When Drew Brees signed with the New Orleans Saints in March of 2006, he said he did it because he “just felt that energy in New Orleans.” He said that there was a “genuine feeling” that they wanted him in the city, despite him coming off a shoulder injury. "They were as confident as I am, and that meant a lot,” Brees said at the time.
More than a decade later, following a Super Bowl title, Super Bowl MVP, 11 Pro Bowl appearances and a whole lot of winning alongside head coach Sean Payton, the energy that attracted Brees back in 2006 remains, the excitement still palpable.
On Monday night, in the Saints’ 34-7 win over the Colts, Brees got to soak in the love from the New Orleans crowd yet again. After breaking the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown record by finding tight end Josh Hill with 7:08 to go in the third quarter, Brees removed his helmet, ran up the New Orleans sideline and pointed at the home crowd in gratitude, taking in the moment as they applauded his historic feat.
The QB then found Payton, giving his partner-in-success a hug 14 years in the making.
Payton came to the Saints in January of 2006, Brees arrived that same March. The duo helped win Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts in their fourth year together—and still bonded, they’re hunting for their elusive second title.
“These special moments are special because of the people that are on this journey,” Brees told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game.
When he broke the all-time passing yard record last October against the Redskins, he wrote personalized messages to 174 current and former players and coaches, giving each a football commemorating the achievement. It’s fair to wonder what each of the 69 players to catch a touchdown from Brees might one day receive.
A number of Saints players from that Super Bowl-winning team were in the building on Monday night to witness the Purdue product’s historic evening. But while Peyton Manning’s touchdown record was inevitably going to fall, whether it was on Monday or in the weeks to come, Brees didn’t just break the all-time touchdown record in the victory. He completed 29 of his 30 pass attempts—missing only a short pass to running back Latavius Murray in the flat—setting a new NFL record for the highest single-game completion percentage with a minimum of 20 attempts. He threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, in a nearly perfect performance.
But while Monday night’s win belonged to the future Hall of Famer, the Saints' defense made a statement of its own. Last week in New Orleans’ 48-46 loss to the 49ers, the Saints' defense had no answers. Against the Colts, it passed the test with flying colors, surrendering just seven points and allowing only 205 yards.
Entering Week 16, New Orleans remains as the NFC’s 3 seed, but Monday’s nearly flawless performance on both sides of the football will only spring more confidence heading into the regular season’s stretch run.
Brees is among the unlikeliest of greats—standing just 6-feet tall and barely recruited out of high school. He said after the game that he entered the NFL just trying to one day be a starter, “maybe able to make a little bit of an impact,” he said.
The banner hanging in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome shows just some of that impact he’s made on the team, the city, the region. The ovations throughout the night are representative of the more complete story.
“This was a special night,” Brees said. “One that I’ll always remember.”
One that the New Orleans fans—and the NFL record book—will always remember as well.