Drew Brees says it’s not about him, but, of course, it is.
After playing 253 games in 18 NFL seasons, the 39-year-old quarterback of the New Orleans Saints is on the cusp of breaking one of the greatest NFL passing records of all-time - Peyton Manning’s 71,940 career passing yards, accomplished over 18 seasons and 266 games.
Brees needs 201 yards passing against the 2-1 Washington Redskins on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to surpass Manning, and considering he is averaging 324 yards passing during the Saints’ 3-1 start this season, he is a sure bet to get it.
Brees currently ranks No. 3 on the all-time list - he needs just 99 yards to bypass No. 2 Brett Favre - but he doesn’t like to talk about individual achievements.
“Right now I’m just trying to focus on my preparation to help us win the game,” Brees said. “All that other stuff takes care of itself. I know that can be hard to do.
Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of attention this week. I’m really just trying to keep it as simple as possible and just worry about winning the game.”
The Redskins return from their bye week focused on establishing the run and effectively playing keep away from Brees.
Former Saints running back Adrian Peterson returns to New Orleans as a key cog in the offense operated by quarterback Alex Smith. While he was a teammate of Brees for just six months, Peterson quickly came to appreciate a peer who also one day could have his bust displayed in Canton.
“Being up there in New Orleans just for that short period of time, and just seeing him, man, I’m talking about clockwork,” Peterson said.
The Redskins beat the Packers entering their bye week and have played well against the pass. Washington has surrendered only 41 points in three games, but that same defense is near the bottom of the NFL in third-down defense at 42.1 percent conversions allowed.
Smith said situational football will be critical for the Redskins to keep pace with the New Orleans attack. Washington has not yet scored a second-half touchdown this season.
“You do that one play at a time — whether that’s controlling the ball or hitting big plays when they come,” Smith said. “One play at a time, executing that play. When you do that more often than not, good things happen.”
Brees might not say it, but he knows teammates and coaches are paying attention to the expected record. Coach Sean Payton said the Saints have discussed with the NFL how they would recognize Brees during the game if and when he surpasses Manning.
“We’ll come up with the protocol, because it is something so significant,” Payton said. “The league does a good job of recognizing it and then moving on from that. Obviously, it’s a storyline, and you always say that it’s just more special when you win. I’m sure Drew would feel the same way, and we’ll try to handle it the best way possible.”
Left tackle Terron Armstead admitted he might be biased, but he called Brees the greatest quarterback of all time.
“He’s just a special guy that sacrificed and dedicated his entire life to being the best of all time, and I feel that he’s reached that,” Armstead said.
Smith is in awe of what Brees has done and said Brees, Manning and Favre are great role models as elder statesmen.
“Those guys rewrote, I think, productivity for an aging quarterback in what they were able to do,” Smith said of those three quarterbacks. “I think it wasn’t by luck. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of training, a lot of taking care of their body that saw them able to be productive into their 40s.”
Even though the Redskins should be fresh coming off a bye week, the Saints will get a shot in the arm with the return of running back Mark Ingram Jr. from a four-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Ingram was so excited about his return that he met his teammates when they arrived at the airport following a 33-18 victory over the New York Giants.
“He looks fine,” Payton said after seeing Ingram. “I’m sure he stayed busy. I mean he wasn’t gone for a year and a half or been a castaway on an island. It was four weeks. He’s in good shape. ... You have a little bit more versatility with someone with Mark’s experience, and I know it will be good for us offensively to have him back.”
—Field Level Media