Originally written January 04, 2012 on The Sport Mentalist 2:
Saints-quarterback-drew

Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints had one of the mostprolific passing seasons ever, eclipsing Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-seasonpassing record in only 15 games. Brees is usually among the league’s passingleaders year in and year out but you don’t accomplish a feat like that withoutquality receivers which the Saints have in abundance.
The Saints’ receiving core is so good that Brees’ top fivereceivers all caught 50 or more passes this season. Tight end Jimmy Graham ledthe Saints with 99 receptions, Darren Sproles had 86, Marques Colston caught 80passes, Lance Moore had 52 and Pierre Thomas caught 50.   
As you can see Brees loves to spread the ball around buthaving that many guys catch that many passes is just insane. Brees is also oneof the best at putting the ball in places where only his receiver can catch it butwhat really sets him apart as a passer is his ability to place the ball wherehis receivers can gain yards after the catch.
The Saints wereranked second overall in yards-after-the-catch (YAC) with 2,534 of Brees’record 5,476 passing yards coming after the catch. That’s over 46% of the totalyards Brees passed for on the season. As accurate as Brees is and as good of ajob he does putting his receivers in good positions, those YAC numbers are morea testament to the play-making abilities of his receivers.
The most dangerous guy in the group is running back andreturn man Darren Sproles. Sproles was a great offseason acquisition for NewOrleans and ended the season ranked second in the league with 724 yards-after-the-catch.Sproles usually got the ball on screens and dump offs but his explosive speedand elusiveness allowed him to make big plays once he got the ball in his hands.
Graham and Thomas also ranked in the top 20 in yards-after-the-catch.Although not as explosive as Sproles, Thomas was also used on screens and dumpoffs coming out of the backfield. Graham on the other hand was just a matchupnightmare with his height, speed and athleticism. He’s too fast for linebackersand too tall for defensive backs to cover. He was also the only non-widereceiver to rank in the top ten in catches of over 25 yards.
Only two other teams had multiple players rank in the top 20in YAC which just goes to further illustrate how big of a role the Saints’receivers played in helping Brees break the record. On top of that, the Saintswere the only team to have more than one player rank in the top ten in yards-per-game.
With Thomas, Sproles and Graham wreaking so much havoc on anopposing team’s defensive coverage, it just opens things up for when Brees doesthrow to his wide receivers. Speedsters like Devery Henderson, Lance Moore andRobert Meachem all had at least one touchdown over 40 yards during the season.Then teams still have find a way to keep the big 6’4” 225-pound, MarquesColston from using his size and craftiness to find open spots in the defense.
So as you can see, the Saints’ receiving core was veryinstrumental in helping Brees break Marino’s record. Now the challenge is tosee if this group can help Brees carry New Orleans back to the Super Bowl.Catching a record is one thing but if they can catch fire in the playoffs thenthe New Orleans Saints could be celebrating their second championship in threeyears. 

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and also writes for both The Penalty Flag and Outside The Redzone. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sportmentalist.
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