Heading into Monday night’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees needed 305 passing yards to break Dan Marino’s single season passing record of 5,084 yards set back in 1984. Brees threw for 307 yards and now stands alone – for now, as Tom Brady is sniffing his tail – as the greatest single-season passer of all-time. But the difference between 1984 and 2011 is that now we love to take a huge dump all over a guy’s big moment.
Doing most of the dumping after the Saints’ 45-16 drubbing of the Falcons were the Falcons defensive players, who claim that Brees did the birds dirty by running up the score to get his record. You know, on Monday Night Football, in the Superdome, against the Saints’ bitter rivals, and on the biggest stage of their regular season. What a dick, right? That’s the way the sports media sees it, too, starting with CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco, who thinks Brees’ record will forever be tainted.
The way I see it, what should have been a truly special moment, something that should have happened in the context of the game, and made it tainted with questions.
It won’t overshadow what truly is a special record for one of the greatest passers of this generation, even ever, but it does take some of the gloss off of it.
At first I thought this was just the typical CBS Sports blogger trying to embrace the Skip Bayless contrarian role like Gregg Doyel has almost seemingly mastered, but then I searched a little more and discovered that the feeling is shared by others. Dump away, critics.
Some felt the Saints were running up the score, rubbing salt in the wounds of a bitter archrival when Brees hit Darren Sproles for a 9-yard touchdown pass that gave him 5,087 yards for the season, three better than Marino’s old mark. Others went further, calling the decision classless and disrespectful.
The Falcons’ frustration is understandable. They’d just been embarrassed by their archrivals on national TV in a critical game. It was their most lopsided regular-season loss in years and their fifth setback in the past six meetings with the Saints. Their Angry Bird mentality makes sense.
Going back to Prisco’s Kleenex complaint, here are the specific comments by the soggy ducks.
“No need for that,” one player said. “It came on our watch, but it didn’t have to come that way. We won’t forget it.”
Payton said he talked to Smith about the decision after the game, and also addressed some of the Falcons players about why he went for the record with the score what it was that late in the game.
The word I got out of the Falcons locker room was the only player he talked to about it was quarterback Matt Ryan.
“He didn’t talk to me,” Falcons corner Dunta Robinson said.
“I’m with Dunta,” safety William Moore said.
A handful of other defensive players said they had no contact with Payton either.
I love the argument that the Saints didn’t have to get the record for Brees the way they did, by humiliating the Falcons’ defense, and that Brees owes them all some sort of an apology. If the Falcons didn’t want to be shown up on Monday Night Football, they shouldn’t have let Brees keep throwing. It’s that simple.
But are we sure we can’t milk this lame argument for more than it’s worth by using it to generate a playoff plot line?
The lingering question that surrounds the whole thing is just how classy the move was and, more important, if Atlanta can do anything about it. The 9-6 Falcons will return to 12-3 New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs if the NFC seeding holds form after the final week of the season.
Will the fact that the Saints essentially ran up the score matter to the Falcons?
Of course it will matter. But it’s pathetic that the Falcons as grown men and professional football players have to go running to the media to cry because big, bad Drew Brees beat them up and rubbed their faces in the dirt. Honestly, I hope this loss inspired the Falcons to play harder against the Saints when they meet again in the playoffs. Because I’m tired of watching them get their asses kicked.