|Brees needed just 16 games to surpass Marino's mark of 5,084 passing yards in a season. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
There was a time early in Drew Brees' NFL career when he was benched for Doug Flutie. It happened in 2003, his third year in the league, back in San Diego when he played for head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Two years later, Brees injured his throwing shoulder during a meaningless late-season game, a few months after that he was a free agent with an uncertain future, and by 2006 he was the Saints' starting quarterback.
And now Brees has broken Dan Marino's single-season passing record. He needed 305 yards to reach the 5,085-yard milestone, one more than Marino had for the entire 1984 season.
Brees became the official record holder in the fourth quarter of Monday night's Week 16 game against the Falcons. It came on a second-down play from the Falcons' 9-yard line. Fittingly, it was a touchdown pass, Brees' fourth of the game, and it gave New Orleans a 45-16 lead. The game was stopped temporarily to honor Brees' accomplishment. A New Orleans victory will clinch the NFC South. (They'll earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a victory next Sunday and a loss by the 49ers.)
This isn't the first time Brees has made a run at Marino. He finished 2008 with 5,069 yards, 15 yards shy of Marino's record.
"We talked about it after the '08 season," Brees said last week according to Nola.com. "And at the time it was kind of just like, OK, we made our run at it, and the chances of that happening again are probably really, really slim."
Saints head coach Sean Payton was asked if Marino's longstanding record was a surprise.
"I don't know that anything really surprises you," he said last Thursday. "Our game has evolved. I think you're seeing very good quarterback play, which is exciting. I think you're seeing over the last 20 years colleges who throw the ball much more effectively; all the way to the high school level, and that's carried over to our game in a number of ways. Typically, I think, these records in our league all get broken, and some of them just have a longer shelf life than others."
Coming into Monday night, Brees averaged 341 passing yards, 2.6 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions per game this season. He's failed to throw for at least 300 yards just three times. Prior to his arrival, New Orleans was coming off a 3-13 season and the city and region were still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Since 2006, the Saints are 55-39 (.585 winning percentage), have made three playoff appearances (four if you include this season), and won the Super Bowl in 2009.
Marino was 23 years old when broke Dan Fouts' record (4,802 set in 1981). He threw 48 touchdowns and 17 interceptions that year, and led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl where they lost to the 49ers, 38-16.
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