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Brees eclipses Manning’s yardage record

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Brees eclipses Manning’s yardage record (AP file photo)

There’s a new all-time NFL leader in passing yardage.

In an Oct. 8 game against the Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the most prolific passer in the history of the NFL, passing Peyton Manning.

Brees came into the game 201 yards short of the record, a number he reached before halftime. The fateful pass wound up being a 62-yard strike to rookie wideout Tre’Quan Smith during the second quarter of a game the Saints would go on to win in a 43-19 rout.

(Here’s a delightful little tidbit regarding the record-breaking moment: After the pass, the game paused as the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame sought to recognize Brees’s feat. The officials THREW A FLAG, calling for an excessive celebration penalty. The flag was picked up and no foul was ultimately called, but if that doesn’t illustrate NFL dysfunction to a tee, I don’t know what does.)

By the end of the game, Brees sat at 72,103 yards – the first QB ever to surpass the 72,000-yard mark - surpassing Manning’s career total of 71,940. It’s not the first record Brees has broken this season; earlier in the year, he passed Brett Favre to become the all-time leader in pass completions.

Brees spent his first five seasons as a member of the San Diego Chargers. In that span – 2001-2005 – he started nearly 60 games and put up solid numbers, passing for over 12,000 yards and 80 TDs while completing 62 percent of his passes. The Chargers let him go following a significant shoulder injury; plenty of NFL front offices thought he was done.

At the behest of coach Sean Payton, the Saints signed Brees ahead of the 2006 season. All he has done since then is pass for almost 60,000 yards (he’ll pass that number in his next game barring injury) and well over 400 TDs in just shy of 200 games. He is the only player in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards in a single season more than once, a feat he has accomplished a staggering five times. His lowest total among his other seven full seasons in New Orleans? A mere 4,334 yards in 2017 – a year in which, by the way, he led the league in completion percentage at 72 percent.

All told, Brees has led the NFL in passing yards seven times. He has led in completions six times and completion percentage four times. He has also led four times in passing TDs. In fact, his next milestone – right around the corner – is touchdown related.

With his next TD pass, Brees will become just the fourth quarterback (behind Manning, Favre and Tom Brady) to throw at least 500 TD passes. Barring injury, both Brees and Brady (who only just this week reached 500 himself) will surpass Favre’s 508, leaving Manning’s record 539 as the last hurdle to clear. Both men have a shot at that number, but the two-years-younger Brees is more likely to end his run at the top of that list.

Considering the evolution of the game, these numbers, impressive as they are, may not last as long as you’d expect. The explosion of the passing game has fundamentally altered what these records represent; with 4,000-plus yard passing seasons now commonplace, the goalposts have shifted, as it were. It’s a moving target – one which this latest generation of quarterbacks may not just hit, but utterly obliterate.

Still, for the time being, let’s just sit back and enjoy the monumental career numbers that Drew Brees has put up and continues to put up. Because that’s the thing – he’s shown no signs of slowing down. If he plays at this level for a few more seasons, he might well put all of these numbers far enough out of reach that not even the NFL’s pass-happy evolution will make them achievable.

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