monday night.
Saints 34, Seahawks 16
At New Orleans, Brees was 29 of 42 for 382 yards and completed his 1,850th pass as a Saint to break a record held by Archie Manning since 1982. Brees hit Marques Colston and Robert Meachem twice each for TDs.
“We are on the cusp,” Brees said. “We had some weapons last year, but I think we have some guys emerging now that we really have a lot of places that we can spread this ball around.”
Matt Hasselbeck was 32 of 44 for 366 yards, the most yards allowed by New Orleans’ top-ranked passing defense this season. But Seattle (5-5) lost two fumbles and had four drives end with field goals.