Drew Brees Sets Single Season Passing Record

Drew BreesAfter Drew Brees broke an NFL passing record
that stood for nearly three decades, his teammates called on him to
make a speech in the Saints’ locker room.


“This record isn’t
about one person. There might be just one name that goes in ledger under
the record, but it’s really about the team,” Brees told his teammates.
“I want everyone to feel a huge part of this, that this record would not
have been possible without them.”

It was quite a night for Brees and the Saints – a record and a rout.

Brees
set the NFL mark for yards passing in a season, breaking a record Dan
Marino held for 27 years, and New Orleans wrapped up the NFC South title
with a 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

Brees
nearly topped Marino three years ago, finishing with 5,069 yards
passing. But that pursuit rang a little hollow because the Saints were
8-8.

This time, Brees’ prolific passing has
led New Orleans (12-3) to the playoffs and a legitimate shot at its
second Super Bowl in three seasons.

“We all
want this (record) very badly,” Brees began, “but it’s all about winning
and we know if we just focus on that, all that other stuff will take
care of itself.”

Brees threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, the last a 9-yard strike to Darren Sproles that set the record with 2:51 to go.

It
was Brees’ final pass of the game and it gave him 5,087 yards passing –
with one game left. Marino finished with 5,084 yards for the Miami
Dolphins in 1984.

Minutes after Brees broke the record, Marino offered congratulations on Twitter.

“Great job by such a special player,” Marino wrote.

As
Sproles spiked the ball, Brees thrust his fist triumphantly in the air
and started walking toward the sideline while the Superdome crowd went
wild and his teammates chased him down. Offensive guard Carl Nicks was
the first one to get there and tried to lift Brees onto his shoulder,
but couldn’t do it as teammates swarmed around.

“If
I could have put him on my shoulders and paraded him around the whole
stadium I would have done that. He deserves it,” Nicks said. “It’s like a
movie, man. Just a movie ending. It’s beautiful. … You could tell by
everyone’s reaction after he did it how much people care about that guy.
We all love him.”

Brees pushed his touchdown
total to 276, moving him ahead of Joe Montana (273) and Vinny Testaverde
(275) for ninth on the career list. The former Purdue star is the first
quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards twice.

Brees’
first scoring pass went for 8 yards to Marques Colston and the second
for 9 yards to Jimmy Graham. Graham’s TD catch was his 10th of the
season, a franchise high for a tight end. In the third quarter, Brees
hit Robert Meachem for a score from 24 yards to make it 28-10.

The
Saints (12-3) also had 463 total yards, giving them 6,857 offensive
yards for the season, breaking the 2008 club record of 6,571. New
Orleans continues to close in on the NFL record of 7,075 offensive yards
set by the 2000 St. Louis Rams.

Brees might
have broken the record in the third quarter if not for Sproles’ 92-yard
kickoff return, which set up John Kasay’s 29-yard field goal. Brees also
threw two interceptions, but New Orleans was still dominant enough to
take a big lead.

The game became a romp when
Julio Jones was stripped by Scott Shanle and Malcolm Jenkins returned it
30 yards for a score to make it 38-16 in the fourth quarter. The
Superdome crowd was in full celebration by then, but the play also meant
fans would have to wait until later in the fourth quarter before Brees
finally got his chance to break the passing record.

The
Saints can earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye with a win
Sunday over Carolina and a San Francisco loss at St. Louis, which is
2-13.

Atlanta (9-6) is headed to the playoffs as a wild card.

Uncharacteristically,
Brees had only a yard passing during a span of a little more than 18
minutes in the second half. Fans howled, “Drehttp://wwww!”
each time he took the field, and he finally gave them what they wanted
after Atlanta failed on a fourth-down try at its own 33. That gave
Brees, who needed only 30 yards for the record at that point, just
enough space to work with.

The Saints didn’t
need another score, but Saints coach Sean Payton said he thought giving
Brees a chance to go for the record was “appropriate.”

Falcons
coach Mike Smith diplomatically deflected questions about that, saying
only, “It is our job to go out there and stop them. It doesn’t matter if
they are running the ball or throwing the ball.”

Matt Ryan had 373 yards passing and one TD, including an early 21-yard scoring strike to Jones.

“We
didn’t really play well enough in any phase of the game to give
ourselves a chance,” said Smith, whose team came in with a chance to
stay in the hunt for the division title. “It’s not the type of effort
that you want to have with so much on the line with what the outcome
could have meant to our team.”

Pierre Thomas
scored New Orleans’ first touchdown on a 4-yard run, after which he
pulled a bow from his uniform pants, put it on the football and offered
it as a gift to a woman with a parasol in the front row behind the end
zone.

The referees weren’t cutting Thomas any
slack on his Christmas-themed celebration, flagging him for a 15-yard
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Notes: Brees
has passed for 300 yards or more an NFL-record 12 times this season. …
New England quarterback Tom Brady could also pass Marino next week –
and maybe even Brees, too. Brady has thrown for 4,897 yards. … The
Saints are 7-0 at home and never have gone undefeated at home in a full
season.

Source: Brett Martel, The Associated Press