Well, it certainly was worth the wait. Those who were around me today know that I had a hard time hanging in there until this game FINALLY started tonight. But Drew Brees got the record, the Saints beat the Falcons senseless (45-16), and claimed the 2011 NFC South Title and the resulting home playoff game. If they catch a pretty big break on Sunday, they could even end up with a bye in the first round of the playoffs. I'm sure there will be much discussion on how this last game should be managed, but that is for another time.
Now it's time to process all the postgame coverage, which starts right after the jump!
The Falcoholic (if you go, please be nice)
Drew Brees sets passing mark as New Orleans Saints win NFC crown - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com
James Varney - QB's 9-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles breaks Dan Marino's mark.
Brees breaks record, Saints roll over Falcons, 45-16 | sportsnola.com
Chris Seeman - With a chance to break Dan Marino's all-time single season and win his third NFC South division championship with the New Orleans Saints, the pressure was on Drew Brees as he took the national stage Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
Brees breaks Marino’s record, Saints break Atlanta for NFC South title | wwltv.com New Orleans
Bradley Handwerger - The Saints’ defense broke the Atlanta Falcons’ spirit with critical stops and a clutch turnover.
Wrapping it up | The Advocate
Sheldon Mickles — Believe it or not, the New Orleans Saints had only one objective going into Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons — win.
Photos: Saints 45, Falcons 16 Gallery III - NOLA.com
From the Saints Sideline
Atlanta Falcons no match for surging New Orleans Saints | NOLA.com
Bob Marshall - Falcons likely will be sixth seed in NFC playoffs.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints had to get record out of the way | NOLA.com
Jeff Duncan - Now they can focus on the playoffs - and another Super Bowl run.
Pierre Thomas puts a bow on New Orleans Saints' NFC South win | NOLA.com
Andrew Lopez - Saints' offense closing in on 'Greatest Show on Turf's' record.
New Orleans Saints 45, Atlanta Falcons 16: game recap - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com
Mike Triplett - Marques Colston surpasses 1,000-yard mark for fifth time in sixth-year career.
Saints Postgame Notes | neworleanssaints.com
Rapid Reaction: Saints 45, Falcons 16 - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. - Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 45-16 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees Breaks Record
Brees: ‘That’s what you play for’ | The Advocate
Brian Allee-Walsh — As Monday night’s dramatic NFC South showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons unfolded at the Mercedes-Ben…
New Orleans has Saint in record-setting quarterback | wwltv.com
Bradley Handwerger - Drew Brees stood at the podium late Monday night, describing how he’ll watch games with his 2-year-old son Baylen and how he answers his boy’s questions about how he’s a football player.
Brees breaks Marino's record | sportsnola.com
Brees, Saints smash records | The Advocate
Sheldon Mickles — In a game in which Drew Brees broke a 27-year-old NFL record for single-season passing yards, he and his teammates also shattered a franchise mark.
Drew Brees: Still more to be done - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. -- Drew Brees broke a record Monday night. He also broke a rival. (link includes video of Brees' locker-room speech.)
Humbling Loss | atlantafalcons.com
Daniel Cox - On Monday night, it just wasn’t meant to be. With the Saints facing a chance to win an NFC South title and QB Drew Brees aimed at breaking one of the biggest personal records in the NFL, New Orleans showed up with something to prove.
Saints pummel Falcons 45-16 to claim NFC South title | ajc.com
D Orlando Ledbetter - The Falcons, with an opportunity to defend their NFC South title and improve their playoff status, were routed by the New Orleans Saints 45-16 before 70,086 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Falcons get their reality check, and it's not what they expected | ajc.com
Jeff Schultz - There’s no need to wonder how heavily to weigh six consecutive dominating quarters against Carolina and Jacksonville. As it turns out, it means only that the Falcons are better than Carolina and Jacksonville — neither of whom they’ll be facing in the playoffs.
Q&A: Coach Mike Smith sifts through the rumble | ajc.com
D Orlando Ledbetter - Falcons coach Mike Smith was caught off guard by his team's woeful performance against the Saints.
Notes & Milestones: Falcons at Saints | atlantafalcons.com
Jay Adams - Despite the loss, Atlanta clinched a playoff berth for the third time under Head Coach Mike Smith.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS COACH SEAN PAYTON
"Obviously, it's a big win and a special night for us with all of it kind of culminating in one game. As a team, you set out with one of your first goals to win the division every year and we felt like we were playing a real good team. We've had a lot of good games against those guys and we have a ton of respect for them. We made the plays, I though third down in the first half was significant, the turnover in the second half that led to a score by Malcolm (Jenkins) was significant. Those are just some things that stick out.
"I think lost in this often times, the record that was broken, Dan Marino was drafted in 1983, in 1984 he set this record. His team was 14-2 that year and they won the AFC East. It was his second year in the league and they went on to the Superbowl that year and lost to the 49ers. I was just playing college football at that time, but over the years when you watch tape, watch him play, he was an amazing player. I told our players I think it's important we understand and recognize the history of our league. This is a guy that had staying power; a lot of guys were drafted before him. To understand how good a player he was gives us a great appreciation as to how good Drew Brees is. Obviously, it's a special moment for the players and especially for Drew and his family. I couldn't be more proud of him."
"Someone is going to ask this question so I am going to answer it before it's asked. Typically, would I be throwing there? The answer would be probably now. In fact, the answer is ‘I wouldn't be," but I thought it was appropriate to get (the record) and we did it. He (Brees) made enough good decisions in the drive to eclipse the mark. We kind of stalled out a few drives earlier, but it was a big win. It was a big win for our team and our organization. It is a special night."
(On if he thought it was important for Drew Brees to get this record on MNF) "We tried very hard focusing on the game. There's been a lot of attention with this record, and understandably so. Tonight, there was a lot of stake in this game. Having that balance of understanding that, I'm not going to say this was a must-win for us, but it was an important win for us to secured the division and get on to the next step. I just thought we got to that point in the game where we were 30 yards out. We have a ton of respect for Mike (Smith), his staff and the players we just played against. It seemed like the right thing. As a coach a lot of times you trust your gut and you either get complimented or criticized and you go from there. I felt real good about the decision."
(On if as a coach it's the ultimate prize having one of your players break a record) "I think really the most important thing is winning Super Bowls. And I think Drew (Brees) and every other player in that locker room would say the same thing. The most important thing we can do is play for an opportunity to win the Lombardi Trophy. And then start piecing things in below, but there is nothing that goes past that. We've been fortunate enough to have done that once. Once you've had that opportunity, you realize how hard it is, how difficult it is, how special it is. As a coach, we love to see our players have success, go to Pro Bowls, win awards and break records. It's very similar to a teacher turning back tests that have A's on them. That is probably one of the reasons we coach, long before we ever got into this league, we like teaching, trying to help others, so when you have someone like Drew Brees and you have an opportunity in your career, and I recognize that a lot of coaches go through this and never have a chance to work with someone like him (Brees). For me, as a young coach, to work with someone like that, I heard his comments during the week and I would really ditto those comments about him inspiring and motivating me and our staff the same way. It's been a great fit, and there's a lot still to be written. It's a special night."
QB #9 DREW BREES
"It feels great to be division champs. It feels great to do what we just did on Monday night with the world watching. This game couldn't be more important than it was. Our hopes and aspirations of winning the division championships and getting the (No.) 2 seed - the next step was winning the division. It was a good night.
(on record) "You know, I did everything I could this week to prepare, focus on the process. All anybody wanted to do was talk about it. I wanted to come out here and think about good decision-making. It was after the touchdown to Meachem in the third quarter, I'm walking on the sideline and I hear somebody say, ‘You're really close.' I was thinking it was like jinxing a no-hitter.
"I didn't know exactly what the number was. I knew we were close. We really wanted to finish strong because we hadn't done anything in the fourth quarter. We got to the 9 and I figured we were close. I throw it to Sprolesy and the next thing you know, I'm getting bum-rushed. I did not see anything other than my linemen's face masks.
"Somebody brought me the ball and held on to that tightly. I wanted to have time for everybody (after the record). I wanted everyone to know how much I appreciate them.
"Yes, it was special. I was just thinking catch the ball, continue the drive and if he scores, then great. I'm not thinking that we are nine yards from the record. I was just focused on execution. I guess it all registered once the guys picked me up."
"It's like a pitcher with a no-hitter. Don't talk to him, leave him alone. All I wanted to do was just play, just play, operate, think about execution, good decision-making all those things. The last thing you want is to know that you're a certain amount of yardage away and have that influence your decision-making. For me, I knew that if we just kept going on the pace we were going, we were going to break that record. I was really trying to just narrow down and focus on each play at a time. It's difficult when you have that limit out there."
"I know Dan Marino broke this record on Monday Night Football. When I look at this game at the beginning of the season, I wasn't going to think it was the night we were going to break the record. I was thinking I hope there's a lot at stake in that game for both teams. We're rolling, they're rolling. I assume that's why they schedule that game at that time. Little did I know that there would be a number of storylines for that one, a divisional championship on the line, playoff seeding and then the record. I guess it could have happened any other way. It was perfect, it was suspenseful, for sure we had a lot of people on the edge of their seat, people at home, people tuned in on the radio, in the stands trying to figure out how close we were. We did it."
(on coming close in 2008) "Yes, we did, because we did get so close last time in 2008, because we were 15 yards away. That was another one of those times where we didn't know how close we were, maybe kind of didn't wish I knew how close we were, but this time around, the fact that we were doing the 15th game of the season and not the 16th game, you kind of feel like let's not put added pressure on ourselves here. We all want this very badly, but it's all about winning. We just focus on that. The other things will take care of itself."
(trying to set record tonight?) "Yes and I hope Mike Smith knows that. We weren't trying to run up the score or anything. Our mentality was we had played poorly in the fourth quarter offensively. We had three drives, three, three and outs. We wanted to end the game on a high note and put together a drive. I don't think it was so much about scoring a touchdown, it was about getting something going and feeling good about ourselves and finishing and then you throw the record in there. Maybe that was big enough reason to throw it."
(reflecting on record) "It's been only an hour, so I don't have a whole lot of time for reflection other than just being with my teammates, my family there. I'm sure at the end of the season, I'll be able to reflect quite a bit. For now, I just feel like there's still so much left to be done. I do believe that life is too short, you do have to enjoy these things because they're rare. You just don't know how often they're going to come around and I'm never going to take it granted for one second. I'll make sure that those who were a part of this know how special they are and how important they are in this, but the journey's not over, not even close. We still have a long way to go, but this is pretty special.
(on record-setting play) "I was just thinking, complete this ball, keep the drive alive. He scores, great. I'm not thinking I need one more completion or ‘x' amount of yards for the record. I'm really just focused on execution, but he scored. I guess it all registered when the guys picked me up, I'm thinking a touchdown to Sprolesie."
(on Dan Marino) "He was one of the best of all time. Growing up in Texas, I was a Cowboy fan. That was during his heyday. The record he set was in his second year in the NFL. Dan was a guy in the '83 draft. I'm not sure which number quarterback he was drafted, but I know he was down the list a little bit. He was a guy who had a lot of grit. He proved a lot of people wrong along the way. He will forever be one of the greatest players in this league. He was one of the greatest quarterbacks, competitors and leaders. It's been an honor to have been close to his mark."
"I was just trying to narrow down and focus on each play.
"I could tell by their reaction and emotion that they were more excited than I was. They made me talk in the locker room after the game. They forced me to speak. This record isn't about one person. There may just be one person that goes on the ledger, but it's really about the team. I want every man years from now, hopefully a lot of championships from now, to be able to look back and say I blocked for that guy when it happened or a guy on defense say that they had a big stop that gave the ball back to those guys. I want a receiver to say that they caught 50 balls that year for 600 yards. I want everyone to feel like they were a huge part of this. I want them to know that this record would not have been possible without them.
I want everybody to feel they were a huge part of this. The offensive linemen, the backs, the receivers, the equipment managers, the trainers, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, (the media). This really is a team, a family record. This isn't one guy, because I certainly wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for those men."
"I guess I didn't think about that. That's pretty cool. I kind of got emotional before this game. There was a kid as I was signing autographs who said, ‘I'm here to see you break the record.' He said it a few times. It made me think of when I was a kid. You had all of these hopes and dreams that you would be out there on that field. Hearing him say that brought me back down. It got me thinking about how lucky are we to get to do what we doand all of the joy it brings to other people. It makes me feel good that we made a lot of people happy tonight."
"I try to take a humble approach. It's maybe a quiet confidence. I hoped it would happen out there. I couldn't have imagined it would happen the way it did. I guess it was all meant to be."
"My oldest, Baylen, turns 3 in January. He watches football with me. He says ‘dad are you out there?' and I say ‘No.' He says, ‘dad plays football for the Saints,' and I say ‘yeah.' He asks if I wear a fleur de lis and I say ‘yeah.' Who Dat? Yeah. Years from now, that's something I hope my boys can look back on and say, ‘I'm proud of my dad.' He says he wants to be Jimmy Graham. It's awesome. I tell Jimmy that all of the time. I say ‘who's #80?' and he says ‘I'm Jimmy Graham.' I'll adopt Jimmy anytime. I hope that years from now that my boys they are proud of their dad."
"I haven't thought that far. I don't know. I wish I had 150 of them to give out to the team and everybody in the building. I guess we could cut it up. I don't know. I guess the ball itself is not as important to me as the memory, ‘cause that's something that will live forever."
"I'll be asking the questions to some young punk 30 years from now asking him why he broke my record."
WR #12 MARQUES COLSTON
"It was a big deal for Drew, but it was a bigger deal for us, the wide receivers and tight ends, to help him go out and get the record.
"I don't think it was something that was really on our minds, but to be able to do it against a team like the Falcons and on Monday night was special.
"He's all about winning. I'm just glad it came with a win.
"We knew it was going to come if we just kept playing our game. We just had to be patient and play our game.
"I'm a football fan, so I know a little bit. To break a record that's been around since '84 - I was only 1 year old. It's great to be a part of it.
"It all starts with (Brees). He's been phenomenal all year. We had some hiccups, but since (November), this train's been rolling. Hopefully our best is ahead of us.
WR #17 ROBERT MEACHEM
(on doing this for Drew Brees) "Yes, this is for him. This is for us as well. I am happy for him, proud of him, because he deserves it."
(on the celebration) "It was kind of nervous. You wanted to go on the field, but you look at Coach Payton. We wanted to go celebrate with him, because he deserves it."
(on a sense of urgency when the offense stalled) "There wasn't really a sense of urgency. Nobody was talking about the record. We just said that we have to move the ball. We want to win. Coming in to this week, all of you guys talked about the record. We never talked about it."
TE #80 JIMMY GRAHAM
(on returning the record-setting football to Brees) "That's all I could think about. Sproles spiked it and I saw it go up about twenty feet. I thought it was going to go in the stands. I was thinking to myself, how am I going to jump up in to the stands. I'm sure that somebody might wrestle me to get it. I think I was going to win that one. It is a special moment. It is incredible to be a part of something so special. I will never forget about it. It has been an incredible night. To be a champion, it's pretty cool. I'm speechless."
(on where he would be with Brees) "I'd be overseas playing basketball. That's for sure. I told Drew, whenever he decides to retire, I will retire. I will never play with another quarterback as long as I am in the NFL. He has really made me a man. I look up to him like an older brother. He stays on me. He gives me the confidence I need. It really has been an incredible year. "
"I am all for keeping him here as long as we can. He only makes me look better. I know I wouldn't even be half of the player I am without him."
(on approaching Kellen Winslow's record) "I dreamed about it. I had many dreams about seasons like this and moments like today. I am sure moments like we are going to have the rest of the season. To clinch the division tonight, on a special night that Drew has, I am living the dream. Every day, I just have to pinch myself because I am living this life. I am a star tight end in the National Football League."
G #77 CARL NICKS
"The last time we played them, they pretty much gave it to us as far as running the ball. I just think we got after them a little more physical tonight.
(on record setting play) "It was crazy. Sproles scored. I looked down for a split-second and ran to Drew like he scored. The Super Bowl was the best, but this and the NFC Championship are right there.
"It's like a movie ending, and there's a long ways for us to go
(on Drew Brees) "If they made a movie, Tom Cruise, I don't know if he could play him. He's out of this world. Probably one of the best guys I know, period. If I could have put him on my shoulders and paraded him around the whole stadium, I would have done that. He deserves that. "If you didn't do anything but watch him, you're going to be better. I've learned a lot from him."
S #27 MALCOLM JENKINS
"We've done a great job stopping the run the last couple of weeks and that was the goal this week. We did a great job of stopping the run and forcing them to pass in some situations.
"You look at the (recent) history of this series - three points, overtime. We talked about it last night that it doesn't have to be that close.
ATLANTA FALCONS COACH MIKE SMITH
"We are obviously are disappointed in the way that we played in the ballgame tonight. We didn't really play well enough in any phase of the game to give ourselves a chance to win. We didn't make enough plays. There were some opportunities early on and then it kind of got out of hand there at the end.
(on major issues) "We were 0-for-3 in the red zone. We didn't score touchdowns when we got down there. We really had a tough time in the first half of the ball game stopping them on third down. They were eight for eight on third down, and we had some very favorable down and distances...third and 8, third and 10, third and 12, third and 13, and we weren't able to get them off of the field. That was really the thing that happened there in the first half. I thought that special teams played well through the first 30 minutes. In the second half of the ball game, they broke the real long kickoff return with (Darren) Sproles when they ran it down to the 13 yard line. That's kind of where it got out of hand.
(on penalties) "We had way too many penalties. The penalties were very lopsided, in terms of the penalties committed against our team. Some of them happened in the red zone, and that knocked us behind the sticks early in the ball game as well.
(on not having much pressure on Drew Brees tonight) "We had some opportunities to get him on the ground there twice in the first half and he was able to get out. If you don't get pressure and affect Drew, he's going to make the throws. That's what he did today.
(on Drew Brees' record-breaking performance) "Drew Brees has had an outstanding season in terms of the number of yards that he has thrown for. My hat's off to Drew. I congratulate him. That's a long-time record here in the NFL. He accomplished that tonight against us."
(on the loss) "We were not on the top of our game in any phase in terms of our football team in my mind. We just didn't play very consistently. It's not the type of effort that you want to have with so much on the line with what the outcome could have meant to our football team."
QB #2 MATT RYAN
"We have to get a lot better in the red zone. We needed a lot more touchdowns than the field goals we got out there. For some reason we just didn't play our best football tonight. All we can do now is have a great week of practice and get ready to play Tampa next week and then get ready for the playoffs after that."
(on Drew Brees' record) "I'm really happy for Drew. He's a great guy and a tremendous competitor and someone who works really hard to achieve what he did tonight. He's really dedicated himself to play the position at a high level and what he did tonight is really well deserved. And watching what happened at the end of the game was really exciting. He obviously is re-writing the record book and I am really excited for him."
DE #55 JOHN ABRAHAM
"The main word tonight was missed opportunities. That's what this game was all about. On the defensive end we dropped a few balls we should have had and I even missed a sack or two that could've made a difference.
"I don't know why we came out a little sluggish but we did. And in the end they got the momentum and held onto it. When their offense and a guy like Drew Brees gets on a roll it's a real hard thing to stop. I mean he was hot today and on fire. But I still thought we did a great job of breaking up a few passes. Like I said we should have had more interceptions and that's what I mean about us leaving a lot out there."
S #28 THOMAS DeCOUD
"We have a lot more expectations than just getting into the playoffs. We have a goal as a team to get into the playoffs and make a deep run and not just be satisfied with making the playoffs.
"We are looking forward to possibly playing them (Saints) a third time. We are aware of where we stand and nothing would be better than to return down here and take a final shot at them."
V-Roll Roll Call
Video: 'That's when I knew, we had done it' | neworleanssaints.com
Hear what QB Drew Brees said to the media moments after his record-breaking performance when the Saints squared off with the Falcons on Monday night. Saints media page also includes locker room speeches and highlights.