Bill Feig, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Cam Newton tried to scramble away from pressure coming from his right but couldn't elude blitzing rookie linebacker Martez Wilson, who flattened him from behind.
The quarterback who celebrates touchdowns by mimicking the way Clark Kent transforms into Superman found himself gingerly getting up and trotting in pain to the sideline, where he sat with a towel over his head.
Instead, it was Drew Brees who resembled the comic book superhero as the record-setting Saints pounded the Panthers 45-17 on Sunday and rolled into the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak.
"I have to work both mentally and physically to be a better quarterback," Newton said. "It was embarrassing how we ended that game."
After a strong start that kept Carolina (6-10) competitive through one half, Newton finished 15 of 25 for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception, well below the standard he'd set during an otherwise spectacular rookie season.
The Panthers had come in having won four of five and wanted to go into the offseason on a high. They, instead, were reminded of just how big a gap there is between them and the Saints (13-3), who set a slew of NFL and club records during the game.
Brees passed for 389 yards and five touchdowns, and the NFL records set by the Saints included offensive yards with 7,474, team yards passing with 5,347 and first downs with 416.
Brees, who was 28 of 35, finished with a record 468 completions this season, breaking Peyton Manning's 2010 mark of 450. He finished the season completing 71.6 percent of his passes, breaking his own 2009 NFL record 70.6 completion percentage.
"Every facet of our offense is clicking right now, but yet you're constantly finding ways to advance it," Brees said. "We've raised the bar for ourselves. We have a high level of expectations, and we're just trying to meet that level."
Jimmy Graham had 97 yards receiving to finish with 1,310, exceeding Kellen Winslow's 1980 record of 1,290 for a tight end. But New England's Rob Gronkowski finished with 1,327 yards, establishing a new mark.
Darren Sproles had 40 yards rushing, 29 yards receiving and 99 yards on kickoff and punt returns to finish with season with an NFL record 2,969 combined yards, easily breaking the previous mark of 2,690, set by Derrick Mason with Tennessee in 2000.
Carolina (6-10) kept up for much of the first half but wilted over the final two quarters while the Saints set a franchise single-game record with 617 yards of total offense.
"We caught a football team that is on a roll right now," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "That's a playoff-caliber football team that did that to us."
Marques Colston caught Brees' first two scoring passes, making a spectacular, spinning catch with arms outstretched on the first one from 15 yards out.
Colston's second touchdown went for 42 yards, and he finished with seven catches for 145 yards.
Brees also connected with Graham on a 19-yard scoring strike, and added TD passes of 9 yards to Sproles and 1 yard to fullback Jed Collins.
Graham's TD catch was his 11th, matching a club record also reached by Joe Horn in 2004 and Colston in 2007.
Brees surpassed 300 yards passing for the seventh straight game and 13th time this season, both NFL records he already held and simply extended.
The records come one week after Brees passed Dan Marino's 27-yard-old single-season record of 5,084 yards passing.
Brees finished the season with 5,476 yards to go with 46 touchdown passes, fourth most in NFL history. First is New England's Tom Brady with 50 in 2007.
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