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Strong Brees carries Saints forward in NFL play-offs

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are pouring on the points, racking up the wins and rewriting the record books nearly every time they play.

Right now, Drew Brees is playing at the top of his game as he leads the New Orleans Saints forward in the NFL play-offs.
Right now, Drew Brees is playing at the top of his game as he leads the New Orleans Saints forward in the NFL play-offs.

NEW ORLEANS // Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are pouring on the points, racking up the wins and rewriting the record books nearly every time they play.

This time, it was the post-season mark for total yards that was shattered. Brees passed for 466 yards and three touchdowns and New Orleans rolled up 626 yards of offence as they cruised to a 45-28 wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.

"We were pulling out all the stops," Brees said. "We play aggressive. We're not going to apologise for that. That gives guys in the huddle a lot of confidence. We're not going to pull the reins back. It's pedal to the medal."

Brees hit on 33 of 43 passes while throwing for the most yards in a regulation play-off game. He had three completions of 40 yards or more.

"We just focus on winning. We're not focused on yards and records," Sean Payton, the New Orleans coach, said. "I'm serious when I say that."

As usual, the quarterback had plenty of help from an offence that set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage this season, out gaining Detroit on the ground 167 yards to 32.

The Saints, who have won nine in a row, will travel to San Francisco for next Saturday's second-round game.

Matthew Stafford threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions, who simply could not keep pace in their first play-off appearance since the 1999 season. They have lost seven successive post-season games.

"That's a play-off-calibre team," Brees said of the Lions. "I have a lot of respect for their coaches and players. They had a great season. They showed a lot of grit in a lot of comeback victories.

"I'm sure we'll be facing those guys again in the near future."

Jim Schwartz, the Lions coach, agreed. "It's a learning experience for the whole team. We'll get better. We'll be back," he said. "Obviously it hurts right now."

Calvin Johnson, the All-Pro receiver, had 12 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns in his play-off debut for Detroit, but that was not nearly enough as the Saints' defence responded in the fourth quarter with two interceptions by Jabari Greer.

"We did make the play-offs this year and that's a great accomplishment," Johnson said. "We have some things to work on and we will. We know what we have to do to make the next step."

The teams combined for 1,038 yards, tying an NFL play-off record set by Buffalo and Miami on December 30, 1995.

The Lions became only the second visiting team all year to lead at half-time in the Superdome, where the Saints were unbeaten during the regular season.

"So going into half-time at a deficit, we just realised, 'Listen, just bear down, one play at a time, one drive at a time'," Brees said, "and I think we scored on every drive in the second half. I guess that's what you hope for."