LOS ANGELES -- The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers extended their unbeaten starts to the season on Sunday as Drew Brees made a winning return from injury for the New Orleans Saints.
As the NFL's regular season reached its halfway point, reigning Super Bowl champions New England and the resurgent 49ers remain the only two undefeated teams in the league.
On Sunday, Tom Brady shepherded the Patriots to a 27-13 win over the hapless Cleveland Browns at Foxborough to leave New England on top of the AFC East with a perfect 8-0 record.
Brady threw two touchdowns and 259 yards, connecting with favoured receiver Julian Edelman twice for scores in the first and third quarters.
In Santa Clara, meanwhile, Brady's former understudy Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers in a 51-13 rout of the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium.
Garoppolo threw for two touchdowns and 175 yards in a game which saw San Francisco's defense dominate once more.
Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen was picked off three times and sacked seven times in a bruising outing. The 49ers now lead the NFC West with eight wins out of eight.
- Brees-y does it -
Elsewhere Sunday, New Orleans quarterback Brees showed no sign of the injury that sidelined him for five weeks in a 31-9 defeat of the Arizona Cardinals.
Brees, who suffered a torn thumb ligament in week two, threw for three touchdowns and 373 yards to fire the Saints at their home Superdome.
The Saints improved to 7-1 with the win, cementing their place at the top of the NFC South.
"It felt really good," the 40-year-old Brees said afterwards.
"The last five weeks have been tough. I had a lot of excitement early on today, just shaking rust off.
"I love the game and love to be able to be out there with my team-mates ... that was my motivation to get back out there."
Zane Gonzalez had given the Cardinals an early lead with a 50-yard field goal in the first quarter as Brees and the Saints offense started slowly.
But New Orleans levelled with a 58-yard field goal of their own from Wil Lutz before scoring their first touchdown after an eight-yard rush from Latavius Murray into the end zone.
Brees connected with Murray in the third quarter to stretch the Saints' lead to 17-6 after the Cardinals had turned over possession deep in their own territory after failing to convert a fourth down chance.
Although Gonzalez bagged his third field goal to reduce the deficit, New Orleans responded swiftly with Brees leading a five-play 75-yard drive before connecting with Taysom Hill on a short pass to make it 24-9.
A fourth quarter drive that ended with Brees picking out receiver Michael Thomas for nine yards completed the scoring.
- Seahawks, Rams win -
In other games on Sunday, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks were given a scare en route to a 27-20 road win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Seahawks, who improved to 6-2 with the victory, had looked to be in complete control after taking a 24-0 second quarter lead against a Falcons side who are bottom of the NFC South with a 1-7 record.
However the Falcons hit back with touchdowns from running back Brian Hill and tight end Austin Hooper before a late field goal from Matt Bryant made it 27-20 with 1min 24sec remaining.
Atlanta's attempted onside kick however ended in failure and Wilson was able to run down the clock to close out the win.
In Sunday's London fixture, last year's beaten Super Bowl contenders the Los Angeles Rams bagged a second straight road victory with a 24-10 defeat of the winless Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterback Jared Goff threw for 372 yards from 17-of-31 attempts with two touchdowns, the highlight a 65-yard touchdown after a flea-flicker trick play to Cooper Kupp.
© Agence France-Presse
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