Tuesday, 27 December 2011 17:41

Atlanta's Coach Smith Says Brees Almost Perfect In Saints-Falcons Match

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falcons_logoBefore the game, Falcons coach Mike Smith said, "Drew Brees is operating at a level we haven't seen," and the Saints quarterback was almost perfect in breaking a 27-year-old NFL passing record and leading his Saints to a NFC South title with a 45-16 thumping of the Falcons on Monday Night Football before a national television audience and a sold out Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

Brees threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles in the fourth quarter to increase his passing yardage for the season to 5,087 and breaking Dan Marino's record.

 "It feels good to be division champs," said Brees. "I feel great to do what we just did on Monday night with the world and the Who Dat Nation watching. This game couldn't be more important than it was.

"Our hopes and aspirations were of winning the division championship and getting the No. 2 seed, and the next step was winning the division. It was a good night."

It was a perfect night because the Saints are still in contention for the No. 2 seed, but the 49ers would have to lose and the Saints (12-3) would have to defeat Carolina this weekend for that to happen.

 Brees said he's not ready to start savoring his spot in history because winning a second Super Bowl is the goal that's been on his mind all season and that hasn't changed.

The Saints next host Carolina on New Year's Day at noon  and that holds significance only if the 49ers lose at St. Louis. If that happens, a Saints victory would give them the No. 2 seed and a bye in the playoffs before hosting a home game.

If the Saints are alive for the No. 2 seed, they could consider resting their starters for the Carolina game.

If Brees doesn't play against Carolina, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could pass up for the all-time single-season passing record.

But the Saints probably will play their starters at least until the scoreboard shows the 49ers comfortably ahead.

The Saints turned a takeaway into a touchdown when Scott Schanlee knocked Julio Jones from the football and Malcolm Jenkins picked it up and raced 30 yards for six points.

Pierre Thomas scored the first Saints touchdown on a nine-yard burst, and Brees threw touchdown passes to Marques Colston (8 yards), Jimmy Graham (9 yards), Robert  Meachem (24 yards) and Sproles ( 9 yards).

Coach Smith wasn't offended by the Saints scoring 45 points.

'It's our job to stop them," said the coach. "It doesn't matter if they are running the ball or throwing it. The job of our defense is to go out and stop them.

"My hat is off to Drew Brees. It's a record that's been long standing. He's had a great season."

The 29-point margin of victory was the largest in the series since the Saints beat the Falcons 38-0 in 1987.

The Saints offense surpassed the highest total in franchise history for total yards (6,857) and finished the game with 463. The single-season record is 7.075 set by the Rams in 2000.

Darren Sproles moved closer to Derrick Mason's record for most total yards in a season. Sproles finished with 236 total yards (67 rushing, 22 receiving and 147 returns) and sits at 2,528 for the season. Mason finished with 2,690 yards in 2000.

Sproles hasn't set the franchise record for all-purpose yards in a season. Michael "Bud Man" Lewis holds that record with 2,647, which trails only Mason.

How the national media saw the game...

Don Banks, SI.com -- "On a night when he stood taller than any other NFL quarterback ever, at least in one very historic sense, it's ironic that Drew Brees couldn't see much of the record-breaking feat he had just wrought.

"As it turns out, the quarterback they once said was too short to play in the league, had his sight line blocked once more.

"I didn't see anythin  except big linemen's facemasks," said Brees when asked what he saw of the football that broke Dan Marino's record for single-season passing yardage. After it was caught by Sproles, for a nine-yard touchdown. "I threw it to Sproles, and the next thing you know, I'm getting bum-rushed."

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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