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"We just have to be smart," Payton said. "We are playing well, with some momentum. Each year is different. We will look at that closely."
Now that New Orleans has clinched the division, this weekend's scenario is similar to last season in that the only way the Saints can improve their seeding is with both a win over the Panthers and a San Francisco loss at St. Louis, which is 2-13. If that happened, the Saints would jump to No. 2 and get a first-round bye and a second-round game at home. That, however, does not appear likely to odds makers, who've made the 49ers 10 1/2-point favorites.
Payton already has made one arguably unconventional move to help Brees set the record. He let his star quarterback keep throwing during the final minutes of Monday night's 45-16 victory over the Falcons to get the 30 yards he needed to surpass Dan Marino's 1984 record of 5,084 yards. The last pass was an otherwise inconsequential 9-yard touchdown to Darren Sproles.
While Payton exposed himself to criticism for running up the score, he said he was comfortable with his decision.
"You go with your gut," Payton said. "I thought it was the right decisions last night. This morning, I thought it was clearly the right decision. I felt overwhelmingly that most people that are involved in this game, and know a little bit about this game, probably felt the same way. The great thing about our game is that you can have an opinion about it."
When Brees came off the field after eclipsing Marino's mark on his last pass of the game, he carried the ball he threw on the history-making completion to Sproles.
Brees then said he wished there was a way to share the ball with his teammates, upon whom he showered credit for helping him succeed.
"I guess we could cut it up and give it to them all," Brees said. "I guess the ball itself is not as important to me as the memory we created, because that is something that will live forever."
The record itself, however, could be gone sooner than later -- unless Payton decides it's something worth fighting for come Sunday.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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