If Brees is even a little bothered by Cam Newton being widely portrayed as the marquee attraction when the unbeaten Carolina Panthers play in the Superdome this Sunday, the Saints' record-setting quarterback is resisting saying so.
''The only thing that will make us feel better is winning. You can go out and you can play well and if you lose it still stinks,'' Brees said Wednesday. ''There's so much football left to be played and I'm not one who's going to sit here and evaluate my season at this point. I just want to win and that's my job and I obviously need to do a better job of that.''
At 36, Brees hopes he still has a lot of football left, and there is some statistical evidence that he does. Even though he has missed a game with a throwing shoulder injury that he subsequently played through, his 3,200 yards passing rank fifth in the NFL.
His 20 TDs are tied for ninth, although seven of those came in one victory against the struggling New York Giants.
Brees' 10 interceptions tie for ninth most in the NFL, but he has only one more than Newton. Brees has taken 25 sacks, which ties for 11th most in the NFL, but so has Tom Brady, whose New England Patriots are 10-1.
If it seems like Brees is having a particularly challenging season, Saints coach Sean Payton said, it's because the whole team is.
''Anytime you are having a season like we are having, it's my most challenging season, Drew's most challenging season, (general manager Mickey Loomis') most challenging season, (right guard) Jahri Evans' most challenging season,'' Payton said. ''Shoot, that's a result of being 4-7 and I think that he has done a lot of things. He has played in a number of these games at an extremely high level. I think as a team we have to look at what are the specifics of where we need to improve.''
Brees' shoulder injury came at a time when he was also trying to mold a young receiver corps that includes Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman, neither of whom had a regular season catch before this season, their second as pros. The Saints traded away two of Brees' most productive targets from a season ago - tight end Jimmy Graham and speedy wide receiver Kenny Stills - and yet the quarterback is still managing to rack up yards, if not wins.
''Every year there are some specific things that become more challenging (or) less challenging, and I think that would be no different this year,'' Payton said. ''Just watching him in the timing of what we are doing, it's been good.''
Yet the perception remains that Brees is having a rough year, and the fact that his 45-game streak with a touchdown ended last weekend during a lopsided loss at Houston didn't help.
''It is unfair because Drew does so much and he makes so many things happen and they are struggling,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. ''It's been tough and he is handling it like a pro and he is going to play hard and try and beat you and he wants to win and that's the thing that I see.''
Notes: Seven Saints players sat out Wednesday's practice. They were: LT Terron Armstead (knee); WR Marques Colston (rest); LB Dannell Ellerbe (hip), RG Jahri Evans Ankle (ankle), DT John Jenkins (concussion); S Jamarca Sanford (hip) and WR Willie Snead (calf). ... Saints cornerback Damian Swann (concussion) was listed as limited in practice, marking his first participation since Week 8. ... Carolina had two players sit out practice: DE Mario Addison (ankle) and CB Charles Tillman (knee).
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