Sometimes a team can rely too much on one player. Even if that player is elite. It has been a strange year for the New Orleans Saints.
Simply put, Drew Brees was asked to do too much.
Between a bounty scandal costing their head coach the entire season and a contract squabble with Brees before the year got underway, it was a rocky beginning for the Saints before anybody put on pads. That, and an awful defense, will keep New Orleans out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Even with significant adversity Brees tried to carry the franchise.
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New Orleans began the year 0-4. Brees threw for three touchdowns in three of the four losses. In a 28-27 setback against Green Bay he attempted 54 passes and gained 446 yards. It wasn't enough to overcome the defense allowing more than 32 points a game over the first month of the season.
The Saints won back-to-back contests to get to 2-4 thanks to Brees upping the ante. He threw for four touchdowns against San Diego, and four more in Tampa Bay. New Orleans dropped to 2-5 when the Broncos blitzed them 34-14.The defense yielded 530 yards to Denver and Brees was held in check.
Brees got New Orleans back in contention with a three game winning streak against Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Oakland. He fired eight touchdowns during the span, was intercepted just once, and completed 71-percent of his passes.
Then the competition stiffened.
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All chances for a fourth straight playoff berth went down the tubes with loses to division leaders San Francisco, Atlanta, and New York. Good teams game planned to stop Brees, dared the New Orleans defense or running game to make a play, and frustrated the Saints when Brees was forced to throw without any other working options. He was intercepted nine times in three defeats. The defense allowed 32 points a game.
The last two weeks, in essentially meaningless games, Brees has once again been brilliant. Seven touchdown passes, no interceptions, and more than 750 passing yards have helped the Saints beat Tampa Bay and Dallas. The later in a game that the Cowboys desperately needed to improve their playoff chances.
The Saints have won seven times. In those games Brees has thrown for 23 touchdowns. New Orleans has just one victory in a game where Brees has tossed for fewer than two scores. The Saints are fourth in the league averaging nearly 28 points per contest. Nearly all of those points are because of Brees. The three teams that have scored more points than New Orleans have three of the four best records in the NFL.
Drew Brees is not the problem.
Everything else is.