On the night after Christmas, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke an NFL record that had stood for nearly three decades, and New Orleans beat its archrival Atlanta 45-16 to clinch the fifth division crown in franchise history. The victory keeps the Saints (12-3) in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, and its convincing nature offered further evidence no team in football is more explosive than New Orleans.
The Saints, undefeated at home this season, have now won seven in a row.
All of those heartwarming holiday milestones the team reached paled, however, to Brees breaking Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 passing yards in a season. Brees threw for 307 yards in the game, but it was a 9-yard scoring pass to running back Darren Sproles with 2:51 remaining, and the Saints already holding a commanding lead, that gave him 5,087 for the season.
Brees thrust a fist into the air exultantly and then was mobbed by teammates led by guard Carl Nicks. Even referee Jeff Triplette came over and shook Brees’ hand. The performance also left Brees as the only player in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season twice.
“It was a big win, a special night for us with all of it kind of culminating in one game,” Coach Sean Payton said.
Brees’ record overshadowed a more sustained assault the Saints are putting on the NFL’s offensive record book, in an outing that left the already playoff-bound Falcons (9-6) completely outclassed by the divisional champ. For example, Brees also extended his streak of consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass to 42 as he chases a mark even older than Marino’s — Johnny Unitas’ 47. Similarly, the Saints amassed 463 yards, leaving them with 6,857 yards for the season and 219 short of the all-time record set by the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf.”
New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees reflects upon breaking Dan Marino’s passing record New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees reflects upon breaking Dan Marino’s passing record In the post-game press conference, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees talks about the special moment when he broke Dan Marino’s all-time passing record, and how much it was a ‘team record,’ not an individual record. Watch video
“There’s a lot still to be written, and we look forward to that,” Payton said.
The Saints now host the Carolina Panthers on New Year’s Day in a game that holds significance only if the San Francisco 49ers lose at St. Louis on the same day. In that case, a Saints’ victory would give them the No. 2 seed and a bye in the playoffs before hosting a home game.
From the outset Monday night, a setting in which the Saints traditionally play superb football, it was clear New Orleans was a team on a mission.