On Monday night, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints put on a show that every fan in attendance, and every person watching won't soon forget while breaking Dan Marino's hallowed record for passing yards in a season. Though it is easier to throw the ball in this day and age, it is still a massive accomplishment.
While some felt the Saints ran up the score, there's one thing that Brees did last night. He cashed in his chips acquired over a storied, and now record-breaking career.
Think about this. In sports (fairly or unfairly), when there's a hot topic about what transpires on or off a playing field, we often look at who did it. In this case, one of the nicest guys around by all accounts was perceived to have run up the score. Truthfully, that's partly why he is getting a pass today. If it was Tom Brady, the feeling nationwide wouldn't be the same.
Still, some writers on Tuesday morning are taking issue with "the way" in which the Saints did it. Did they run up the score? If you put just the game situation down on paper, the answer would obviously be yes. However, last night the circumstances were far greater, and a golden opportunity was presented to Sean Payton, Brees, and the Saints.
Which is why, in this case I have absolutely no problem with what happened. How about we do an exercise. Let's lay out the sequence of the 4th quarter will shed light on why this happened. Because the Saints actually weren't trying for the record on their two prior drives in the final quarter.
Brees was 30 yards away from the record by the time the 4th quarter rolled around. The first time the Saints got the ball, the score read 31-16- a comfortable lead, but that could have changed with one play. So what happened? The Saints ran it twice, and went three and out after Chris Ivory failed to convert a 3rd and 1.
Then Malcolm Jenkins' fumble return for a touchdown put away any doubt with 11:09 remaining in the game. The Saints were not going to give away a 22-point lead. All eyes from that point were squarely focused on the record.
After the Falcons' next drive stalled inside the Saints' 10-yard line on downs, Brees still wasn't going full out for the record. The Saints, after taking over with 8:16 remaining ran for negative yardage on 1st down, putting them behind the chains. That gave the green light for a pass to try to get enough first downs to milk the clock. Brees was nearly picked off on 2nd down. Then on 3rd and 12, Brees did drop back to throw. Yet he didn't force anything. Instead, he tried to run for it to keep the drive alive. Because that was of the utmost importance to the Saints.
New Orleans had to punt again after going three and out once more. That's when, of all scenarios, a failed 4th down by the Falcons in their own territory became the fateful turn gave Payton and Brees another green light to go for history. The Falcons had been held to a 4th and 1 at their own 33-yard line. Instead of punting, and possibly ending this whole debate, Atlanta went for the first down. They didn't make it, which meant a short field with still 5:08 remaining. You can't run the clock out at that point by just sitting on the ball. What's a team to do?
Let's see. I have a short field. I have a quarterback who needs just 30 yards for a record. It's prime time against my biggest rival, and they GAVE me this field to work with. I can't run the clock out yet. Plus, think about this. Would Brees, Payton, and company want to go through a week of answering questions about the unbroken record with still a game remaining?
At that point, Falcons players had to know what would come next. You're in a stadium filled with over 70,000 fans that came to see two things- their team win, and history. Brees has always played not only for his coach, the organization, and his teammates in his whole career. He has also played for the fans, and that's one circumstance that isn't being taken into account.
Some people are calling it classless. In particular, Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports, and Pete Prisco of cbssports.com have taken big issue with the late score. One Falcons player quoted in Prisco's article took offense as well, but remained nameless. Really? What are you afraid of, nameless person? You put the statement out there, and didn't have the marbles to attach your name to it? That's a classless move in itself.
As for Cole and Prisco, these guys have probably never played a down of organized football in their lives. Neither have I, but again I'm not taking issue with what happened in that record-breaking moment. Again, the Saints were about to prepare for Brees breaking the record next Sunday against Carolina with the way the 4th quarter was playing out. If Smith punted, we might not even be having this discussion. However, the opportunity fell into Brees' lap.
Another point is that next week is never guaranteed. What if Brees had a Week 17 game similar to what happened in his last year in San Diego when he hurt his shoulder? That's called taking something for granted. Brees and Payton realized instead of facing a whole week's worth of questions, they have been presented the chance to get the chase over with now. Remember, they're still fighting for the 2-seed although it's highly unlikely that San Francisco will lose next week to St. Louis.
Another thing I don't want to hear is the comparison to Michael Strahan's ack record. This situation doesn't even compare to that broken record, which was a pure set up in the moment by Brett Favre. Nobody can convince me otherwise.
This record by Brees was earned over an MVP-type season for Brees. The Saints are showing the same offensive balance that won the Super Bowl two years ago, and they are looking the part of Green Bay's biggest threat in the NFC.
On another note, kudos to Dan Marino as well who expressed his congratulations to Brees. He did bring up the obvious point that it is a league that is heavily favoring quarterbacks now, but that is an undeniable truth. It has become a passing league today, and everyone knows that.
Still, this was a record that stood 27 years, and if anybody was going to break it, it would be the same man who came ever so close in 2008. That man who has been recognized as one of the classiest guys in the NFL, and along with his coach, decided to cash those chips in.
Bottom line- Brees earned this record, and did it with still a game to spare. Now the Saints can focus on the post-season, and everybody that's crying about this being a "tainted" record because of "the way it happened" could just wake up. Or you can just go look at the Major League Baseball records broken in the last decade.
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