By the time Drew Brees left Sunday's game early in the fourth quarter, his workday complete, he had more touchdown passes than Christian Ponder had completions.

Brees also set an NFL record with his 11th 300-yard passing game this season, established a career high in touchdown passes and inched closer to Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards.

He also sent notice that the NFL MVP race is not just a one-man show.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the presumed front-runner, has performed brilliantly this season, although he looked decidedly human in the Packers' stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. But nobody on the planet is playing at a higher, more efficient level than the New Orleans Saints quarterback right now.

"He's definitely got my vote," Saints receiver Marques Colston said.

OK, so he's a little biased, but he'd probably get no argument from anyone inside the Vikings locker room after Brees carved up their defense like a butcher in a 42-20 rout.

Brees completed 32 of 40 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns. He did not take a sack or throw an interception and basically did whatever he wanted with the ball.

Brees versus the Vikings secondary represented perhaps the greatest mismatch in the history of organized football. Or at least since the advent of the forward pass.

"Drew is playing at a level right now ... I really don't know any other person playing the way he's playing," Saints running back Darren Sproles said.

Brees runs the Saints offense like a maestro. Smooth, under control and with authority. It's something to behold, the way he makes a difficult job look so incredibly easy.

"It's never easy," he insisted.

He got little resistance from a Vikings defense that had a snowball's chance under optimum conditions, much less one that was disinterested and lacking talent. Brees picked them apart, completing passes to nine players and keeping the defense off-balance by mixing up his throws.

The Saints collection of playmakers at skill positions is certainly impressive, but Brees brings out the best in all of them. He keeps everyone involved by standing in the pocket until he locates his open man. Rarely does he make a bad decision or miss his target, which is why he's completing 72 percent of his passes.

"When Drew's out there, all we've got to do is go play," receiver Lance Moore said.

Brees steps up in the pocket when he feels pressure on the outside better than any quarterback in football. If he can't find an open receiver downfield, he's content to dump the ball off to a running back. Brees has been sacked only 23 times this season, a staggering number when you consider he has attempted 583 passes.

"I think his pocket presence is second to none," Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. "I think that's what makes him pretty special and sets him aside from everyone else."

So do his statistics. Brees now has 4,780 passing yards this season, leaving him only 304 yards behind Marino's record of 5,084. That record looks like a cinch to change hands with two games remaining.

Brees also surpassed the 40,000-yard mark for his career Sunday and probably will add a few more personal and team records before he's finish this season. He just shrugged when asked about his statistics.

"I really don't think about it a whole lot," he said.

Not even Marino's record?

"I'm aware that we're close," he said. "Don't know exactly how close."

The fact he used the word "we" to describe his pursuit of an individual record reveals a humbleness that resonates within his locker room. Brees said he's never felt more comfortable running an offense in his career, then proceeded to mention nearly every position group and assistant coach in explaining why.

Brees comes across as genuine in his desire to share the spotlight. The attention is focused squarely on him though.

"You really can't put it into words the things he's been able to do with this offense," Colston said.

Which is true. Sometimes it's best to just watch.

Chip Scoggins •