Sunday, January 1, 2012

Saints Execute Encore Record Performance

It cannot be said that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton played his starters out of pure vanity.

It seemed that the Saint Louis Rams were within striking range of doing the job Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson fumbled last week. But it's been standard procedure for the Rams organization to frustrate the Saints one way or the other, punt returned Az Hakim excepted.

The Saints go into the post season a bit sooner than preferred but with momentum they haven't had since the Jim Mora era.

Last year the Saints limped into Seattle, one of the toughest venues to visit in football, with a banged up secondary, tight end and decimated ground game, the very recipe the league's first ever division winner with a losing record needed to deny the Super Bowl champs a Two Dat.

During the 2009 "super season", the Saints backed into home field advantage on a three game losing streak and was reminded by the sports media ad nauseam that teams that bumble into the playoffs in a such a fashion don't win Super Bowls.

And the Saints made history proving that they do now.

Speaking of history, the Black and Gold made plenty of it against the pesky Carolina Panthers, the Bill Clinton-era expansion team that own a winning record against a New Orleans franchise that dates to 1967.

Though they're not going to the palyoffs, the Panthers had turned their team around after finishing worst in the NFL last year largely due to the prize they reaped from that dis-stink-shun.

Quarterback Cam Newton ought to be the hands down selection for rookie of the year and perhaps should have received a free trip to Hawaii in a few weeks.

The Saints were lucky to escape with a win against the Panthers in Charlotte earlier this season but in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome on Sunday, even the cats proved to be just another victim of the NFL's most prolific offense in history with a defense that's not too bad either.

Quarterback Drew Brees extended his own NFL single season passing record to 5,476 (Brees had 389 in the game) and stayed ahead of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who played on Sunday as well and ended the regular season with 5,235 passing yards, trailing Brees but besting Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino's long standing benchmark.

Almost forgotten in the mix was Saints running back/punt reurner/kick returner Darren Sproles's own NFL record day as the free agent broke Derrick Mason's single season record for all purpose yards.

Saints second year tight end and first time Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham exchanged the tight end single season receiving yards record with New England's Rob Gronkowski. It seemed that Graham would own the record but a Buffalo Bills turnover gave the Patriots a late opportunity to get the ball back in Gronkowski's hands, beating Graham out by 17 yards.

San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winskow had set the mark during the 1980 season with 1,290.

Though the Saints set many other league and franchise season records on Sunday, there is one important state of note that should be cited Brees now has 40,742 career passing yards, moving him past Hall of Fame quarterback and eternal Saints nemesis Joe Montana for eleventh on the all-time passing yards list.

Brees can achieve first ballot induction status in Canton come February if he is able to add another piece of jewelry to his hand.