Along that path to glory, there will be a bit of history relived and potentially more made.
When Brees, superstar receiver Michael Thomas and the Saints host the Colts on Monday night, they’ll still be vying for a first-round bye in the playoffs and one of the top two seeds that comes with it.
However, history will also be at the forefront as Brees is within striking distance of Peyton Manning — or perhaps by Monday, Tom Brady — for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history and Thomas continues to chase Marvin Harrison for the single-season receptions record.
Indeed, Brees and Thomas are looking to take down the Colts of the present and past.
For Brees, who already claims a number of hallowed records, setting new marks isn’t a focus but a byproduct of producing a successful season.
“I think obviously before the season you know you are a certain distance away, but then once the season starts, you just focus on winning games and doing what I need to do as a quarterback of this team to put us in the best position to succeed and to win,” Brees told reporters on Thursday, via team transcript. “And with that, I guess the statistics come, and maybe they add up and then all of a sudden, you’re close enough to be within striking distance of some of those things. But I’m really not thinking about it, just focusing on this opponent just like you would any other opponent, making it the most important game of the season and knowing that we need our best execution in order to be successful and also just continuing to build.”
Entering Monday, Brees has 537 touchdown passes, just two less than Manning concluded his phenomenal career with. However, entering Sunday, Brady (who is playing the lowly Bengals) has 536 career TD throws to his credit. Thus, when Monday’s game kicks off, Brees might well be chasing Manning and Brady.
Already to his credit, Brees is the all-time passing leader with 76,577 yards.
Consequently, Brees surpassed Manning on a Monday night last season to realize that accomplishment.
Another record of Manning’s that Brees is chasing is games of three-or-more touchdown passes of which he has 90, per NFL Research. Manning has 93 and should Brees get his 91st, he’ll move past the former Colts and Broncos great for the career TD record.
“No, it’s a completely different team, right?” Brees said. “We played them in ’09 and then we played them again in ’11, right? So even two years later, there are a lot of different faces and just different seasons. So even at that point it was not something that, I guess something that is rare as, hey, they are AFC, we are NFC, you only see them once every four years, right? It’s not like we’ve had a chance to play in them many times.”
As for Brees’ No. 1 target, Thomas is producing at a historic rate this season.
With 121 receptions, Thomas has the most catches in a team’s first 13 games in NFL history, having surpassed Harrison, who had 118 through the Colts‘ first 13 games in 2002.
Now Thomas has his hands set on the single-season mark of 143 recorded in 2002 by Harrison. Twenty-three catches shy with three weeks to go, Thomas must average 7.7 receptions per game down the stretch, according to NFL Research. He’s already produced seven games of double-digit catches, with is a shared NFL record with Wes Welker and Andre Johnson.
For New Orleans’ storied quarterback, though, as important as anything is hitting stride at the right time.
“We want to be an ascending team,” Brees said. “We want to be playing our best football at the end of the season here because most of the teams that typically do the best in the playoffs. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet. I’m still wanting to see that from all of us.”