I was listening to KJR this week and heard a long discussion between Ian Furness and Jason Puckett on concerns they might have for Saturday’s divisional playoff game versus New Orleans. Not surprisingly the list became somewhat of an exercise in the trivial. The Seahawks have been established as heavy favorites in this game for good reason. They’ve been the best team in the NFL all year, they are playing at home, and they waxed the Saints just over a month ago. Truthfully, it’s tough to find a lot to be concerned about in this game.
Which is not to say it will be easy or that the team from Big Easy has no shot. They have a very real shot because they have the one thing that road underdogs have leaned on for years in NFL playoff games.
They have a great, great quarterback.
Drew Brees doesn’t seem to get as much attention or love afforded upper echelon pigskin pitchers but he’s very much earned it. He’s fifth on the all time passing yardage list behind guys who can be identified by surname only: Favre, Manning, Marino, and Elway and he’ll pass Elway early next year. Only Favre, Manning, and Marino have thrown more touchdown passes.
His numbers-across the board-go up in the post season where he averages 323 yards passing per game and completes on average 67% of his passes. The only passing stat with a marked post-season decline? Interceptions. He throws one ever 38 attempts in the regular season and one every 70 attempts in post season.
Among active players only Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have thrown for more post-season yards and if he manages a touchdown pass tomorrow he’ll move into the all time top ten list for playoff scoring passes.
He also possesses the one thing that truly matters and that’s a Super Bowl ring from 2010. That post season ranks as one of the best any quarterback ever had. Brees completed 70 percent of his passes in three Saints wins. He threw eight TDs and was not intercepted. Somewhat typically of his career his great day was overshadowed a bit after Tracy Porter’s dramatic pick six off Manning sealed the Saints win over the Colts (and triggered the kind of raucous celebrations in New Orleans that Seattle fans are hoping to duplicate).
Seattle football fans were introduced to Brees long ago. On New Year’s Day, 2001, he completed 23 passes in 39 attempts for 275 yards and two touchdowns in Purdue’s 34 to 24 loss to Washington in the Rose Bowl. His passing and playmaking kept Purdue in a game what was much closer then you might remember.
Obviously when you’re a sports numbers geek you can go on and on and on. Just as obviously it’s easy to manipulate numbers to make just about any point you want to make in a sports discussion. But in this case the numbers and the evidence mount up to one inevitable conclusion: Drew Brees deserves to always be in the conversation about the best quarterbacks who’ve ever played the game.
His last appearance in Seattle wasn’t a good one. In fact it was horrible, one of the worst games (both statistically and anecdotally) of his career. Maybe that game is a harbinger of things to come this weekend. Perhaps the Seahawks defense can harass Brees into another forgettable day. If that happens, forget any chance the Saints might have.
But maybe Brees is going to do what he’s usually done in post-season games and that’s rise to the occasion. His “Beast Quake” game numbers were pretty stunning. To me, that’s the biggest concern about this game from a Seahawks perspective. The Saints can’t win with him and him alone, but if he has a lights out day he’ll keep things interesting.
And…interesting game or not…if the Hawks win (and I think they will) we can all take a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that the win will come against a guy who is a certain first ballot entry into Canton-unless the Baseball Writers of America have anything to do with it.