Brees blowing past passing records

Drew Brees will bring his incredible passing proficiency into the Metrodome to face a depleted Vikings secondary. What Brees has accomplished this season is amazing. We look at the records and how he got there with a distribution scheme that doesn't discriminate.

When Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans, there wasn't a lot of fanfare. He had essentially been run out of San Diego after the Chargers drafted Eli Manning, Eli's dad got involved and strong-armed his kid out of Southern California for an orchestrated trade to the Big Apple. In return, the Chargers got Philip Rivers and the handwriting was on the wall. Somebody had to go and that somebody was Brees.

After posting a pair of solid seasons with Rivers hanging out over his shoulder, a significant shoulder injury made the Chargers' decision much easier. Brees would be a free agent, able to negotiate a deal with any team willing to take the risk on him.

Only two teams expressed a serious interest – New Orleans and Miami. Miami took itself out of the bidding when it cut a deal with Brad Childress and the Vikings to trade a second-round pick for Daunte Culpepper, leaving Brees with only one option – heading into the Big Easy to help revive one of the league's most anemic franchises.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it would be interesting to see what kind of bidding wars would have ensued had the 30 teams that passed on him known what Brees would accomplish. Now in his sixth season with the Saints, Brees has never thrown for less than 4,350 yards and has seasonal touchdown totals of 26, 28, 34, 34, 33 and 32 (13 games into the 2011 season). He doesn't have a Randy Moss/Andre Johnson/Reggie Wayne/Calvin Johnson type of dominating go-to receiver, but he has found an inexplicable way to be the most prolific passer of the last five years by having a bunch of complementary receivers that work well together and more than get the job done.

While the current chase of the single-season records is impressive given how long the records have stood, perhaps even more daunting is a record that has stood for more than a half-century. In 1960, Johnny Unitas had a game in which he didn't throw a touchdown pass, snapping a streak of 47 straight games. Brees has been chasing down that record for the last three years and, entering play Sunday, his current streak sits at 40 and counting.

What Brees has accomplished over the last six years has been phenomenal, but, even by his standards, he has kicked it up a notch this year. If a quarterback had a day where he completed 30 of 42 passes (71 percent) for 336 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 105.9, for many of them, it would be a career day. With Brees, it's his average game through his first 13 games of the 2011 season.

Brees is making his second assault on the all-time single-season yardage record of 5,084 set by Dan Marino in 1984. In 2008, he made his strongest push the longstanding record – falling just 15 yards short in a season in which he threw for 5,069 yards. He has commented this season that he wanted that place in the record books and the Saints have gone out of their way to make sure that happens.

The assault on the record book started in a season-opening loss in a shootout with the defending champion Packers. He completed 32 of 49 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns in the losing effort, but it set the bar for personal passing proficiency that Brees has been chasing down ever since. He has thrown for more than 320 yards 10 times, including six games with 350 yards or more, has thrown three of more touchdowns in six games and has had single-game passer ratings of 100.0 or above in nine games.

With three games to play in the 2011 season, Brees needs to average 239 yards a game – almost 100 yards under his season average – to break the record and, if he continues at his current pace, he will not only break the record that has stood for almost 30 years, but will shatter it by almost 300 yards.

What makes Brees so unique is that he is able to keep so many receivers engaged and happy in an era of diva receivers who grumble if they're not a big part of the passing game from week to week. His top two pass-catchers aren't wide receivers, which makes his accomplishments even more amazing. Tight end Jimmy Graham is on pace to catch almost 100 passes and running back Darren Sproles is on pace to catch 90 passes. By the time all is said and done, Brees will likely have seven receivers catch 30 or more passes and five catch 50 or more. Heading into Sunday's game with the Vikings, Graham has 80 catches, followed by Sproles (74), Marques Colston (58), Lance Moore (45), Pierre Thomas (43), Robert Meachem (33) and Devery Henderson (26). Eight different players have caught touchdown passes and five players have caught four or more.

The uncanny ability of Brees to mix and match his receivers has made contributors of all of them without singling any one of them out as a "go-to guy" that defenses can bracket to take away. If a defensive coordinator schemes to take away Graham or Colston, other receivers step up. Through 13 games, the breakdown of leading receivers from game to game has been as diverse as the talent they bring to the table. Heading into Sunday, Graham has led or tied the team in receptions in a game five times, followed by Sproles (four), Moore (three), Colston (three) and Henderson (one). The same is true in yardage. Graham has led the team in yards gained in six games, but Colston has led the team three times, Henderson has led the team twice and Moore and Meachem have done it once.

The numbers don't skew much when it comes to targets either. Graham is the clear leader at 121, but Sproles has been targeted 96 times, Colston 77 times, Moore 64 times, Thomas 50 times, Meachem 49 times and Henderson 41 times. Brees makes it virtually impossible for a defense to cover everybody in the pattern. Someone invariably has to be open and taking advantage of those mismatches when they present themselves.

Given the Vikings' weakness in a depleted secondary without Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson, and having benched starter Cedric Griffin for ineffectiveness last Sunday, the Saints will be licking their chops at the opportunity to attack the Vikings defense through the air. The Saints make no bones about the fact that they don't need to run the ball to be effective. Rookie Mark Ingram leads the team with 122 rushing attempts (less than 10 a game) and Thomas hasn't ran more than 10 times in any game this year. Not only have the Saints not had a 100-yard rusher all season, they've only have three games in which a player ran for more than 75 yards – and two of those three came in the same game, a beatdown of Indianapolis in which the Saints started running the ball only after Brees had lit up the Colts for five touchdowns.

There are some who believe it's a recipe for disaster to intentionally make an offense one-dimensional and overly pass-heavy. But you don't hear anyone in New Orleans complaining. That theory has already brought them a Super Bowl championship and this year's team is currently on pace to be the best chance for those wanting to see Green Bay's perfect season come to an end.

For a team like the Vikings that is trying to forge a new identity as it hits rock bottom less than two years after outplaying the Saints in their back yard in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, the Saints are the last team they want to see coming into the Metrodome. Brees is willing, able and more than capable of tearing any defense apart in the seams – much less one that is struggling as badly as it has in years. The Vikings can expect an all-out aerial assault and, given the Saints' penchant for passing and not taking their foot off the gas, there is likely a great gnashing of teeth going on as the Vikings prepare for a cool Brees to roll into the Metrodome Sunday.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" When Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans, there wasn't a lot of fanfare. He had essentially been run out of San Diego after the Chargers drafted Eli Manning, Eli's dad got involved and strong-armed his kid out of Southern California for an orchestrated trade to the Big Apple. In return, the Chargers got Philip Rivers and the handwriting was on the wall. Somebody had to go and that somebody was Brees. After posting a pair of solid seasons with Rivers hanging out over his shoulder, a significant shoulder injury made the Chargers' decision much easier. Brees would be a free agent, able to negotiate a deal with any team willing to take the risk on him. Only two teams expressed a serious interest – New Orleans and Miami. Miami took itself out of the bidding when it cut a deal with Brad Childress and the Vikings to trade a second-round pick for Daunte Culpepper, leaving Brees with only one option – heading into the Big Easy to help revive one of the league's most anemic franchises. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it would be interesting to see what kind of bidding wars would have ensued had the 30 teams that passed on him known what Brees would accomplish. Now in his sixth season with the Saints, Brees has never thrown for less than 4,350 yards and has seasonal touchdown totals of 26, 28, 34, 34, 33 and 32 (13 games into the 2011 season). He doesn't have a Randy Moss/Andre Johnson/Reggie Wayne/Calvin Johnson type of dominating go-to receiver, but he has found an inexplicable way to be the most prolific passer of the last five years by having a bunch of complementary receivers that work well together and more than get the job done. While the current chase of the single-season records is impressive given how long the records have stood, perhaps even more daunting is a record that has stood for more than a half-century. In 1960, Johnny Unitas had a game in which he didn't throw a touchdown pass, snapping a streak of 47 straight games. Brees has been chasing down that record for the last three years and, entering play Sunday, his current streak sits at 40 and counting. What Brees has accomplished over the last six years has been phenomenal, but, even by his standards, he has kicked it up a notch this year. If a quarterback had a day where he completed 30 of 42 passes (71 percent) for 336 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 105.9, for many of them, it would be a career day. With Brees, it's his average game through his first 13 games of the 2011 season. Brees is making his second assault on the all-time single-season yardage record of 5,084 set by Dan Marino in 1984. In 2008, he made his strongest push the longstanding record – falling just 15 yards short in a season in which he threw for 5,069 yards. He has commented this season that he wanted that place in the record books and the Saints have gone out of their way to make sure that happens. The assault on the record book started in a season-opening loss in a shootout with the defending champion Packers. He completed 32 of 49 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns in the losing effort, but it set the bar for personal passing proficiency that Brees has been chasing down ever since. He has thrown for more than 320 yards 10 times, including six games with 350 yards or more, has thrown three of more touchdowns in six games and has had single-game passer ratings of 100.0 or above in nine games. With three games to play in the 2011 season, Brees needs to average 239 yards a game – almost 100 yards under his season average – to break the record and, if he continues at his current pace, he will not only break the record that has stood for almost 30 years, but will shatter it by almost 300 yards. What makes Brees so unique is that he is able to keep so many receivers engaged and happy in an era of diva receivers who grumble if they're not a big part of the passing game from week to week. His top two pass-catchers aren't wide receivers, which makes his accomplishments even more amazing. Tight end Jimmy Graham is on pace to catch almost 100 passes and running back Darren Sproles is on pace to catch 90 passes. By the time all is said and done, Brees will likely have seven receivers catch 30 or more passes and five catch 50 or more. Heading into Sunday's game with the Vikings, Graham has 80 catches, followed by Sproles (74), Marques Colston (58), Lance Moore (45), Pierre Thomas (43), Robert Meachem (33) and Devery Henderson (26). Eight different players have caught touchdown passes and five players have caught four or more. The uncanny ability of Brees to mix and match his receivers has made contributors of all of them without singling any one of them out as a \"go-to guy\" that defenses can bracket to take away. If a defensive coordinator schemes to take away Graham or Colston, other receivers step up. Through 13 games, the breakdown of leading receivers from game to game has been as diverse as the talent they bring to the table. Heading into Sunday, Graham has led or tied the team in receptions in a game five times, followed by Sproles (four), Moore (three), Colston (three) and Henderson (one). The same is true in yardage. Graham has led the team in yards gained in six games, but Colston has led the team three times, Henderson has led the team twice and Moore and Meachem have done it once. The numbers don't skew much when it comes to targets either. Graham is the clear leader at 121, but Sproles has been targeted 96 times, Colston 77 times, Moore 64 times, Thomas 50 times, Meachem 49 times and Henderson 41 times. Brees makes it virtually impossible for a defense to cover everybody in the pattern. Someone invariably has to be open and taking advantage of those mismatches when they present themselves. Given the Vikings' weakness in a depleted secondary without Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson, and having benched starter Cedric Griffin for ineffectiveness last Sunday, the Saints will be licking their chops at the opportunity to attack the Vikings defense through the air. The Saints make no bones about the fact that they don't need to run the ball to be effective. Rookie Mark Ingram leads the team with 122 rushing attempts (less than 10 a game) and Thomas hasn't ran more than 10 times in any game this year. Not only have the Saints not had a 100-yard rusher all season, they've only have three games in which a player ran for more than 75 yards – and two of those three came in the same game, a beatdown of Indianapolis in which the Saints started running the ball only after Brees had lit up the Colts for five touchdowns. There are some who believe it's a recipe for disaster to intentionally make an offense one-dimensional and overly pass-heavy. But you don't hear anyone in New Orleans complaining. That theory has already brought them a Super Bowl championship and this year's team is currently on pace to be the best chance for those wanting to see Green Bay's perfect season come to an end. For a team like the Vikings that is trying to forge a new identity as it hits rock bottom less than two years after outplaying the Saints in their back yard in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, the Saints are the last team they want to see coming into the Metrodome. Brees is willing, able and more than capable of tearing any defense apart in the seams – much less one that is struggling as badly as it has in years. The Vikings can expect an all-out aerial assault and, given the Saints' penchant for passing and not taking their foot off the gas, there is likely a great gnashing of teeth going on as the Vikings prepare for a cool Brees to roll into the Metrodome Sunday. 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