Drew Brees has a lot of respect for the Baltimore Ravens defense even though against the Houston Texans they surrendered 489 yards in total offense -- including 393 yards on 31-of-62 passing and three touchdowns to Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on Monday night.
So what can the Who Dat Nation expect out of Brees at the Baltimore Ravens's field on Sunday?
"Comparing Brees to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said, "Well, in my eyes, he's better. Maybe it could be my personal vendetta against the other guys, but he's definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in this league, and he's got the numbers to prove it. And not only that, he's got the hardware to prove it."
Brees has been off-and-on against the Ravens in the past. His first meeting was when he was with the Chargers and threw for 270 yards, but no touchdowns and three interceptions in a 24-10 Ravens victory in 2003.
In his first season with the Saints, Brees passed for 383 yards and three touchdowns, but the Ravens returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 35-22 win in 2006.
Those numbers mean little to Raven cornerback Chris Carr.
"We expect the best at all times," said Carr. "I don't think we're going to intimidate him or fool him. He's just very accurate. He's a good player, and you just know that you're going to have to get very close to his receivers or he's going to find them."
Brees is just 145 yards shy of a 4,000-yard season, which would be his fifth consecutive. He and Manning, who just registered his fifth straight 4,000-yard season, are the only quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in four straight seasons.
What makes his achievement more remarkable is that Brees, like Manning, has had to shoulder the offensive burden because of a lack of consistent running game. Running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have missed a combined 17 games because of injuries, and Chris Ivory, who appeared to find his rhythm as the featured tailback, played only a quarter last week against the Rams after his hamstring tightened.
Still, the Saints rank sixth in the NFL, averaging 25.4 points per game.
"I try not to look at it like that," said Brees of leading the offense. "I feel like whenever a guy goes down, other guys step up and you've got to pick up the slack somewhere. Having those guys hurt early on, we had to make some adjustments."
Brees' 362 passing attempts trail only Manning's 378, and perhaps not coincidentally, Brees has been intercepted 18 times, which already is a career high.
But Brees also ranks second the league in touchdown throws (38) and competition percentage (69,0) and third in passing yards (3,855). Saints coach Sean Payton said Brees continues to make adjustments to his game.
"He's got a very high bar," said the coach. "He's probably as hard on himself as anyone. He's very competitive, he pays a ton of attention to things he wants to improve on season to season, and one of the reasons he's been so successful is that attention to detail and his commitment to becoming better each year. He's been in this offense. This is his fifth year now. We've all been together, and he's got a real good grasp of the protections, a good grasp as to what we're doing within the running game."
Brees also has a knack for avoiding the pass rush. Among quarterbacks who have started every game this season, Brees has been sacked just 18 times, which trails only the Giants' Eli Manning (13) and Peyton Manning (14).
"He's very accurate. moves around back there and can kind of escape a rush and find a guy," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “He just makes some uncanny plays. He's got a great understanding of defenses."
Brees will do whatever it takes to help the Saints keep pace with the NFC-leading Falcons, but if he has to use his right arm 40 times, he'll do it.
"In a perfect world, we always talk about being balanced and being able to mix the run and pass," said Brees. "But there will be games where we might run 40 times and then there are times where we might have to throw it 50 times. You just never know, but you're always prepared to have to execute very well in the passing game in order to win."
Brees will go against two future Pro Football Hall of Famers in Ravens safety Ed Reed of Destrehan and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
"Reed is all over the field," said Brees. "He can do it all. You have to know where he is on the field because he's dangerous.
"Ray's been around a long time and he's played at a high level a long time and he continues to play at a high level. He's so instinctive. You can tell he's played a lot of football. He's seen it all. His ability to play that chess match of being aware of what's going on around him and what's going on with certain things. He's sharp."
Football 101: The national media have anointed the Falcons, Eagles or Giants as the team to beat in the NFC, but they better check with the Saints before they give away the title. The defending Super Bowl champs have quietly peaked at the right time and opponents should be concerned. Reggie Bush is back and ready to resume his role as the designated wild card. He has rare talent as a receiver-runner, and coach Sean Payton maximizes his skills by deploying him at various positions in their spread offense. His ability to get one-on-one against linebackers and defensive backs in space requires defensive coordinators to direct double converge in his direction, and Payton exploits those tactics by taking advantage of the one-on-one matchups on the outside...
Marques Colston, in particular benefits from all the attention that Bush commands. In breaking down the Saints' opening score on Sunday, it was Payton's clever deployment of Bush that led to an easy 5-yard touchdown catch by Colston. On that play, Payton starts with Bush flanked wide on the right. Prior to the snap, he motions Bush into the backfield beside Drew Brees, who takes the shotgun snap and fakes an inside handoff. The Rams linebackers and strong safety react aggressively to the fake by stepping up to meet Bush in the hole. Colston runs a stutter post before running to the back of the end zone. The combination of the play-fake and stutter route allowed Colston to slip past the safety for the Saints' opening score...
Here is the Saints schedule and that of Atlanta:
New Orleans Saints Football Schedule
New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens Dec. 19
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dec. 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints January 2
Atlanta Falcons Football Schedule
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks Dec. 19
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dec. 27
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons January 2
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