Brees, Brady keep making history, take on the test of time

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Drew Brees, Tom Brady
Drew Brees and Tom Brady meet on the field after the New England Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS — The statistics show that Drew Brees and Tom Brady are the third and fourth most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history.

Brees has the third-most passing yards and touchdown passes and Brady has the fourth most of each. Peyton Manning is first and Brett Favre is second, but both of them are retired and Brees and Brady don’t seem interested in retiring any time soon even though Brees is 38 years old and Brady is 40.

“I’d say we probably both have the mindset that we want to change the norm of what is possible in regards to how long a guy can play and the level that they can play at,” Brees said earlier this week.”

Brees and Brady met for the fifth and perhaps last time in the NFL on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and both added significantly to their remarkable statistics.

Brady completed 30-of-39 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdown passes and 177 yards in the first-quarter were all career-bests for Brady, who is in his 18th season. The 447 yards were his third-most.

Brees, who’s in his 17th season, completed 27-of-45 for 356 yards and two touchdowns, but in the numbers that matter the most, Brady’s New England Patriots outscored Brees’ New Orleans Saints 36-20.

Both Brady and Brees entered this game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome trying to salvage a Week 2 victory after their teams began the season with losses, but the expectations for their teams are vastly different. New England is the defending Super Bowl champion and New Orleans has finished 7-9 each of the last three seasons.

Though Brees has the edge on Brady in individual statistics, Brady has a clear-cut edge in team success. Brady has had the good fortune to play his entire career with the franchise that is the gold standard in the NFL, but he’s been a big part of establishing that standard.

Brady has been the quarterback of record for more wins than any other quarterback in NFL history (209) and Sunday’s victory left him three wins from breaking the regular-season mark of 186, which is shared by Manning and Favre.

Sunday’s victory gave Brady a 2-1 edge on Brees since Brees joined the Saints in 2006, though Brees led San Diego to wins over Brady and the Patriots in 2002 and 2005.

In New Orleans’ Super Bowl season of 2009, Brees threw five touchdown passes as the Saints improved to 11-0 with a 39-17 victory.

“I’m not going to say that that was any ordinary win,” Brees said. “It was significant for us at that time, for that team, as far as taking our next step. So maybe (it was) for me and taking my next step for my growth and my maturation process.”

Earlier this week on a conference call with reporters covering the Saints, Brady was asked about his first game in the Superdome in 2002, when the NFL learned that this Brady guy might be someone special.

That’s when the unproven second-year quarterback led the Patriots to a 20-17 victory against the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Since then, Brady has been in six more Super Bowls and won four of them.

“I had such a great experience there but that was a long time ago,” Brady said. “Our last experience (in the Superdome) wasn’t very good, so hopefully we can do a lot better than the last time.”

They did.

The last time these teams met was in Gillette Stadium in 2013 and Brady authored an improbable comeback, driving New England 70 yards with no timeouts and throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to produce a 30-27 victory.

This sporadic competition between the two quarterbacks dates to 1999 when Brees was at Purdue and Brady was at Michigan. Brady’s Wolverines prevailed 38-12.

Watching Brady in that game told Brees that his counterpart had “a mental discipline and a mental toughness that’s unmatched.”

NFL personnel people didn’t necessarily see that because Brady wasn’t drafted until the sixth round in 2000. A year later Brees went in the second round.

“If any one of us had a crystal ball,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “you’d be taking them in the first three picks of any draft.”

The NFL schedule won’t pair New England and New Orleans again until 2021, though Brady and Brees could meet again before then. A Super Bowl pairing involving the Saints doesn’t seem in the offing, but Brees’ contract expires after this season and a fresh start with a Super Bowl contender could be tempting to him.

New Orleans has lost its last eight games in September and is 1-11 in September in the last four years, and it’s difficult to see this team finishing appreciably better than it has the last three seasons.

After Sunday’s loss, Brees said “it’s only a matter of time” before the Saints get a win, but this season is looking very similar to the last three.

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Les East

Les East

CCS/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…

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