Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Man They Call "Breesus..."

Gutsy performance by Drew Brees last night. When the defending champion Saints most needed their quarterback to rise to the occasion against the division leading Atlanta Falcons, he did just that! Overall, it was certainly a sub-par performance (when factoring-in 2 interceptions in addition to his lone touchdown passs) by Brees.

That being said, a below average day for Brees equates to a tolerable game by far for most other quarterbacks in the league. With time running out in the regular season & a potential playoff birth on the line, Brees overcame 2 horrible 4th quarter passes, both of which were intercepted by Falcons defensive ends (Chauncy Davis returned the 1st 26 yards for a touchdown, John Abraham snatched the 2nd pick right out of mid-air but was luckily tackled by Brees, otherwise that would have been returned for 6 points as well).

At the time, it appeared as though the 2nd turnover might have been the final death-blow to an already up & down season for the Saints. It was at this point, that the Saints defense came up with a much needed stop to give their Super Bowl MVP a chance to make up for his earlier struggles. The next offensive drive by the Saints literally saved their season (at least for another week anyway).

In a hostile environment where the Falcons had not lost a home game since 2009, Brees marched the Saints down the field with a time consuming, 13-play drive which ate up 6 minutes & 37 seconds of clock - leaving the Falcons little time to respond. The Falcons were eventually unable to do so & the Saints came away with a crucial victory which seemingly announced to the league that the Saints were still relevant, indeed.

Off the field, he seems to be a pretty stand-up dude as well. After watching him address the media in the post-game press conference following their loss to the Ravens 2 weeks back, I took notice of the way he took absolute responsibility for the opportunities his team left on the field. I took specific pleasure in observing the way he respected his opponents (even in defeat).

Most fans of the sport are well aware of the rejuvenation Brees & the Saints provided for New Orleans residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - initially, I chalked Brees' humility & leadership up to the standard public relation protocols, often taken by organizations such as the NFL in response to tragic events such as Katrina, but his continued involvement in the community (even today) seems genuine & I definitely respect that.

Apparently, the editors of Sports Illustrated, who named Brees it's 57th Sportsman of the Year earlier in the month, respect the guy as well. Who knew his 2006 arrival in New Orleans (a city ravaged by instability, violence & crisis just months earlier) would be the start of such a tremendous experience for victims in such desperate need of uplifting? Even still, Brees insists it's the city that saved him, & not the other way around.

The 2 seasons that preceded his arrival in the Buyou were tumultuous campaigns to say the least. The San Diego Chargers who drafted Brees in 2001, benched him repeatedly & then acquired Phillip Rivers in 2004, following a catastrophic shoulder injury to Brees that many feared he wouldn’t fully recover from. The deal for the rights to Rivers in the 2004 NFL Draft essentially cemented the idea that Bress was NOT the QB they wanted to lead their team, still, he had quite the successful lame-duck season (throwing for over 3,500 yards & 27 TDs) during his final year in San Diego.

Brees continued to excel & threw for more than 4,400 yards each of his 1st 3 seasons with the Saints in a still recovering city, all the while pledging full support to the same community that accepted him with open arms, but the tough times were not yet done for Brees In August of 2009, his estranged mother died (her death was eventually ruled a suicide), even with this, he managed to lead the Saints on a tear through the league, which culminated with the franchise’s 1st Super Bowl win. Fittingly, it appeared that at this point the residents of the city were on their way back up as well. In the article honoring Brees as Sportsman of the year, he told SI's Tim Layden that "People in New Orleans needed someone to care about them & it was the 1 place that cared about me."

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