There are any number of games that as a fan of the New Orleans Saints you can say were enjoyable to watch over the last decade. Really since the Sean Payton and Drew Brees era began in 2006, I could certainly make the argument that there have been more games that fans would watch just for the memories than in the entire history of the Saints before they got here (and far fewer that caused us true pain as fans).
Regardless of when how it ends, this era will go down as the ‘golden age’ of Saints football, and as such it will be remembered for its highlights much more than its failures. Certain game though reach a higher level, they aren’t just enjoyable or memorable, they’re iconic. I believe that this last Sunday’s game against the New York Giants qualifies as one of those iconic games.
As Saints fans we at times become desensitized to the incredible play of our Hall of Fame quarterback, but games like Sunday remind us just how truly special he is. Drew Brees completed 78% of his passes for 505 yards and seven touchdowns (tying the all-time NFL record). While I am aware that they decided to change Willie Snead’s fumble to an interception after the game, I’m refusing to acknowledge that in this case, despite what the ‘official’ ruling is. Regardless of whether or not you choose to agree with that change or not, the context of Sunday’s game is what makes it so special beyond just the raw numbers.
Drew Brees didn’t put up those numbers by hitting a bunch of elite weapons (ala Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning), nor did he do so by a ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’ method (ala Tom Brady). Brees tied the all-time record for touchdowns in a game while his two most prolific receivers were in their mid-thirties. Ben Watson caught nine passes for 147 yards and a score, and Marques Colston caught eight passes for 114 yards and a trip into the end zone. Neither is a player who sets the world on fire anymore, yet they dominated an admittedly poor New York Giants defense all day.
What is crazy is that Drew Brees could have easily had a bunch more yards in this game. In what was one of three poor passes on the day (out of 50), Brees missed second-year receiver Brandin Cooks by inches on a marginally overthrown pass early in the first quarter. It feels like the fiftieth time (it’s closer to the fifth) this has happened this year where Brees and Cooks just barely fail to connect on a huge play. If Brees hits Cooks, who was wide open, in stride on that pass it is almost definitely a 70-yard touchdown pass.
Brees also forced a pass to Cooks later in the game that was picked off, and what was odd was Brees almost definitely had enough room to run and pick up the first down on the play which would have extended the drive. He missed Michael Hoomanawanui on a deep pass along the right side line as well, and that’s it.
Fifty attempts, and 3 passes that I can find where he wasn’t perfect, or close to it. That is a performance for the ages. What made it truly special for me though is that the manner in which it occurred was such a surgical fashion. Over, and over, and over, Drew Brees would audible out of a play and create a big gain by dissecting the Giants defense. It wasn’t his arm (which seems nearly healed), nor was it his receivers, it was Brees’ mind that was most responsible for this performance. It must have been even sweeter to have THAT kind of performance against former Saints coordinator (defense intentionally omitted here) Steve Spagnuolo.
The 53-yard touchdown pass to Colston pretty much epitomizes what made this game possible. Brees knew the Giants defense probably as well as they did, and as soon as he saw something he took advantage of it. When Brees noticed that the Giants were going to end up in a ‘zero’ look, with nothing on the back-end and nothing in the middle, he checked into the correct play with Colston. All that was left was to hit Colston in the hands, and for him to not drop it, and he literally jogged into the end zone.
Are the Giants a bad defense? You bet they are. However, there is a difference between playing a bad defense and putting up good numbers, and putting up a historic performance while making it look so incredibly easy. That is what Drew Brees has always done, and it’s why this will remain one of those special games that 20 years from now, I will reference and re-watch. Saints fans will be able to look to their children, and grandchildren, in the years to come and say ‘remember that time Drew Brees passed for seven touchdowns and over 500 yards?’ That’s something practically nobody else can say, but WE get to.
Whether it is this year, next year, or a couple of years from now, this era is going to end — all things do. However, we should all take the time to step back and truly appreciate just how many incredible moments Drew Brees has given us while he’s been a Saint. He truly is one of a kind, and on Sunday he reminded not just us, but the whole league what happens when HE is on fire.
Over the years he’s given us moments like breaking Dan Marino‘s record, a plethora of memorable primetime games where he almost always shines brightest, a Super Bowl victory, and perhaps most impressive of all breaking Johnny Unitas‘s record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
I may be young, and I certainly lack the time logged by other members of this site (Barry Hirstius of Big Easy Believer for instance) who have decades on me when it comes to watching the Saints. However, I know for a fact that when the time comes for me to have kids, I will get to tell them of a legend, a man who defied odds and shattered records, and this past Sunday’s performance will be among the stories I tell.
The season isn’t over, and it may only just be beginning with the Saints now at .500, but I wanted to take a moment for us a fans to remember just how special what we got to see on Sunday is, and to remember that for THIS quarterback, such displays aren’t anything more than a days work.