With a team on the outside of the playoff picture and a quarterback within range of one of the NFL’s most exclusive records, it’s no surprise Saints coach Sean Payton spent most of his media session on Monday discussing how he will approach Sunday’s season finale against the Panthers.
Saints QB Drew Brees completed 30-of-40 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-7 rout of the Lions, leaving him 402 yards away from breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record of 5,084 yards sent in 1984.
“We haven’t given much thought or talked about it much,” Payton said of the record. “I think you guys have, and deservedly so. It’s your job and it’s a significant record. It’s a milestone that’s fairly uncommon. Honestly, it hasn’t been a point of discussion with him or me at all or with the offense at all.”
Still, Payton faced several questions about leaving Brees in too long against the Lions, and the context surrounding the Saints’ next game — in which the Panthers can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win or a loss by the Falcons — leaves him in a precarious position of playing for a win, while also being mindful of the looming record.
“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,” said Payton. “That being said, I’m in a pickle here, because let’s just say the gameplan calls for us to come out and throw the football against Carolina. Let’s just say that that’s the gameplan. Is that going to be perceived as the gameplan by you guys or is it going to be perceived as here he goes?
“Honestly, I think it’s too important of a business; it’s our job as coaches and players to win. I believe that with all my heart. That’s why I think it’s our job to win and not to take a look at other players. Our job is to win and the credibility that we have in our locker room as coaches and as leaders of our team; they know who should be on the field, guys who give us the best chance. We’re playing first and foremost to try to win.”