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If this is Drew Brees’ ride into the sunset, Bucs can create an eclipse

All signs indicate the Saints quarterback will walk away at season’s end. Can the Bucs retire him early?
In his last four games against the Bucs, Drew Brees has completed 75 percent of his passes for 811 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception. The Saints have won all four games.
In his last four games against the Bucs, Drew Brees has completed 75 percent of his passes for 811 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception. The Saints have won all four games. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jan. 15

They can arrive at the Superdome with a must-win — and maestro’s — approach. The figurative baton is in their hands.

Conceivably, the Bucs can end Drew Brees’ swan song a couple of choruses prematurely. In the wake of all the anguish the 42-year-old Saints quarterback has inflicted on Tampa Bay through the years, a rare opportunity has risen.

A chance to send Brees off on a sour note.

“It really don’t mean nothing for me retiring him, but the No. 1 thing is, if I beat Drew Brees, I go on to the next round,” Bucs inside linebacker Devin White said. “But if it is his last game, I do need to get a pick and a sack off him. That’s something I’ve got to come through. I’ve got to make a big play out of Drew Brees.”

Widespread belief is, Brees’ next defeat sends him off to the studio. He reportedly has signed a deal to join NBC’s Sunday Night Football in 2022, but NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport recently said he has “yet to talk to one person who believes that Drew Brees will play in 2021.”

It’s widely believed Brees seriously pondered retirement last year before opting for a final shot at a second Lombardi Trophy.

Related: How the Saints rent space in the Bucs' helmets

For the Bucs, thwarting that opportunity would be a gratifying byproduct of the ultimate goal of reaching the franchise’s first NFC title game in 18 years.

“I’m just thinking of the last few times we played them, what they did to us,” said outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, whose team has lost its last five games against New Orleans.

“That’s what I’m thinking about, trying to right those things that went wrong the past few games. It’s just being in the playoffs in general, so if that comes with it, it wouldn’t be bad to be the last team that Drew Brees played against and we beat them.”

Grounding Brees’ career will require grounding him, literally. Brees has been the Saints’ quarterback of record in four games during New Orleans’ current five-game win streak against the Bucs, and has been sacked only three times in those four contests.

During that stretch, Brees has completed 75 percent of his passes (96-for-128) for 811 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception.

“We get there some, but (we’re) not actually getting him down,” Barrett said. “We’ve just got to get there — no ifs, ands or buts about it. That’s going to help us control that game if we get to the quarterback.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.