by Ryan Isley
In sports these days, it seems that some people cannot allow something great to happen without having something negative to say about it.
This happened again on Monday night when Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record of 5,084. There were two different arguments against Brees breaking the record – the first that Brees should not have been throwing that late in a game that was decided and the second that he plays in a more pass happy league than Marino played in.
Let’s look at the argument about Brees and the offense still throwing the ball first.
Brees secured the record with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles with the Saints leading the Atlanta Falcons 38-16 and only 2:51 left to play in the fourth quarter. The touchdown gave the Saints a 45-16 win over their division rivals in a game that clinched the NFC South for New Orleans.
Going into that final drive, Brees was 30 yards short of breaking the mark and the Falcons had just turned it over on downs at their own 33-yard-line, meaning that the Saints were virtually going to have to score if Brees was to set the record on Monday night.
The fact that Brees and the Saints offense was still on the field throwing the ball in a blowout quickly became something to which the negative people could cling once the record was broken. There were people who said the Saints should not have tried to run up the score so that Brees could get the record Monday night and that it could have waited until week 17 when the Saints host the Carolina Panthers.
The argument against that is the Saints are looking to try and clinch home field advantage and a first-round playoff bye if they can beat the Panthers and the St. Louis Rams can somehow upset the San Francisco 49ers. They don’t need the distraction of breaking the record hanging over them for yet another week. They saw the opportunity to get it done and they seized it.
While that argument was easy to make if you just didn’t want to see Brees break the record for some reason, it is irresponsible to call what the Saints did showing up their opponent. The Saints could have easily put up 50+ on the Falcons, but they used their first two possessions of the fourth quarter running the football and going three-and-out. On those two drives, the Saints ran the ball four times and Brees threw just two passes.
When the Falcons were not able to convert on 4th-and-1 for the third time this season against the Saints, Brees and the offense came out onto the field with 5:08 to play and Brees trailing Marino by just 29 yards. After an incomplete pass on first down and a one-yard run on second down, the Falcons had their chance to stop Brees from obtaining the record against them.
Instead, Brees completed passes on each of the next two passes for 12 yards and 11 yards before another incompletion. On the next play, he threw into an area where there were three Falcons defensive players and Sproles. Sproles made the catch for a touchdown and Brees had the record.
If the Falcons players were upset that Brees was still on the field to break the record at that point, they could have done something about it – they could have stopped him. If not on that last drive, then sometime during the first 3+ quarters. The Falcons defense needed to just make one more play sometime during the course of the game and get off the field on third down.
Instead, the Saints were 10-for-13 on third down and picked up the first down on 3rd-and-7 or longer seven times. On third down in the game, Brees was 8-of-9 for 126 yards passing.
This is on the Falcons defense – if you don’t like what your opponent is doing to you, do something about it. This is the NFL and there is no mercy. Not only that but this is a division rival, so they are not going to stop trying to play because your feelings may be hurt. It isn’t like LSU playing some non-FBS school and pulling their starters in the third or fourth quarter to get other players in the game.
For those who want to argue that Brees has the advantage of playing in a more pass friendly league (Marino included), this may be true. On the other hand, the defensive players today are also faster and more athletic than they were when Marino played.
If the league was that much easier now than it was then, this record would not have stood for 27 years with very few challengers. The fact that only one player before this season had even come within 250 yards of this record tells exactly how difficult it is to achieve.
The only player to ever come closer than 250 yards in the 26 previous years was Brees in 2008 when he fell 15 yards short of Marino with an incompletion on the final play of the season. Kurt Warner threw for 4,830 yards in 2001 and was the closest player other than Brees to take a shot at Marino’s record.
The record was so difficult to break this time that it stood for 23 years longer than it did the previous time, when Marino in 1984 broke the record set by Dan Fouts in 1981. In fact, After Joe Namath set the Super Bowl era record in 1967 with 4,007 yards passing, the record was broken four times in 17 years from 1967 to 1984.
The problem is that some people out there just cannot see the positive and enjoy when history is made. They always feel that when a record from a different era is broken, it is somehow tainted. I hate to break the news to those of you who feel this way, but this wasn’t Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing the single-season homerun record in 1998 or Barry Bonds chasing it in 2001. It also wasn’t Bonds chasing the career homerun mark and eclipsing it in 2007. In the case of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, we all knew there was something not right and therefore the records felt cheap. And we were right.
That isn’t the case this time. Not even close.
Brees is clean and does everything the right way. He gave credit to his teammates for the record and never once used “I” when referring to breaking the record, instead consistently using the word “we”. Brees carries himself off the football field the same way he carries himself on the football field. And that is a good thing in this age of sports.
So for once, do yourself a favor – just sit back and enjoy watching one of the “unbreakable” records get broken. And applaud the man who did it.
I know I am.