Alden Newman-Pats Militia
This Sunday’s Patriots vs. Saints game will be an awesome one for several reasons. Both of these competitive teams lost their opener, and will be fighting hard to avoid falling to 0-2. We will get to see two great coaches square off against each other. But most importantly, we are going to witness two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game face off for potentially the last time. Both Tom Brady and Drew Brees are guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famers with illustrious and decorated careers. The two greats have met four times, but there is a strong possibility that this meeting between Brady and Brees could be the last one ever, so I am going to give it the full in-depth breakdown that it deserves.
Let me give some context for the kind of greatness that will be on display on Sunday. For all time passing yards, Brees and Brady are third and fourth, respectively. For all time passing touchdowns, oddly enough Brees is also third, and Brady again is fourth. Brady has the advantage over Brees in the clutch though, as he ranks third in game winning drives (since 1960) compared to Brees’ sixth place. Brady can also boast to Brees about probably the most important stats. Tom has more wins (208) and Super Bowl rings (5) than any other quarterback in NFL History. Brees’ 137 career wins and one Super Bowl victory are impressive, but there’s a reason that only one of them is called the G.O.A.T.
As I mentioned before, Brady and Brees have gone head to head four times. Brees won the first two matchups back in his San Diego days, and then he won the next one as a Saint. Brady got his one win against Brees in their most recent encounter, back in 2013. Brady counts one more victory for himself, as he mentioned in his press conference today. Recalling his matchup with Brees’ Purdue team back in college, he points out, “In the Big House, we beat them” (per Mike Reiss). Brady can reminisce about his Michigan days all he wants, but the truth is that Brees has gotten the better of him to this point in the NFL. This is surprising, because I don’t think anyone would debate me saying that over the course of these two quarterbacks’ careers, the Patriots have been a more dominant and successful franchise than either of the teams that Brees has played on. Yet despite this, Brees has held such an advantage over Brady in their matchups. And while football is absolutely a true team sport, when I looked into the numbers it’s easy to see how quarterback play affected the outcomes of these games.
In the three most recent matchups between Brady and Brees, Brees has averaged 285 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0.33 interceptions per game. His average passer rating is an astounding 123.8 (This average is boosted by his perfect passer rating of 158.3 in his game against the Patriots in 2009). Those numbers are impressive, but they look even better when put side by side with Tom’s stats from these matchups. Brady has averaged 270 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1.5 interceptions per game. And his average passer rating was a measly 72.8. As much as it pains me to admit, there is one quarterback who has undoubtedly outperformed the other in these head to head matchups, and it’s not Brady.
One final storyline to watch for in this game is the awkward position that this matchup puts Brandin Cooks in. Cooks has been remarkably fortunate to have played with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in his young career. I will be interested to see if he has a little extra motivation on Sunday going up against his former team. From Brees’ perspective, it will have to hurt to watch Cooks catch 50 yard bombs from Brady right in front of his face. It’s one thing to go through a break up, but it’s a whole lot worse when your former partner gets together with the most handsome and successful guy around. The Saints have traded away their last two elite weapons (Cooks and Jimmy Graham), and I would have to imagine that Brees is frustrated that his team has not had a winning record over the last three years despite his phenomenal personal play. Brees will absolutely be competing at his best this week to get the Saints’ season on the right track. And you can bet your life that Brady and the Patriots have been pissed off since their disappointing opener, and have been doing everything in their power to prepare for a win against New Orleans. If this really is the final matchup between Brady and Brees, then this game promises to be special as the two legends playing in it.