The question was not whether New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees would break Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record of 5,084 yards set in 1984 — the question was when he'd do it. After all, Brees came close in 2008, when he threw for 5,069 yards, and with teams passing more than ever before, it made sense that Brees would be the first — and perhaps not the last — to re-set the mark in 2011.
It was also appropriate that the deciding throw was a fourth-quarter touchdown to running back Darren Sproles, a free-agent pickup from the San Diego Chargers who has defined the Saints' high-powered offense as much as anyone since Brees and head coach Sean Payton both came to New Orleans in 2006. Brees had also been with the Chargers, and some thought that he would never be the same after a shoulder injury in late 2005.
Those people were right — now, he's so much better. Finishing with 5,087 yards on the night with one game left in the season, Brees was just as happy that the Saints sewed up the NFC South title with a 45-16 thrashing of the Atlanta Falcons.
"Honestly, I was really trying not to think about the record or anything — I knew we were close," Brees said after the game. "A couple guys mentioned it to me on the sideline, and I didn't want to hear it. It's like a pitcher with a no-hitter, I guess. I was just thinking about throwing completions and scoring a touchdown. Sproles did a great job of getting inside on that deal, he caught it, and I just got bum-rushed by the offensive linemen. I figured at that point, we probably broke the record, or else they wouldn't be hoisting me up like this.
"I knew after the touchdown to [Robert] Meacham that we were really close. Then we had a couple of those drives that just stalled out, and I thought, 'You've gotta be kidding me.' Especially since through the whole game, we were converting third downs and doing all the right things offensively. Yet, we couldn't put a drive together in the fourth quarter. I thought, 'We've got to get the ball back, go down and score and put it together. If it happens, it happens, but if it doesn't, at least we finish strong.' But we finished strong and got the record as well."
Finally, Brees was asked what he will tell his little boys about what Daddy did? "Well, they were at home sleeping tonight, but they might have felt a reverberation that the Superdome created with all the noise in here. I love our fans, and I love that everybody can be a part of this. There are so many people who are a part of this. It's not about me — it's about this team and this city. It's about these fans — so many people who contributed to this. I'm happy for them."
With 4,897 passing yards through 15 games, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could break Marino's record -- and Brees' record -- as well.
[Slideshow: Drew Brees' record-setting night]
For his part, Marino put forth a classy gesture via his Twitter account.
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