When the Atlanta Falcons took the field against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, one would have never known they were a 2-8 team taking on a 8-2 team. Both teams traded blows throughout the game, in what turned out to be a surprisingly low scoring game with the toll of a rivalry game triumphing the massive difference in fortunes the two franchises have been dealt in 2013.
Ultimately, the Saints picked up a 17-13 victory in this war of attrition to move to 9-2 on the season, and a game and a half ahead of the scorching Carolina Panthers in the NFC South. Just as is usually the case, the deciding factor in this game was quarterback Drew Brees, although by just looking at the score, one would think he had an off-night, if that is even possible.
But while maybe by Brees’ standards the night may have been a disappointment, his performance was anything but. For the night, he completed 23-of-33 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, a characteristically efficient statistical line.
What this line does not show, however, is that top offensive weapon Darren Sproles was out via injury, as was veteran guard Jahri Evans. The result of these two injuries was that the Falcons made it their mission to get into the Saints’ backfield, and on many occasions, they were quite successful. But instead of giving in to this, Brees stuck in the pocket and made throw after throw, in turn, showing the innate leadership ability that was both responsible for New Orleans winning this game, and on a grander scale, for their great success in 2013.
While this performance was by no means routine on the field, it certainly looks that way when one looks at the continued statistical proficiency that Brees has shown in 2013. After Thursday night, he has now thrown for a 68.3 completion percentage, 3647 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Each of these accomplishments rank in the top five of any quarterback in the NFL, and have made the quarterback arguably the best in the league on paper in 2013.
Possibly even more importantly than personal statistics for Brees though, is the ultimate statistic, which is the 9-2 record that New Orleans now possesses. There is no doubting that nobody is more responsible for this record than Brees, who through both his statistical contribution and ability to be an on-field leader through any issues, has set an example for all of his teammates to follow.
While other players such as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady continue to perform in a fashion that gains more mainstream attraction, there is no doubting Brees continues to be just as good as, if not better than, these two. Additionally, he is just as important to the Saints as anyone else in the league, and as a result, should be firmly planted at the top of the NFL MVP race.