Drew Brees hit the “easy” button on the play that cemented him as the all-time leading passer in NFL history. Brees threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tre’Quan Smith, who didn’t face much resistance from Washington’s defense.
The play was easy — maybe a bit too easy. Maybe some people would say it was all an elaborate conspiracy by the NFL to give Brees the record and make a Monday night snoozefest entertaining. We wouldn’t say that, but some people might.
Let’s take a closer look at what the hell happened here.
So ... the Washington defense didn’t guard anyone
Washington came into the game leading the NFL in opposing yards per attempt — this wasn’t a slouch pass defense that the Saints were going up against. Yet for some reason, Washington pretty much handed Brees a long gain on the pass that set a new record. Washington broke the huddle with one safety playing and all its defensive backs aligned over the Saints’ receivers pre-snap.
New Orleans had two go routes on the right side of the field, hoping one of them would be open for a big play. They were blessed with a gift from Washington — they didn’t cover either receiver.
Josh Norman, the cornerback closest to the sideline, bit on the swing route run by Alvin Kamara. Norman has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league over his career, so for him not to carry Smith up the sideline is a bit odd. Smith just ran right by him and was wide open deep. This put the safety, Montae Nicholson, playing deep in a situation where he had to run all the way across the field to guard two receivers streaking free, an impossible play for him to defend.
No one Brees has thrown to this season has been more open than Smith on that touchdown, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
Tre'Quan Smith had 9.61 yards of separation on Drew Brees' record-breaking pass according to NFL Next Gen Stats, the most wide open completion for Brees this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 9, 2018
Coming into the game, Smith only had one catch in his NFL career.
Some viewers thought the play was rigged
The touchdown seemed so effortless that it was reminiscent of Brett Favre sliding into Michael Strahan to clinch the single season sack record back in 2002. A couple former NFL players seemed to think the play was rigged:
Sure nice of the @Redskins defense to coordinate an 11 man nap on that pass play for @drewbrees to break the nfl record for passing yards. Reminds me of when @BrettFavre ran into @michaelstrahan to give him the sack record.— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) October 9, 2018
And fans did, too:
I've never in my life thought professional sports is rigged until that Drew Brees touchdown pass. Saints had two receivers 40 yard down field with no defenders in the same area code— Michael Lindsay™ (@GoosesTweets) October 9, 2018
Good job @NFL for ruining the Monday night game and making sure it was rigged just perfect for drew Brees. Now can you rig a game for the redskins to make up for that horrible performance— Eric Herring (@eherring44) October 9, 2018
NFL planned this to project their "great Drew Brees" onto everything and get more attention to the league. Too many missed calls by refs and dumbass mistakes made for this to not be rigged. Just like the lights at the Superbowl, just another instance.— gage (@Gage_Frazier) October 9, 2018
Is the #NFL rigged? Brees would have gotten the record anyway, but television played it up with his family approaching the field, only to be followed by a stellar CB missing an assignment? Seems like it could happen, but also seems a tad suspect. Nonetheless, congrats to Brees.— Cory Wielert (@revcwielert) October 9, 2018
Brees family just so happen to be coming down on the field as he throws the pass that HAPPENS to go for a long touchdown yeah ok— Trill Withers (@TylerIAm) October 9, 2018
Right after the touchdown, Brees took a moment to celebrate with his family, who had moved from their box to the sideline.
So was it a conspiracy? You decide
Brees only need 201 yards to break the record. He threw for 363 yards, so he going to get it Monday night regardless. The Saints won comfortably, 43-19, though the score was 20-6 and Washington was still in the game before his touchdown to Smith. But it was a little convenient that Washington didn’t even cover on the back end, almost like they let it happen.
Brees’ night was pretty close to perfect. He set a major NFL record in a primetime game. He did it at home in front of his family and adoring fans, right before the Saints’ bye in Week 6, which is followed by a road game at Baltimore. He had as many touchdowns (3) as he did incompletions and ended the game with a pristine passer rating of 153.2. Brees even set a personal best for completion percentage at 89.6 percent. He also had his 112th 300-yard game — which was already an NFL record.
The only thing he didn’t do Monday was pass for his 500th touchdown, so he’s “stuck” at 499 for now, one behind Tom Brady.
None of this is to take away from Brees’ record-setting throw. It was a night for him and Saints fans everywhere to celebrate. And it wouldn’t have been possible without a loving gift from Washington ... maybe a gift that was too loving.