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Monday, December 26, 2011
Brees looks to pass his way into history

By Jon Kramer, John McTigue, Katie Sharp


AP Photo/Bill Feig
Drew Brees will try to make history tonight against the Falcons on Monday Night Football.
Both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons have already clinched playoff berths, but the season finale of Monday Night Football at 8 ET on ESPN tonight still has major postseason implications for the two NFC South teams.

With a win, the Saints can wrap up the division title. The Falcons need a victory to stay alive for the division title and keep themselves out of the sixth seed in the conference.

History2W4
The other major storyline in this game is Drew Brees’ chase for history. Brees leads the NFL with 4,780 passing yards and needs 305 to break Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 set in 1984.

Brees has averaged nearly 300 yards per game in 12 career matchups with the Falcons, and has reached the 300-yard mark in each of his last three games vs Atlanta.

If he does set the record this week, it will also be his sixth straight 300-yard passing game, which would match the NFL record shared by Steve Young (1998), Kurt Warner (2000) and Rich Gannon (2002).

Matchups2W4
Part of Brees’ success this season is due to his exceptional performance on deep passes. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes and just one interception on throws of more than 20 yards downfield, compiling a near-perfect Total QBR of 99.9. Against the Falcons in Week 10, two of his three completions on such throws found the end zone.

The Falcons have been vulnerable to the deep pass this year. Their Total QBR allowed of 97.8 on throws of at 21 yards downfield ranks 24th in the league.

Only three teams have allowed more touchdowns on such throws than the six that Atlanta has allowed. And the only other team besides the Falcons that has failed to intercept such a pass is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The best defense against Brees might be a strong running game that can control the clock and keep the Saints offense on the sidelines. However, Michael Turner has struggled over the last four weeks, averaging just 60 yards per game, a drop of nearly 30 yards from his average during his first 10 games.

Recently he has been unable to get to the sidelines with the explosiveness that he showed at the beginning of the season, averaging five fewer yards per rush outside the tackles in his last four games compared to his first 10 games.

Tonight’s game against the Saints might be the perfect opportunity for Turner to break out of his slump. New Orleans has allowed the second-most yards per carry (6.5) on rushes outside the tackles this season.

Against the Saints in Week 10, Turner rushed for 52 yards on five carries outside the tackles, and his 10.4 yards per rush average was his second-best of the season.

Stats2Know
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Falcons have lost their last nine Monday Night Football road games, matching the Chicago Bears (1970-85) for the longest road losing streak in Monday Night Football history.

• Elias also tells us that the Saints have won their last six Monday Night Football games, the longest active winning streak on Monday Night Football.