While Drew Brees goes for Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-season passing record when the Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, tight end Jimmy Graham will try to break an even older NFL record.
With 1,171 receiving yards, Graham is just 120 yards away from breaking the single-season record of 1,290 yards by a tight end. The mark was set back in 1980 by former San Diego Chargers’ star Kellen Winslow.
Graham also has 87 receptions, which is 15 shy of the record for a tight end by the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004.
Brees, who needs 305 yards to top Marino’s record of 5,084 yards, was asked if he thought Graham, a second-year pro who only played one year of college football, was capable of putting up those numbers.
“I’ve been around a guy that you kind of felt like, if everything works out the way it’s supposed to, this guy can be special,” Brees said of former San Diego teammate Antonio Gates. “I feel that way about Jimmy, where he has come from, where it all started, where he’s at now, where he still has left to go. You just say, man it’s pretty awesome.”
TITLE MARCH?: With six consecutive victories, the Saints are on the verge of claiming their third NFC South title in six seasons under Sean Payton.
The Saints need to win just one of their remaining two games — either Monday night over the Falcons or on Jan. 1 when they host the Carolina Panthers — to finish the job and earn a home playoff game.
Prior to Payton’s arrival in 2006, the Saints won two only division titles — under Jim Mora in 1991 and Jim Haslett in 2000 — in the first 39 years of the franchise’s existence.
INGRAM SITS AGAIN: Rookie running back Mark Ingram did not practice again Friday because of a turf toe injury that he suffered on Dec. 4 and is likely to miss his third straight game on Monday night.
Payton wouldn’t say that Ingram had turned the corner in his recovery, but noted Ingram had done more in his rehab than the day before.
“He’s getting there. The truth is we just have to see day-to-day,” Payton said. “It’s coming along. … I’d say he felt better (Thursday) than he did a day ago, or certainly a week ago at this time.”
PRACTICE REPORT: All-Pro guard Jahri Evans, who hurt his left knee in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, missed practice again Friday and his status for Monday night won’t be known until Payton turns in his final injury report Saturday.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring) worked on a limited basis Friday after being held out Thursday, while wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) was added to the injury list after being limited.
Also limited were linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (ankle) and linebacker Ramon Humber (knee).
TURNER LIMITED: Falcons running back Michael Turner, who didn’t practice Thursday because of a groin injury, was limited Friday and likely will play Monday night.
Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) and running back Jason Snelling (illness) were sidelined again on Friday, while wide receiver Harry Douglas (groin), cornerback Brett Grimes (knee) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) were limited.
BREES, BUSH HONORED: Brees, who threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns in the win over the Vikings, was selected in an online vote of fans as the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week for the second time this season.
Brees also won the award after a Week 12 win over the New York Giants.
Former Saints running back Reggie Bush, who rushed for a career-high 203 yards and a touchdown in the Miami Dolphins’ win at Buffalo, was voted the FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Week.
LAGNIAPPE: Brees, who threw 10 interceptions in the first eight games, has just one in the last six outings. He has 215 consecutive attempts without one since Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber got him early in the third quarter of a Nov. 6 game. … Former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte will meet and greet fans at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum, located at Gate B on the Plaza level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Admission is free to ticketholders.