After 27 seasons, the fall of Dan Marino’s single-season passing record is now inevitable.
The only question is which quarterback will set the new mark.
With five games remaining, three of them are on pace to surpass the 5,084 yards that Marino posted in 1984: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady and the player who should be considered the front-runner.
The Giants couldn’t stop Brees and his New Orleans Saints in New York’s 49-24 loss Monday night at the Superdome. For that matter, no other defense has either.
Brees hasn’t passed for less than 258 yards in a game this season. He leads the NFL with 3,689 yards for a blistering per-game average of 335.4 yards.
Brees is not just zooming toward Marino’s record. He’s en route to smashing it with a projected total of 5,366 yards.
“We chased this in ’08,” said Brees, who finished that season with 5,069 passing yards. “I’m really trying not to think about it. I’d be lying to you if I said we didn’t really want to have that record, but it’s all within the framework of winning.”
With three straight wins, the Saints (8-3) are doing just that while Brees continues his march toward history.
Brees scored five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in a 24-of-38, 363-yard, turnover-free effort against the Giants. The only thing he couldn’t do – execute a Michael Jordan-inspired slam dunk over the crossbar after juking Giants free safety Deon Grant on a 8-yard scoring dash in the third quarter.
“I was a little more tired than I thought I would be,” an embarrassed Brees admitted.
That means Brees is human. He only made dismantling the Giants seem effortless.
When it comes to style points, Brees didn’t quite match the ridiculous 31-of-35, five-touchdown performance he posted in a 62-7 rout of Indianapolis six weeks ago. But that outing was against the NFL’s worst team. New York (6-5) entered a half-game behind Dallas (7-4) for first place in the NFC East and with the NFL lead in sacks. Even with the injuries that have affected the unit’s performance in recent weeks – defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle) was the latest casualty during Monday night’s game – the Giants were still expected to put up a better fight.
Instead, New York’s slide toward a third straight season without a playoff berth continued with as dismal a performance as when Brees posted a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating against the Patriots in a 2009 win.
That Saints team went on to win the Super Bowl with the NFL’s top-ranked offense. This Saints team shows earmarks of being even better.
“We’re not there yet, but we have that opportunity,” said Brees, whose team’s 449.6 per-game average is almost 50 yards higher than two seasons ago. “Our guys, they’re seasoned. We have a lot of guys from that ’09 team. The guys who weren’t part of it that we’ve added … not too shabby. The sky’s the limit.”
The 2009 Saints didn’t have a healthy Lance Moore until the playoffs. Moore caught two touchdown passes from Brees in the second quarter against New York.
The 2009 Saints didn’t have a receiving threat at tight end like second-year sensation Jimmy Graham. He added another two scoring catches Monday night, including the 29-yarder that gave New Orleans a 35-10 lead late in the third quarter.
And with all due respect to Reggie Bush and his contributions during New Orleans’ Super Bowl run, free-agent pickup Darren Sproles is proving a more productive all-around player as a rusher, receiver and returner. Sproles, rookie Mark Ingram and five-year veteran Pierre Thomas gashed the Giants for a combined 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Now add receiving talent like Marques Colston – whose 50-yard reception set up a key touchdown just before halftime — and Devery Henderson along with a solid offensive line. The result is the most talented surrounding cast the Saints have assembled in Brees’ six Saints seasons.
“It seems like you never know when you’re getting the ball or it’s going to be your turn,” Graham said. “That’s honestly how I felt out there. Things were just clicking. It seemed like anything we tried seemed to work.”
The Saints can’t always be expected to produce 577 overall yards or mount four scoring drives of at least 78 yards like they did against New York. Then again, Brees thought he underachieved.
“I could have been more efficient,” Brees said without a hint of sarcasm. “I’m hard on myself. Obviously, I expect perfection. I understand that’s impossible to achieve yet you’re always striving for it.”
If perfection is unattainable, achieving the NFL passing record while striving for a Super Bowl isn’t a bad consolation prize.