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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Brees, pass-happy Saints perfect recipe for success in today's NFL

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NEW ORLEANS -- The dunk over the crossbar didn't work.

It's the only thing that didn't for Drew Brees Monday night.

After rushing in for a touchdown in the New Orleans Saints' 49-24 blowout of the New York Giants at the Superdome to go along with his four touchdown passes, Brees attempted to dunk the ball over the goal post, emulating what he said was a Michael Jordan dunk.

"It was more like a finger roll," Brees said. "I'm going to apologize to Michael Jordan."

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He need not since he's playing quarterback now almost at the level Jordan played basketball, which is truly a special place to be.

Brees completed 24 of 38 passes for 363 yards and the four touchdown passes, shredding a Giants defense that looked lost much of the day. The Saints totaled 577 yards -- the second-highest total in franchise history -- and the most amazing stat of the night is they did so without a 100-yard rusher or receiver.

The latter tells the story of Brees: He can spread that ball around as well as anyone. What's more, he always seems to find open receivers -- most of the time they look to be wide open. The Saints had eight plays of 20 yards or more as they stay atop the NFC South with an 8-3 record.

In the span of five days, I saw the Green Bay Packers passing game up close on Thanksgiving Day and then watched Brees and the Saints Monday night. Which one is better?

Tough call. It's that close.

Brees remains on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards. It was once considered the Holy Grail record of sorts, the 5,084 yards coming at a time when passing wasn't the way of the league.

Now it is for a lot of teams, but the Saints remain one of the best. It helps that Saints coach Sean Payton isn't afraid to take the chances. With Brees, it's a lot easier to do.

"He's throwing the ball with great rhythm and anticipation," Payton said of Brees.

CBSSports.com Grades
New York Giants
New York Giants
D-
It doesn't appear like any Giants player showed up to play the Saints other than Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. The running game was nonexistent again with no Ahmad Bradshaw. That might not have mattered anyway as the Giants' defense let the Saints' offense do pretty much what it wanted when it wanted. This may end the Giants' playoff hopes. And the Packers are next.
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
A
Drew Brees completely torched the Giants defense as he's done to almost everyone this season and his O-line kept him clean. And the Saints defense came to play with two turnovers and didn't allow a first-half touchdown for the third consecutive week. Another complete game for the Saints at home as New Orleans is 5-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
By Larry Holder
RapidReports Correspondent

The Dan Marino that played for the Miami Dolphins would have had this reaction to Brees likely taking down his record:

#@%$#^*%& that.

The Dan Marino of today will salute him when it happens. It's going to happen. With 3,689 yards, Brees leads the NFL in passing yards and he's on pace to break the record. He's averaging 335.4 passing yards per game, which puts him on a pace for 5,365 yards.

Brees usually isn't one to talk about records, but he made it known Marino's mark is something he wants.

"I'd be lying to you if I said we didn't really want to have that record," Brees said.

Notice the "we" part of that quote. That's the way he sees it. He also makes sure to say he wants the record in the "framework of winning."

The Saints have no let-up when it comes to throwing the football. Even when they were backed up on their own 12 with 1:09 left in the half, the Saints came out firing. Most teams would run a draw to see what they can get going and then go to the locker room. Not the Saints. Brees hit Marques Colston for 50 yards to start the drive and they scored a touchdown to make it 21-3 at the half and blow the game open.

"Drew understands the situation and when we are sending in the play in it's with the mindset we are going to be smart," Payton said. "There is a confidence we have that he understands the situation, and he understands the significance."

As great as Aaron Rodgers is playing in Green Bay and Tom Brady is in New England, it's hard to argue that Brees isn't right there with them. He might be the best of the three at pre-snap reads. He always seems to know where the open player is going to be.

When the Saints won the Super Bowl two years ago, they were the league's top-ranked offense but third-ranked passing offense. Right now, they are first in both and they are averaging more than 45 yards per game more than the 2009 team.

So I asked Colston if this was the best the offense had played in his five years with the team.

"This is up there," Colston said. "We have a lot of people in a lot of different positions that are just dangerous. Anytime you have No. 9 [Brees] with the trigger, it really makes us dangerous."

Remember when the NFL used to be about running the ball, using clock, scared coaches, quarterbacks who threw maybe 20 passes a game and running backs as the feature stars?

If you don't, you are lucky.

I do, and I am glad it's gone.

Long gone.

In the past five days, I have watched quarterback greatness in two spots, seeing live with my own eyes two of the best quarterbacks in the game teamed with two of the best play-callers in the NFL.

That's the combination for NFL success now: Aggressive play callers with quarterbacks who can pull it off.

It's hard to say who's better now throwing it, the Packers or the Saints. But the way they are having success doing it makes it a good possibility that they might meet down the road. They met in the opener, a victory by the Packers, but that seems like a long time ago.

When Payton was asked about the Packers following Monday's game, he blew off the question, seemingly getting annoyed it was even asked.

"Next question," he said. "Normal one."

Hey, you can't fault us pass-happy guys for wanting to look ahead at the potential of Brees vs. Rodgers and Payton vs. Mike McCarthy.

Before then, they both have work to do and both quarterbacks have records to break. For Brees, it's looking more and more like he's going to take down Marino's mark.

Just don't call it a slam dunk.

Not after he blew his dunk Monday night -- even if he says he can slam the ball over the 10-foot high goalpost.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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