So fans already knew that the Saints offensive line was going to be given the 2011 Madden Most Valuable Protectors award, given to the best offensive line in football, but the fate of Drew Brees and his selection as the Fed Ex Air player of the year wasn’t known until yesterday.
As it turns out Brees beat out Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when he was named to a record third selection as the Fed-Ex Air player of the year, also winning in 2008 and 2009.
Brees turned in a season for the ages when he passed for a new NFL record 5,476 passing yards to go along with 46 touchdown passes in the regular season, finally eclipsing Dan Marino’s 1984 mark of 5,084 yards.
But you don’t get to nearly 5,500 yards passing without setting some others records along the way — completion percentage (71.2%), total completions (468), and most 300-yard passing games in a single season (13) — are all new NFL records Brees set during the 2011 season.
Brees once again winning the award is a testament to his hard work and prowess as an NFL quarterback, but it’s not much of a consolation prize considering the Saints fell short yet again of returning to the Super Bowl this year.
After handing the upstart Detroit Lions a 45-28 loss in the wild-card round at the Superdome, New Orleans then traveled to Candlestick Park to take on the number two seeded San Francisco 49ers the following week.
Overcoming five turnovers, and a deficit as a large as 17 points, the Saints took a 32-29 lead over the 49ers with 1:37 left in the game.
The Saints defense, run by now departed coordinator Gregg Williams, needed only to keep the 49ers offense from moving 80-yards for the potentially game clinching score.
However tight end Vernon Davis consistently was able to get open in the Saints secondary hauling in two passes for 61-yards, including catching the game winning touchdown pass.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Saints after overcoming so much adversity, but one that sparked change as Williams decided to become the coordinator for the Rams under Jeff Fisher, leaving the Saints to hire the best coordinator in the league in Steve Spagnuolo.