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News » New Orleans Saints Inside Slant 2008-12-25

New Orleans Saints Inside Slant 2008-12-25

New Orleans Saints Inside Slant 2008-12-25
With everyone wondering if Saints quarterback Drew Brees can break Dan Marino's 24-year-old single-season record for passing yards on Sunday, coach Sean Payton has other things on his mind.

Like how his Saints (8-7) can beat the Carolina Panthers (11-4) in the season finale at the Superdome on Sunday and take the momentum of a two-game winning streak into the offseason and the 2009 regular season.

Payton has acknowledged that he'd like Brees to get the record, but they're not going to try and get it at the expense of beating the Panthers. Brees will go into the game with 4,683 yards, which leaves him 402 yards shy of Marino's total of 5,084 set back in 1984.

Like Payton, Brees would like to have a shot at it. But since the Panthers give up 201.3 passing yards a game, it's likely that Brees, who now has the 11th-highest all-time season total, will have to settle for second place if he can get to 4,830 yards -- which was Kurt Warner's final total in 2001.

"What's most important is winning the game and Drew would tell you that, our players would tell you that, and our staff would tell you that," Payton said. "That being said, I'm in a pickle here because let's just say that the game plan calls for us to come out and throw the ball against Carolina.

"Is that going to be perceived as the game plan by (the media)? Or is it going to be perceived as, 'Here he goes,'" he said. "Our job is to win the game and (maintain) the credibility we have in our locker room as coaches and as leaders of our team. Our job here is to win, score points, and play our players."

Considering the Panthers are going to be trying to wrap up the division title and earn a first-round bye for the players, they won't make things easy for Brees and the Saints. He had one of his worst games of the season in their first meeting on Oct. 19, throwing for just 231 yards and completing 53.8 percent of his passes in a 30-7 loss.

"It's not as if we make the decision to go after the record, we would just get it," Payton said, perhaps remembering the beating his team took that day in Bank of America Stadium.

Payton said the record is significant and he thinks it would be important to Brees and his teammates if it could be broken within a game plan designed to beat the Panthers and not just to beat Marino's record.

"I think it's only rewarding if something like that happens when you play well and you win," Payton said, "rather than just if you hang around and throw it around just for the sake of the record."

What's more important to him, and Brees for that matter, is building on a second-half surge that got the Saints into playoff contention -- only to have them eliminated with a loss at Chicago two weeks ago.

A win by the Saints would give them six victories in the nine games they've played since being routed by the Panthers -- and a good start for next season after a 42-7 pasting of the winless Detroit Lions last Sunday.

"Now the focus shifts this week to Carolina," Payton said. "The focus shifts to having a chance to get to 9-7. Those are things that we can do with a win like this. It's going to be a tough game. Everything else is secondary."

SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead, 15-12, with Carolina taking five of the last six matchups between the NFC South rivals. The Panthers own a 9-4 edge since they and the Saints joined the newly-formed division with realignment in 2002. Carolina claimed their first matchup this season, 30-7, in Bank of America Stadium on Oct. 19.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 25, 2008

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Steve McKinney Name: Steve McKinney
Position: C
Age: 32
Experience: 11 years
College: Texas A&M
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