NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees became the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing — and he did it with a certain panache and precision that made the 39-year-old quarterback look far from finished.
Brees eclipsed Peyton Manning’s previous record of 71,940 yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tre’Quan Smith during the second quarter of a 43-19 victory over the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
“Just so grateful for the opportunity to play this game and to have played it so long and to have the teammates that I have, and the New Orleans Saints organization, and this great city and this great fan base. It’s just truly been a dream come true,” Brees said. “I’ll be able to reflect on it maybe a little bit more when my career is done. I still feel like there’s work to be done.”
Brees entered the game needing 201 yards for the record. He had 250 by halftime. Brees, who already holds the single-season record for completion rate at 72 percent last season, finished the game a remarkable 26 of 29 for 363 yards, no interceptions and three touchdowns — two of them going to Smith, a third-round draft choice out of Central Florida.
In a victory at Atlanta earlier this season, Brees broke Brett Favre’s career record of 6,300 completions. Brees still needs 41 touchdown passes to surpass Manning’s record of 539, something the Saints quarterback could achieve next season if he maintains his current level of play. But Brees also would have to outpace New England’s Tom Brady, who has 500 TD passes, the only active player with more than Brees in that category. Brees now has 499.
Manning, a New Orleans native whose father, Archie, starred for the Saints, could not attend the game because of a scheduling conflict. However, he had pre-recorded a congratulatory message played on the Superdome’s video boards. Shown on the video slicing tomatoes, Manning deadpanned that his time as the career yards passing leader have been “the greatest thousand days of my life.”
“Thanks to you, that’s over now,” Manning continued as the laughter erupted in the stands. “You’ve ruined that for me.”
On a more serious note, Manning said Brees broke the record “the right way.”
“All your hard work and dedication have paid off,” Manning said while holding up a photo of himself and Brees standing side-by-side in 2000, when Brees was still at Purdue and Manning was a third-year pro. “You and I have come a long way since this picture.”