The New Orleans Saints went 11-5 and won the NFC South this year, and many analysts told you it was because of an elite rushing attack, which ranked fifth in the NFL, and a vastly improved defense, which ranked tenth in the league in scoring (20.4 points per game).
Well, Drew Brees was pretty good, too. No, the stats weren’t as eye-popping this year. Brees, who turns 39 next Monday, finished with his fewest attempts (536) and completions (386) since 2009, his fewest yards (4,334) since 2005, and his fewest touchdown passes (23) since 2003.
None of that mattered Sunday. With the ground game stymied, Brees threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-26 Wild Card win against the rival Panthers.
Have fans and analysts underrated just how great Brees still is?
“I think we have to say, yes, we’re culpable of that, and here’s my favorite way of doing it,” NFL on FOX and NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said on The DA Show. “How many people would you think in your lifetime would throw for over 5,000 yards five times in the NFL and yet has never won an MVP? It’s absolutely staggering when you sit and think about it, isn’t it? That Drew Brees has never been an MVP? Heck, even the year they won a Super Bowl, he wasn’t the MVP.”
Nope, that honor went to Peyton Manning – whom Brees defeated in Super Bowl XLIV.
“So here’s the thing,” Davis said. “The run game has been so good for them all year that he hasn’t had to be that guy for much of it, but he sure as heck let us know that if I need to be that guy, it’s not a problem, is it? If you need me to do that, I’m still there. I’m still available.”
The Saints will need Brees to be available – and at his best – this Sunday in Minnesota, especially since the Vikings led the league in total defense and scoring defense.
“This is going to be fun,” Davis said. “Sean Payton chess-matching with Mike Zimmer, the defensive guru of the Vikings (who’s the) head coach and (an) uber-confident guy? Oh, this is going to be fun – because Payton thinks no one can slow him down, and Zim thinks no one can move the ball on his guys. And both of them have evidence to show that they’re probably right.”
Minnesota had the best defense in the NFL this season. New Orleans, meanwhile, finished second in total offense and fourth in scoring offense (28.0 points per game).
As for that Week 1 clash, when the Vikings beat the Saints 29-19 in Minnesota? Irrelevant. Vikings All-Pro safety Harrison Smith admitted as much to Davis a couple of weeks ago.
“He goes, ‘You realize we’re not even going to watch that film, right?'” Davis recalled, “‘because nothing is the same from Week 1 to where we are now.’”
In Week 1, Minnesota’s offense centered on Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook, and Adrian Peterson. Now it’s Case Keenum and Latavius Murray, among others.
“There’s a lot of changes on both of these teams,” Davis said, “I can’t wait to see them match up.”
Kickoff is Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET.