Streak­ing Saints off, run­ning as pro­jected

USA TODAY International Edition - - NFL - Glenn Guil­beau

NEW OR­LEANS — Care­ful what you ask for from Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees. He and coach Sean Pay­ton usu­ally do not just draw up ball plays in the dirt. “Gun King ... Trips Right ... 52 Sway ... All Go Spe­cial ... XL Across HY,” Brees said Mon­day night in rapid fire when asked on ESPN what the play call was on his NFL ca­reer pass­ing yards record­break­ing pass. That con­coc­tion cre­ated a 62-yard touch­down from Brees to rookie wide re­ceiver Tre’Quan Smith for a 26-6 lead over Wash­ing­ton with 2:36 to play in the sec­ond quar­ter and put Brees over Pey­ton Man­ning’s 71,940 ca­reer yards. “So I’ll re­mem­ber that one for a long time,” Brees said. Few oth­ers will re­mem­ber that play call as much as that play re­sult. Pay­ton, who hugged Brees af­ter the play, will re­mem­ber the im­pro­vi­sa­tion on the play by Brees, who is known for his prepa­ra­tion and scripted plays, but he can wing it, too. “To be hon­est with you, he (Smith) wasn’t the first pro­gres­sion,” said Pay­ton, who has been call­ing Brees’ plays with the Saints since 2006 when they both ar­rived. “Drew felt the cov­er­age come off, and he made the right de­ci­sion. It wasn’t where he saw the ball go­ing in its de­sign on a Tues­day at mid­night (last week). And that was a credit to him.” It was just a mag­i­cal Mon­day for Brees, who went on to fin­ish an amaz­ing 26 of 29 for a ca­reer-best .896 com­ple­tion per­cent­age and 363 yards with 3 touch­downs in di­rect­ing the Saints to a 43-19 win over Wash­ing­ton at Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome. Brees, 39, came in with 71,740 pass­ing yards over 18 sea­sons and needed 201 to break Man­ning’s record. He had it beat by 49 yards with a half still to play and had his team up 26-13. “I did not ex­pect to get the ball on that par­tic­u­lar play,” Smith said. “It was the sec­ond time we ran that play. Cam Mered­ith got it the first time.” Per­haps that ex­plains why Brees has thrown for so many yards, or 40.9 miles to be ex­act. He had a lot of op­tions on the play. “It was re­ally a new play, a new thought,” Brees said. “Just this idea that you kind of flood the zone and maybe some­one pops open. And that is ba­si­cally what hap­pened on that play. There were a lot of guys out there. Alvin Ka­mara, Mike Thomas. We were just run­ning guys all over the place, and I think it might have got­ten them a lit­tle bit con­fused.” So did his orig­i­nal de­scrip­tion of the play on ESPN. “And Tre’Quan popped right open,” Brees said. Brees and the mem­o­rable, play­of­flike at­mos­phere in the dome was some­thing to see by the 73,028 mostly Saints fans as well as by the ESPN na­tional tele­vi­sion au­di­ence. Wash­ing­ton cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man was also in that view­ing num­ber. He was the one Smith ran by unim­peded on the record-break­ing play. “It’s crazy to see that and ac­tu­ally be able to play a leg­end like that,” said Nor­man, who was benched in the sec­ond half. “Like I said ear­lier in the week, man, he’d throw for 5,000 yards just like he’s sleep­ing.” Brees does lead the NFL with five 5,000-yard pass­ing sea­sons, and no other NFL quar­ter­back in his­tory has more than one. “I played so many great quar­ter­backs, and he is at the top of them all right now,” Nor­man said. “I just want to con­grat­u­late him. That’s their mo­ment right there, and you want to cher­ish those mo­ments. I told him to pretty much keep go­ing strong, and he’s not done yet.” Ap­par­ently, the Saints (4-1) are not ei­ther as they lead the NFC South. It was their best and most com­plete game of the sea­son with their largest mar­gin of vic­tory and came a week af­ter an­other blowout, 33-18 against the Giants on the road. They are start­ing to look like the team pro­jected to go to the Su­per Bowl. The Saints have an open week be­fore play­ing at Bal­ti­more (3-2) on Oct. 21 and at Min­nesota (2-2-1) on Oct. 28. The de­fense con­tin­ues to im­prove af­ter a slow start, though start­ing cor­ner­back Marshon Lat­ti­more left the game in the first half with a con­cus­sion. Still, the Saints al­lowed only 275 pass­ing yards to Wash­ing­ton quar­ter­back Alex Smith and in­ter­cepted him. The Red­skins man­aged just 39 yards rush­ing on 18 car­ries for a 2.2.-yard av­er­age. “I thought de­fen­sively, we did a great job,” Pay­ton said. Mean­while, Saints veteran run­ning back Mark In­gram re­turned af­ter a fourgame sus­pen­sion for test­ing pos­i­tive for per­for­mance- en­hanc­ing drugs and gained 53 yards on 16 car­ries with two catches for 20 yards. Smith caught three passes for 111 yards with the 62-yard touch­down and a 35-yard touch­down. Mered­ith caught five for 71 yards, and Michael Thomas had four re­cep­tions for 74 yards. The Saints also put up 447 to­tal yards, with only 24 rush­ing and 15 re­ceiv­ing form elu­sive and ver­sa­tile Alvin Ka­mara. “Tre’Quan stepped in and did a mag­nif­i­cent job,” Brees said. “Credit to him for the way he has come along here in his rookie sea­son. Re­ally made a ton of progress each and ev­ery week, es­pe­cially the last cou­ple weeks. This kid can re­ally be a big part of our of­fense. We also got some other pieces as well. We got Mark In­gram back. Cameron Mered­ith is com­ing along. And so, we feel like we have a lot of weapons, and we feel we have a lot of ways to spread the ball around and re­ally be pro­duc­tive.” The all-time pass­ing yards record is in the books at 72,103 and count­ing along with the all-time com­ple­tions mark that Brees set ear­lier this sea­son and has built up to 6,370. “I still feel like there’s work to be done,” he said.

CHUCK COOK/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Saints re­ceiver Tre’Quan Smith fol­lowed up his 62-yard TD catch with a 35-yard TD re­cep­tion and had a third re­cep­tion for 14 yards.

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