Saints’ offense led NFL in big plays, long touchdown drives

The Saints didn’t set an NFL record for most total yards as they did in 2011, but they did lead the league in long touchdown drives for the second year in a row.

The Saints had 29 touchdown drives of 80 yards or longer in their 7-9 season, with the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions tying for second with 25 each. The Saints had 28 drives of that length that results in TDs in 2011.

Drew Brees and his offensive teammates also led the NFL in big plays, which is defined as a run or pass of 20 yards or longer, and in big passes.

They had a total of 76 big plays, one more than the Carolina Panthers, and 65 big passes, one more than the Indianapolis Colts.

SAINTS HONOR MOORE: Wide receiver Lance Moore has been chosen the Saints 2012 Man of the Year, which makes him a candidate for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

The Man of the Year Award is given to one player from each league team for volunteerism and charity work as well as excellence on the field. From the 32 team winners, three players will be chosen as finalists for the Walter Payton Award — which will be presented during Super Bowl week.

Since joining the Saints as a free agent, the seven-year veteran has been an asset in the New Orleans area and Gulf Coast through numerous endeavors — most notably the Lance Moore Community Cares Program.

The program helps people help themselves and those around them with the goal of leading productive and satisfying lives while serving disadvantaged children and families in need of financial and educational assistance.

MORSTEAD SETS CLUB MARK: Punter Thomas Morstead, a four-year veteran, fell short of setting the NFL season record for net punting average in the season finale, but finished with a franchise-record gross average of 50.1 yards per punt.

Morstead is one of only seven punters in NFL history to average at least 50 yards per kick for an entire season. One of the others, Miami’s Brandon Fields, edged Morstead for the league title at 50.2 yards per punt.

Morstead, who will be the NFC punter in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 27, is only the third Saints’ punter to earn a spot in the all-star game. The others were Brian Hansen (1984) and Mitch Berger (2004).

BREES UP FOR HONOR: Saints quarterback Drew Brees is one of five finalists for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year Award for 2012.

Brees earned a spot as a finalist for his Week 5 performance in a 31-24 win over the San Diego Chargers when he broke the NFL record of Johnny Unitas with at least one touchdown pass in 48 consecutive games.

Unitas held the record of 47 games in a row with at least one TD for more than half a century until Brees set the mark with a 40-yard scoring pass to former LSU standout Devery Henderson in the first quarter.

Fans can vote online at https://www.nfl.com/gmc until Jan. 24 at 8 p.m. to determine the winner, which will be announced during the NFL Honors awards special on Feb. 2 — the night before Super Bowl XLVII.

STRIEF A ‘GOOD GUY’: Tackle Zach Strief is this year’s winner of the Jim Finks Good Guy Award, which is presented to a Saints’ player by members of the New Orleans chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

The award is given to a player for media cooperation throughout the season. In a vote of reporters who cover the team, Strief, who’s always accessible in the locker room and provides thoughtful and insightful answers to questions, outdistanced tackle Jermon Bushrod and linebacker Curtis Lofton for the honor.

The award is named for former Saints General Manager Jim Finks. Prior to his death in 1994, Finks was Finks was known around the league for his cooperation with the media.