Sunday ended in heartbreak for Drew Brees and the Saints, as they fell to Tom Brady and Bucs. It certainly felt like the last time we will see No. 9, as the evidence of his impending retirement is compelling. Naturally, Brees will take some time to think about things before he gives New Orleans a final decision. While we hope that isn't the case, in no particular order, we take a look at some of the best moments Brees delivered for the Saints in 2020.
1. Fighting through broken ribs and a collapsed lung to rattle off 10 points against the 49ers.
If you ever doubted a quarterback's toughness, then look at what Brees did against the 49ers in Week 10. It was later revealed that he suffered some cracked ribs in the prior game against the Bucs, but then had suffered a collapsed lung and more broken ribs from the San Francisco game. Despite that, Brees played through some of the pain, leading New Orleans to 10 points before the half after being down 10-0.
2. Returning to play against the Chiefs.
It was a big moment for Brees returning to action after being placed on injured reserve, and he wasn't 100 percent. He revealed that during his post game press conference when asked, laughing and saying, "No, but I'm on my way." Despite a losing effort, Brees threw for 3 touchdowns and a pick while racking up 234 yards passing on 15 completions. It wasn't his best game, by any stretch of the imagination, but once again, he did it for his team.
3. Outdueling Tom Brady twice in the regular season.
When Tom Brady joined the Bucs in the offseason, everyone quickly shifted their focus from the Saints, despite winning the division three straight seasons. We'd seen Brady and Brees meet a few times, but this took center stage in both Week 1 and Week 9. By far, Brees was the superior quarterback in both meetings, as he tossed for 6 touchdowns en route to outscoring Tampa Bay 72-26 combined. These two will both be future first-ballot Hall of Fame selections, and it was good to see him get the best of the proverbial GOAT.
The second game in prime time also gave us this gem. Of course, Brady got the last laugh.
4. Beating the team that drafted him in prime time.
Brees and the Saints were down 20-3 in the game against the Chargers in what was supposed to be building off a turnaround from their 1-2 start. They had previously beat the Lions after coming from behind, and doing it against the team that drafted him was bittersweet. New Orleans got into end zone right before the half to cut the lead to 20-10, and then tied things up in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Los Angeles pulled out in front, which set up a comeback situation for Brees in the two-minute drill. He delivered.
It appeared as it was going to be all for naught, as the Chargers stormed back down the field to set up a potential game-winning Michael Badgley field goal from 50 yards out. New Orleans had a time-consuming possession to start the overtime frame, and the Saints defense capped off the win, something that earlier New Orleans teams under Brees would not have done.
5. Eclipsing 80,000 yards - something no one has ever done.
It's a special milestone in the NFL, as Brees hit the 80K mark on Christmas against the Vikings after connecting for a 9-yard pass to Latavius Murray. No one in the history of the game had ever got there before him, and while Tom Brady could get there from playing in 2021, he'll always be the first to hit the mark. For those who wondered, that's just over 45 miles worth of passing. Incredible.
6. Coming back for the 2020 season.
The offseason process is usually the same for Brees, taking time away from football to spend time with the family in various locations to reflect on what he wants to do with his future. We got confirmation on March 17th that he was returning, signing a two-year, $50-million extension with New Orleans. He announced via his personal Instagram account.
"My feelings about the 2020 season! I look forward to the grind and the journey, for the reward at the end will be worth it!!! Love you #WhoDatNation. Let’s make another run at it!"
7. Suck on those air yards.
One of the best throws by Brees of the season came against the Chiefs when he hooked up with Emmanuel Sanders on a 51-yard bomb. It was good protection and he had a clean pocket to work with. For someone who took so much criticism on not being able to throw a deep ball, this was one of his better throws of the season. Aside the insane 52-yard Alvin Kamara catch and run against the Packers, it was the longest hookup of the season for Brees.
8. Making magician work in the pocket to find Latavius Murray.
It first happened against Kansas City, but happened again against Chicago in the Wild Card Round. On both plays, Latavius Murray was the last option for Brees. He was picking up the blitz and doing his blocking assignments, but Brees couldn't find anything downfield. A last-second dump-off to Murray ended up working for New Orleans twice.
9. "I wanted you to see this touchdown."
Maybe it's more on what Terron Armstead did, but in the Bucs game Brees found a wide open Tre'Quan Smith for the opening score. What happened during the process of it was what we will remember.
Brees said, "And it was funny because I got hit, I was going down and Terron Armstead caught me, propped me up and said, 'I just wanted to see this touchdown. So it's funny how offensive linemen catch that stuff. They're blocking and blocking then the minute that their guy sees that the balls been thrown, their guy usually turns around, and then immediately the offensive lineman's eyes go down the field. So it was funny that he caught me, propped me up and said, I just wanted you to see this touchdown (laughter)."
10. One Last Look at the Superdome field
Sunday night saw Drew Brees and his family on the field for a considerable amount of time following the game. Yes, that is normally a weekly tradition for them, but with COVID-19, it hasn't exactly happened. The whole sequence lasted until around 11 p.m., as multiple people made it a point to come talk to Brees after the game, most notably Tom Brady.
Brees said following Sunday's loss,"Listen, I always soak in the moment. And I'm looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and daughter and fist bumping my boys. Yeah, I mean, they've become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they're so invested in this as well. And so it makes the moment special to be able to share it all together."
If this truly is the end for Drew Brees, it wasn't the way he wanted to go out. However, his legacy and impact on the game should be felt for quite some time.