New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees broke the NFL record for passing yards in a single season on Monday Night Football against the Atlanta Falcons. As AP reported :

Drew Brees has broken the NFL record for yards passing in a season, surpassing a mark that had stood since Dan Marino set it in 1984.

Brees topped Marino’s record of 5,084 yards with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

Brees entered the game with 4,780 yards, needing 305 to set the record. He has passed for 300 yards or more an NFL-record 12 times this season — with one game still to play.

Brees threatened Marino’s record once before in 2008, when he finished with 5,069 yards, making him and Marino the only quarterbacks to pass for 5,000 yards in a season.

Brees and the Saints dismantled their divisional rivals from Atlanta 45-16 with a strong offensive performance and a defense which held the Falcons to one touchdown. As AP explained:

The Atlanta Falcons might have beaten the New Orleans Saints if not for a failed fourth-and-1 in their own territory in overtime when they met earlier this season.

Now the gap seems much wider.

Falcons coach Mike Smith was quick to congratulate Brees and also to criticize his own squad, which came in hoping to remain in the hunt to repeat as division champions.

“We didn’t really play well enough in any phase of the game to give ourselves a chance to win,” Smith said. “There were some opportunities early on, and then it kind of got out of hand there at the end. ... It’s not the type of effort that you want to have with so much on the line with what the outcome could have meant to our team.”

Matt Ryan had 373 yards passing and one TD, including a 21-yard scoring strike to Julio Jones that gave the Falcons (9-6) a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. But that turned out to be Atlanta’s only touchdown and the Saints (12-3) took the lead for good on their next drive when Brees hit Marques Colston for an 8-yard score.

“We have to get a lot better in the red zone,” Ryan said. “We needed a lot more touchdowns than the field goals we got out there.”

Atlanta finished with 469 total yards, six more yards than New Orleans, only to lose by more than four touchdowns. However, a lot of the Falcons’ yards came through the air after they were behind and had to abandon the running game, which accounted for only 35 yards.

Jones had eight catches for 128 yards and Roddy White had 11 catches for 127 yards.

Brees broke Marino’s record on his final throw of the game and it gave him 5,087 yards passing — with one game still to play. Marino finished with 5,084 yards for the Miami Dolphins in 1984.

Minutes after Brees broke the record, Marino offered congratulations on his Twitter account.

“Great job by such a special player,” Marino wrote.

In an NFL season with several quarterbacks close to breaking the 5,000 yard mark in passing, will Drew Brees ’ record be considered as significant as Dan Marino’s? As Cindy Boren reported :

It’s pretty easy to add an “est” to every word used to describe the season Drew Brees is having, now that he has broken Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-season record for passing yardage Monday night.

Brees completed 23 of 39 passes for four touchdowns (along with two interceptions) and 307 yards — a record 12th 300-yard passing game — as the Saints beat the Falcons 45-16. With 5,087 yards, he is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 twice — he had 5,069 in 2008.

But does Brees’ achievement pale next to Marino’s, which was accomplished at a time when NFL rules didn’t empower and protect quarterbacks and receivers?

“His throws were unbelievably accurate and he did this during a ferocious era of NFL defense,” CBS’s Mike Freeman wrote a few weeks ago, suggesting the new record deserves an asterisk. “The 1980s were one of the more violent in football when athleticism on the defensive side of the ball, in many ways, was better than the offense. Players like Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White and Ronnie Lott, among many others — head hunters and rib breakers — were allowed great latitude to do massive damage to wide receivers and quarterbacks. Receivers weren't protected and quarterbacks were brutalized. Though Marino's quick release helped to protect him from many major hits (though far from all of them) his receivers were hammered.”

As great as Marino’s record looks now, just a wait a few years. As Ross Tucker points out, it won’t be long until it will be the only pre-2010 figure in the top 10.

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