Sports Football

Drew Brees puts doubters to rest

By Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for five touchdown passes against the Steelers in Pittsburgh yesterday. The Saints won 35-32. (USA TODAY/PHOTO0

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for five touchdown passes against the Steelers in Pittsburgh yesterday. The Saints won 35-32. (USA TODAY/PHOTO0

New Orleans might be thinking about its future under centre, but the present looks pretty darn good.

Amidst talk that the Saints plan to draft their quarterback of the future this summer, Drew Brees had another majestic outing that indicated he is still elite, throwing for five touchdowns for the ninth time in his career, in a 35-32 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Brees’ top target, Jimmy Graham, didn’t even make a catch, but it didn’t matter, as Brees made his completions count, turning five of the 19 into scores.

The day began with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeting: “Given Brees’ struggles, #Saints are preparing for life after Brees. Expect them to draft a QB high this draft. They wish they did last year.”

Rapoport later added on television that the Saints “believe they can see the finish line here” and “they’ve seen some arm strength issues that have cropped up in the last several games; throwing crucial interceptions — the kind which we never see from Drew Brees. They are starting to wonder what is next at this position.”

New Orleans had lost three straight heading in and Brees, who will turn 36 in January, had thrown 11 interceptions and just 17 touchdowns.

Against Pittsburgh, Brees threw about half as often as usual (it was his fewest attempts in two years and fewest completions since October of 2013) and just the second time he threw fewer than 20 completions in the past five seasons.

You can’t argue with the results. Maybe Brees isn’t old, maybe he’s just tired?

Mark Ingram assisted Brees by rushing for 122 yards.

Trailing 6-0 early in the second quarter, Brees threw three-straight touchdown passes, then answered a Steelers score with a 69-yard pass to Kenny Stills for a 28-13 lead.

Stills was responsible for 162 of New Orleans’ 257 receiving yards

The Saints moved to 5-7, while Pittsburgh dropped to 7-5, despite 435 passing yards and two touchdowns from Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was hit on his right wrist during the first half, but stayed in the game.

The Brees chatter was only part of the pre-game backstory. The three-game losing streak had reports surfacing that head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were not getting along.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that their relationship had been “rapidly deteriorating” as the going got tough.

La Canfora added that Payton and Ryan “strongly dislike each other.” The pair have been seen jabbering back on the forth on the sidelines several times this season.

Post-game, Payton said their relationship was “outstanding” and dismissed the report, saying he gets into it with everyone on the sidelines.

RGIII TALK STILL GOING

Brees isn’t the only quarterback with an uncertain future.

It is still unclear what is next for Washington QB Robert Griffin III. People certainly love to muse about it though.

The pre-game shows dedicated ample time to that discussion, with many pundits saying Griffin needs to focus on his game, instead of his brand more, now that injuries have forced him to change his game.

Shaun O’Hara thinks Griffin III will stick around.

“The answer to that is no and I only say that because of what they gave up to get him,” O’Hara said, when asked whether Griffin III would be back.

“I think they gave up too much to get rid of RGIII at this point. They’re going to give him every opportunity.” Washington gave up a king’s ransom to move up to select him a few years ago.

Former pivot Kurt Warner said Colt McCoy, not Griffin or Kirk Cousins, “gives them the best chance to win.”

“We talk about confidence, we talk about believing what you’re seeing and understanding what you’re seeing — he’s not doing that right now,” Warner said of Griffin.

“Will he ever be able to do that? I think what we saw his first year in Washington was a lot based off of what he could do running, the play action. He wasn’t reading the entire field. I believe if he’s going to live up to the hype, he has to learn to read the entire field.”

Warner’s former Rams teammate Marshall Faulk went even further, calling Griffin “a bust.”

Rapoport said having already paid his contract for next season up front, Washington does not yet have an incentive to move on with somebody else long-term, though McCoy will be the starter for now, unless he struggles.

Coach Jay Gruden said McCoy would start next week.

QUICK HITS

Indianapolis lost cornerback Vontae Davis to a concussion against Washington on Sunday … The St. Louis-Oakland game featured teams with a 56-116-1 record (Rams) and 50-121 record over the past 11 seasons, the two worst marks in the NFL … Andrew Luck had his second game with three touchdown throws farther than 20 yards downfield. According to ESPN, the rest of the league has only managed that feat once this season … Luck is now tied with Blake Bortles for the second-most turnovers in the NFL.

TRE BIEN

Stakes is High might be the name of an album by legendary hip hop group De La Soul, but could also apply to Rams running back Tre Mason prior to Sunday’s game.

Mason, the son of a member of that group and a former Heisman Trophy runner-up was having an uninspiring freshman campaign before going up against the hapless Raiders.

The Rams won 52-0 in a laugher, thanks in part to Mason’s best NFL outing.

The former Auburn star, selected 75th overall, had 113 yards rushing on just six carries in a first half that saw St. Louis ring up 38 points, tied for the second-most in franchise history.

He had only one touchdown coming in, then scored two — one to open the scoring on a 35 yard catch, the other on an 89-yard run (the second-longest in Rams history) – during the game’s first 16 minutes.

His previous longest gain on the ground was 28 yards, and he had only made nine catches all season, before making three on Sunday.

The two former Los Angeles-based franchises had a rare meeting and the Raiders — playing in St. Louis for the first time in 12 years – looked like they were playing on a different planet.

WAYNE STILL HAS LIFE ... JUST ASK HIM

Though he is no longer a primary target for Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne wants you to know he is not yet done.

The 14-year veteran, who has had four seasons with at least 100 catches, had just half that total through 10 games and just 38 in an injury-shortened 2013 campaign.

But if you think he is no longer useful, Wayne says think again.

“You ever heard of toilet material? That’s the category I put that in,” Wayne told the Indianapolis Star before the Colts crushed Washington on Sunday.

“I don’t buy into none of that. All I can do is do my job. Run the plays that are called, and keep it moving … It’s my job to go out there and prove people wrong and keep going.”

Wayne had three receptions for 10 yards last week, extending his NFL record of consecutive games with at least three catches to 81, though two of them came late when the game was no longer in doubt.

That led to some criticism toward Wayne and head coach Chuck Pagano, who fiercely defended the decision to make sure the record kept going.

On Sunday, Wayne made four catches for 31 yards, including one that helped set up a touchdown.

BAD TO WORSE FOR WASHINGTON

Washington’s nightmarish season just keeps getting worse.

From the issues with the team’s name, to the Robert Griffin III saga and the nearly universal disdain for unpopular owner Dan Snyder, this is a team not many people have been able to get behind.

On Sunday, a 49-27 embarrassment at the hands of Indianapolis dropped Washington’s record to 3-9, including 1-6 away from home.

To make matters worse, star wide receiver DeSean Jackson was carted off of the field due to a lower leg contusion.

Jackson had missed some time earlier in the game with the injury, which he suffered after being hit with a cheap shot by Indianapolis defensive back Mike Adams.

Jackson had stepped out of bounds after an 18-yard reception when Adams flung himself at him after getting lightly grazed by a Washington player. The play did not look like an accident, and it left Jackson clutching his left leg.

Jackson returned to catch a 42-yard touchdown pass – his fifth of the season – and made five catches in all, his most in five games, but was then carted off.

Jackson had only made one catch last week against San Francisco.

MARVIN, FEEL SHAME

Sometimes you are good. Sometimes you are lucky.

Cincinnati certainly wasn’t good on Sunday (quarterback Andy Dalton threw three first-half interceptions) but luck came in (a) playing awful Tampa Bay and (b) having a blown challenge actually help out in the end.

The Bengals beat 2-10 Tampa 14-13, despite Dalton’s issues.

After Bengals coach Marvin Lewis pulled a Chris Webber-esque faux pas – calling for a challenge, instead of a timeout, he didn’t have in this case — with the Bucs marching toward a possible victory late, the stoppage gave the officials a chance to notice via replay that Tampa Bay had 12 men on the field. The ensuing penalty wiped out a 21-yard play that would have given the Bucs the field position to attempt an easy, game-winning field goal.

Instead, the home team had to go for it on fourth-and-20 and could not convert, allowing Cincinnati to escape.

Dalton had just a 34.7 passer rating in the first half, but in the end, it didn’t matter as he led his team to a road victory for the third week in a row.

 

 


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