NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's 27-year single-season passing record as the Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons 45-16 to clinch the NFC South on Monday.
Brees came into the game needing 305 yards to beat Marino's 1984 record of 5,084 and finished the game with 307, breaking the record with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles with less than three minutes left.
The New Orleans crowd gave Brees a raucous ovation and the Saints called a timeout to mark the milestone and let Brees enjoy the acclaim.
"Honestly, I was trying not to think about the record. I knew we were close," Brees told reporters.
"I got (rushed) by the offensive lineman and I figured at that point, 'ok, I guess we finally broke the record or they wouldn't be hoisting me up like this.'
"So many people contributed to this and I'm happy for them."
Brees threw two touchdown passes in each half as the Saints raced to a 21-10 half-time lead, and their defense and special teams snuffed out any Atlanta hopes of a comeback.
A 92-yard kick return by Sproles set up a field goal that put the home team ahead 31-13 in the third, and Malcolm Jenkins returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give New Orleans a 38-16 lead.
Brees then punctuated the win with his fourth touchdown pass of the night on his record-breaking throw to Sproles.
The Saints (12-3) have won seven successive games and head into the season's final game against Carolina with a chance to grab the NFC's number two seed if they win and San Francisco lose.
The Falcons (9-6), also heading to the playoffs, suffered their second loss this season to New Orleans.
Matt Ryan threw for 373 yards and briefly gave Atlanta a 10-7 lead in the first quarter on a 21-yard pass to Julio Jones.
Jones finished with eight catches for 128 yards, alongside team mate Roddy White's 11 catches and 127 yards, but the Falcons managed only two field goals and could not keep pace.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Greg Stutchbury)