Drew Brees has respect for both Falcons and Patriots
The Falcons defense gave up 350 passing yards or more just three times this season, but two of those were against Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for a combined 726 yards and five touchdown passes and still lost both games against Atlanta.
"How about stop their offense first?" Brees asked last week after a practice for the Pro Bowl at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. "Atlanta has done as good a job as anybody of playing complementary football, between offense and defense. Obviously their offense is very explosive. They've scored a lot of points. They also take really good care of the football. They don't put their defense in many tough situations."
Atlanta and New England each had only 11 turnovers all season, tied for the lowest total in the NFL, and Brees saw the development of a young defense as the season progressed. In the first four games, including a loss to the Bucs in which Jameis Winston threw for four touchdowns, the Falcons gave up 13 touchdown passes; in the remaining 12 games, they gave up a total of 18. Along the same lines, the defense gave up at least 31 points in three of the first four games, then gave up 31 just three times in the last 12 games.
"Their defense gets out there, they're revved up and they've got some great pass-rushers that can pin their ears back and go get you," Brees said. "Corners are playing really well. They've got some young players on defense and they're all playing beyond their years, playing very well. They're creating turnovers for their offense, which turns them into points. That's what the Falcons offense has done for a long time."
And while he's seen 45-32 and 38-32 losses to Atlanta this season, he also has a healthy respect for New England and what the Patriots have done this season.
"(The Falcons) are rolling right now, but New England is New England," said Brees, who is actually 3-1 in his career against New England, with 10 touchdown passes against one interception. When the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, Brees had a five-touchdown, zero-interception game against the Patriots -- no other quarterback since 2000 has had a game with more than three touchdown passes and no interceptions against New England. "They are game-plan machines. They're going to have a plan, for Julio Jones, and when their offense is on the field, it's going to be that New England offense that takes positive play after positive play, convert first downs and go down and score points. I watched a lot of their tape this year, and you watch a game, and it's nothing spectacular -- Tom Brady's being Tom Brady, completion after completion, throwing a screen here, a down-the-field shot there, and at the end of the day you look at the scoreboard and it's 35-13. How did they do that? It's their formula and they do the best job of it."