If Drew Brees' last game as the Saints quarterback was the 30:20 home loss in the NFC divisions to Tom Brady and Buccaneers on Sunday, he would be his Hall of Fame, Super Bowl winner, with his worst End playoff performance.
Brees (19 of 34 passes, 134 yards, one TD, three INTs, 3.9 yards per attempt, 74.9 passer rating) achieved a single game with low efficiency after the season, and all three of his turnovers were costly. The Saints' best pass in the game was a trick play in the first half, when backup and long-shot successor Jameis Winston scored a 56-yard touchdown.
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Brees, who turned 42 on Friday, was believed to be retiring after the 2020 NFL regular season and 2021 NFL playoffs, even if New Orleans didn't make it to Super Bowl 55, which it did . But if anyone can inspire him to change his mind and come back, it would be Brady.
Brady's team won, but it's not like Brady thoroughly outperformed Brees. Brady (18 of 33 passes, 199 yards, three TDs total, 5.9 yards per try, 92.2 passers-by) did not have much success in downfield shots against the Saints' defense and was lucky enough to have neither A game with several eavesdropping attempts that hardly avoids a major catastrophe with some of its throws.
When Brees & # 39; Saints dominated Bradys Buccaneers twice in the regular season en route to NFC South, Brady made the big mistakes. He started with one interception that was returned for a touchdown in Week 1 and ended with three more home interceptions in Week 9. A little over a year ago, when Brady was 42 and playing in New England, he experienced one very much un-Brady-like nightmare in a bad home wildcard loss to the Titans that his final Patriots playoff pass turned into a pick-six.
At the time there were questions tied to his arm strength and his decision-making as to whether age had caught up with Brady. Rather than retreating, Brady broke away from the Patriots, met the free agency, and found the perfect new home in Tampa, as he confirmed when he advanced to a 14th Conference championship game.
Brady refused to make this Foxborough performance his swan song. He turned Father Time back (again) to play like his 30 year old me again. Will Brees do the same after Sunday and not want to go out that way?
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For how much he meant to the Saints and the city of New Orleans, it must be hard to imagine Who Dat Nation would not be able to say goodbye to him with less than a full house in the Superdome. It also marked the end of a difficult season beyond the limits of the COVID-19 protocols, as Brees missed four games with chapped ribs a year after missing five games with a thumb injury.
The Saints got a good glimpse of their likely near future when they walked 3-1 and Taysom Hill threw and ran in Brees' last absence. They also made a contingency plan by signing Winston, the starter of the Buccaneers before Brady, late at the free agency. Suddenly a pass could give him a chance to fight for the number.
Just as coach Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints' organization made sure to play without Breees permanently, this has undoubtedly come to his mind many times. No doubt he envisioned a much better ending.
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Like all highly competitive aging athletes facing the crossroads of retirement and the hunt for one final championship, the mind is part of the decision, but the real conflict depends on the body versus the heart.
Anyone could think about how John Elway and Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset as Super Bowl winners for the Broncos. But that was the exception rather than the rule as it ended for Dan Marino and many other great quarterbacks of all time. With a fourth straight postseason disappointment after being a division-winning NFC powerhouse, that expectation may no longer be reasonable for Brees.
Brady blew everyone away with his antiquated game, and Brees was right there with him. Aaron Rodgers – Brady's NFC championship game counterpart and likely NFL MVP at age 37 – is on the same path to redefine the temporary prime for an elite QB.
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If Brees suspects he can return healthier and play at a high level next season, what Brady has done can serve as a strong suggestion for Brees to reconsider retirement, assuming he leans that way.
The difference between Brady's situation last year and Brees' this year is that Brees doesn't have to worry about a divorce from the Saints. If he wants to come back, then they would be completely behind him and would continue to strive to win big again.
There is nothing "big easy" about Bree's decision. Maybe it could make it easier for him to see Brady and think that he too can rebound like that.