Saints' Payton undecided how much Brees, starters will play

After a night to sleep on it, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't regret his decision to let quarterback Drew Brees chase down the NFL single-season passing record.

While it came at the expense of the Atlanta Falcons -- some of whom were irked the Saints went for the record up by 22 points with less than three minutes to play -- Payton believes those who disagree with the decision are in the minority.

"You go with your gut," Payton said Tuesday. "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. I felt that was in the minority."

What played out Monday night -- at least until it potentially resurfaces if the teams meet in the playoffs -- is history. What's next is whether or not Brees can hold on to the record. Heading into a Week 17 in which both teams have playoff positioning to play for, Brees (5,087) leads Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (4,897) by 190 yards.

"I'm not really aware of the space between the two," quipped Payton. "I am probably better off not knowing."

The Saints can clinch the NFC's No. 2 seed and a bye with a win and a loss by the San Francisco 49ers. The Patriots will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC unless they lose to the Bills.

Payton told reporters Tuesday he will look closely at how much his starters need to play against the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. ET. The 49ers (12-3) play at the same time in St. Louis (2-13), needing a win to clinch the second seed. Adding intrigue to the record chasing is the fact the Patriots also face the Buffalo Bills at exactly the same time, creating a scenario that gives Brady a chance to overtake the lead if Brees isn't on the field.

"You make decisions. They are not always right," Payton said about keeping Brees in Sunday's game if the 49ers are up big, thus locking the Saints at No. 3. "You try to make them with the right things to help your team. Last night was one of those situations. This upcoming game will be one of those situations. It's part of what we do. It's part of coaching. It's part of sport."

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