NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees set the NFL record for yards passing in a season, breaking a mark that Dan Marino had held since 1984, and the New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South title with a 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.
Brees threw for 307 yards and four touchdown passes, the last a 9-yard strike to Darren Sproles that set the record with 2:51 to go.
It was Brees’ final pass of the game and it gave him 5,087 yards passing – with one game still to play. Marino’s record was 5,084 yards.
As Darren Sproles spiked the ball, Brees put his arm over his head and started walking toward midfield while the Superdome crowd went wild and his teammates chased him down.
Bees had four touchdown passes – two in each half.
The first one went for 8 yards to Marques Colston and the second for 9 yards to Jimmy Graham. Graham’s TD catch was his 10th of the season, a new franchise high for a tight end. In the third quarter, he hit Robert Meachem for a score from 24 yards and then hit Sproles late in the game for the record-setter.
The Saints also had 415 total yards in the opening half, giving them more than 6,800 offensive yards for the season, breaking the 2008 club record of 6,571 yards.
Brees might have broken the record in the third quarter if not for Sproles’ 92-yard kickoff return, which set up John Kasay’s 29-yard field goal.
Matt Ryan had 373 yards passing and a touchdown for the Falcons, who were already assured of a playoff spot after Green Bay beat Chicago on Sunday night.
Ryan threw a 21-yard scoring strike to Julio Jones that gave the Falcons a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter, but it didn’t last.
New Orleans responded with a 10-play, 81-yard scoring drive on which Brees completed four of six passes for 48 yards, the last three to Colston.
The Saints might have led by more if Brees’ pass intended for Graham in the end zone had not been intercepted by Dominique Franks.