Usually these Stat of the Week posts focus on an aspect of the Washington Redskins, but this week we're going to change course and look at New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Brees and the Saints come to town Sunday in a game that has all the ingredients for a shootout.
Through eight games this season, the 36-year-old Brees has put up characteristically impressive numbers, but he doesn't seem to be getting the same praise for his feats as he has in recent seasons. Now in his 15th season in the league and 10th with the Saints, he has made it routine to approach 5,000 yards each year.
In his nine full seasons in New Orleans, Brees has played in all 16 games and thrown for at least 4,400 yards eight times. The one season he missed those marks, he played in 15 games and threw for 4,388 yards.
He's also tossed at least 26 touchdowns in each season as a member of the Saints, and he's thrown at least 33 in each of his past seven seasons. And despite throwing at least 500 passes in 11 different seasons, Brees has only once passed the 20-interception mark, when he threw 22 in 658 passes in 2010. His quarterback rating since coming to New Orleans has dropped below 90 just once, when he finished with a cool 89.4 in 2007, and it's surpassed 100 in three seasons in that time.
As for this season, Brees has been just as good as ever on paper, though he's missed one game. He lost top target Jimmy Graham, who caught at least 85 passes and nine touchdowns in each of the previous four seasons, in the offseason, as well as top receiving back Pierre Thomas (45 catches in 2014, 77 in 2013) and deep threat Kenny Stills (led the Saints with 931 receiving yards last year).
Brees has built his rapport with Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson (now on IR), Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston and Ben Watson this season, while incorporating C.J. Spiller and sending 2014 undrafted free agent Willie Snead into relevance.
He has done so to the tune of 2,763 yards (2nd in the NFL), 18 touchdowns (T-7th) and just seven interceptions (T-12th most) while completing 69.6 percent of his passes (2nd among QBs with at least 200 attempts). He's thrown at least one touchdown in each game he's played and has yet to throw more interceptions than touchdowns in a game. He's also topped 300 yards in six of his eight games, with the exceptions coming when he twice threw for exactly 255 yards.
And he's just starting to find his rhythm. Two weeks ago, he threw for seven touchdowns and 505 yards in a 52-49 shootout against the New York Giants. That game inflated his numbers, but he came back a week later and threw for 387 yards and three touchdowns. That's 892 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions on 67-of-89 passing (75.3%) over his past two games.
Brees hasn't gotten his typical publicity this season, in part due to the team's 4-5 record, but also thanks to the abundance of storylines elsewhere; Tom Brady is lighting the league on fire in wake of DeflateGate, Aaron Rodgers is having his usual stellar season, Peyton Manning appears to have withered to a cheap knockoff of his former self and Andrew Luck has been generally broken.
But consider the numbers Brees is on pace for. Pretend he hadn't missed that game and would still play a 16-game season: He'd be on track for 5,526 yards (which would be an NFL record), 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His 15-game pace still has him on track for about 5,181 yards (fourth all-time), 34 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
That is a ridiculous season.
For some local perspective:
- The Redskins record for passing touchdowns in a season is 31, by Sonny Jurgensen in 1967. He did it in 14 games, so that's impressive, but he also threw 16 interceptions and managed just 3,747 yards.
- Joe Theismann had his best season in 1983, when he threw for 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and 3,714 yards en route to the league MVP award.
- Jay Schroeder holds the Redskins record for passing yards in a season with 4,109 in 1986. Brad Johnson reached 4,005 in 1999. Those are the only two seasons in which a Redskins quarterback has reached 4,000 passing yards.
- Kirk Cousins is on pace for 3,908 yards, 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. If he hits those numbers, it'll be considered among the top 10 — maybe top five — seasons for a quarterback in Redskins history.
Now, to compare those numbers to Brees' accomplishments:
- Brees has thrown for at least 31 touchdowns seven times. In fact, he threw for at least 33 touchdowns in each of those seasons. He's thrown for at least 40 TDs twice (2011 and 2012) and threw for 39 another time (2013).
- Since coming to the Saints, Brees has never finished a season with fewer than 4,300 passing yards. He has surpassed 5,000 four times, and he was 48 yards away from doing it a fifth time last season.
- In NFL history, only five quarterbacks have ever thrown for 5,000 yards in a season: Brady, Manning, Brees, Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford. Brees is the only one to ever reach that mark more than once, and he's done it four times. And remember, he is on pace to reach that number in 15 games this year.
You obviously don't need me to tell you Drew Brees is a good quarterback, but it's really hard to overstate how ridiculously good this man is. Don't let the lack of attention fool you, he's still having a monster season and, as evidenced by his shredding of the Giants, is still capable of totally dominating a defense at any given time.
As for how this applies to Sunday's game, well, consider the Redskins defense. Though it actually hasn't given up a single 300-yard passing game yet this season, it's given up 250 or more yards in six of the eight games it's played, and twice given up at least 295 yards.
The Redskins have also allowed 13 passing touchdowns while intercepting just four passes, and five of the quarterbacks they've faced have thrown for multiple touchdowns. Finally, four opposing signal callers have posted at least a 110 quarterback rating against Washington, led by Jameis Winston's 128.1.
Washington could very well win this game. The Saints' secondary is abysmal and Cousins is certainly good enough to put up big numbers against it, especially with a healthier DeSean Jackson. This Redskins defense is better than it has been in years, which, though not saying much, is a positive sign.
The game will come down to two things: How well the Redskins contain Drew Brees, and whether or not Kirk Cousins can keep pace. It's not rocket science.
This should be the type of game Cousins thrives in. He'll throw more for quantity than quality, and an interception or two will be forgiven if he puts up two or three touchdowns to go with the picks.
And now, some predictions I'll likely regret:
- Drew Brees will throw 45+ times for at least 370 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
- Kirk Cousins will throw nearly as many times for about 325 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
- Redskins win 34-31.