Offense was no problem for Saints this season

Saints led league in long touchdown drives, big plays

Associated Press photo by SHARON ELLMANNew Orleans quarterback Drew Brees makes a call at the line of scrimmage during the Saints' win over the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 23. Brees and the Saints offense led the NFL this season in touchdown drives of 80 or more yards.
Associated Press photo by SHARON ELLMANNew Orleans quarterback Drew Brees makes a call at the line of scrimmage during the Saints' win over the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 23. Brees and the Saints offense led the NFL this season in touchdown drives of 80 or more yards.

The New Orleans 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 resulted in TDs in 2011.

Drew Brees and his offensive teammates also led the NFL in big plays, which are defined as plays of 20 yards or longer, and in big passes, which also gain at least 20 yards.

The Saints had 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 still 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 2012 punting title at 50.2 yards per kick.

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).

Saints sign four

The Saints have signed four more players to futures contracts for next season, bringing their total to nine so far this offseason.

The latest to sign are wide receiver Preston Parker, defensive end Jay Richardson, linebacker Austin Johnson and cornerback Dion Turner.

Parker played in 27 games with Tampa Bay from 2010-12. Richardson played in 55 games with Oakland and Seattle from 2007-10. Johnson and Turner have no previous NFL regular-season experience, although Turner was on Miami’s practice squad for the final three weeks of the season.

Brees up for honor

Brees is one of five finalists for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year Award for 2012.

Brees earned a spot for his performance in a 31-24 win over the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 7, when he broke Johnny Unitas’ longstanding NFL record with a touchdown pass in 48 consecutive games.

Unitas held the mark of 47 games in a row 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 8 p.m. Jan. 24 to determine the winner, which will be announced during the NFL Honors awards special Feb. 2 — the night before Super Bowl XLVII.

Strief a ‘Good Guy’

Tackle Zach Strief is this year’s winner of the 2012 Jim Finks Good Guy Award, which is presented annually 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 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. Before his death in 1994, Finks was known around the league for his cooperation with the media.