Vintage Brees gets better with time

When the deed was done, when Drew Brees was the NFL’s all-time leading passer with a record-clinching touchdown throw you could not have scripted, somebody from the NFL handed him something cheap and flimsy that looked like one of those fresh-off-the-copier certificates you’d get for perfect attendance in the fourth grade.

Brees then got the famous football, which was retrieved after a rookie receiver had thoughtlessly dropped it in the end zone, and handed it to somebody who looked like comedian Jonathan Winters, only wearing white silk gloves.

We were later informed he was from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the gloves were to insure that Brees’ hand would be the last human flesh to touch the famous football.

The Saints’ wardrobe department made the Saints look like clowns for the night, dressing them in that tacky black-pants,-whitejersey ensemble that responsible parents would never let you out of the house wearing.

The Brees family was on the sideline, of course, with the brood huddled up like the bewildered little tykes who cue up behind the 18th green to watch daddy win a U.S. Open golf tournament.

A perfectly functional NFL game had just gotten out of hand, at 26-6 Saints just before halftime, so maybe it wasn’t so bad that they just decided to halt the game and turn it into a this-is-your-life circus. I kept waiting on them to go ahead and slip a gold jacket on Brees and discard halftime to let him get his Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance speech out of the way.

It appeared that the Saints were playing the Washington Redskins, but it may have been the Washington Generals flown in to be foils for Brees and the Globetrotters.

When does he throw a bucket full of confetti on them?

Only Drew Brees could have kept such a scenario classy.

And he did, of course, in his seemingly effortlessly graceful and unassuming style.

Well, he and New Orleans native Peyton Manning, who began the night as the NFL’s all-time leading passer.

They waited until a proper break for Manning to speak via a Superdome video screen, a scene that looked like one of his spot-on commercials or “Saturday Night Live” appearances.

He was peeling what appeared to be tomatoes somewhere out on the south 40.

Then, just as full-grown men were spotted weeping in the stands on camera, Peyton brought some levity to the teary-eyed festivities.

“Drew, for 1,000 days, I’ve held the record for all-time passing yards in the NFL,” he dead-panned. “And I’ve got to tell you, it’s been the greatest 1,000 days of my life … and thanks to you, that’s over now, and you’ve ruined that for me. So thank you very much. I have nothing left to look forward to but slicing my tomatoes, making dinner for my family, putting together this wedge salad.”

Brees seemed to remind everyone that there was half a football game to be played, and returned to dissecting the Redskins’ secondary with alarming precision.

Maybe it was fitting that the 62-yard touchdown pass that put Peyton in the rearview mirror was to a rookie, Tre’Quan Smith, who was catching just his second NFL pass.

Maybe Brees knew his name. Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter who the receiver was. Brees has been throwing to a wide assortment of them open for years.

A breakdown by NOLA.com listed the top 20 receivers by number of receptions by Brees.

The top, Marques Colston

(706), was a seventh-round drat pick. No. 3, Lance Moore (346), was an undrafted free agent. No. 2 Jimmy Graham (383) was a college basketball player.

Monday night, the 6-foot Brees was still standing up on his tip toes to hit nine receivers.

Maybe it was milking the gag when Brees caught one of his own deflected passes for a 1-yard gain, but that was harmless fun.

That’s when it hit you.

You realized you weren’t watching some aging baseball slugger limping through the end of his career just to finally get a milestone hit, no matter how awkward and painful it is to watch.

The 39-year-old Brees will do nothing from here on out but pad those stats through the stratosphere and soon will add Manning’s record of 539 touchdown passes.

“Also, let this serve as the congratulations for the touchdown record,” Manning said in his video, “because, as you can see, I’m very busy; I don’t have time to keep making all of these videos congratulating you.”

Yet right now Brees may be in the prime of his career, fully capable of putting a team on his back to the Super Bowl.

That alleviates one fear.

Some of us have assumed that whenever Brees steps down, the Saints will just shut down the franchise.

Really, what’s the use of watching the Saints without Drew Brees. Let San Antonio have them.

Well, not to worry.

Brees has said he’d like to keep playing until he’s 45, but he’s probably bluffing. It’s more and more apparent he can keep pin-pointing passes until 50, 60 maybe well into Social Security.

Two months shy of his 40th birthday, he completed 26 of 29 passes Monday night against what was alleged to be the NFL’s No. 1-ranked pass defense.

Vintage Brees. Seen that before, haven’t you?

Well, no you haven’t — not exactly, anyway.

The 89.7 percent completion rate was the best of his career for a game.

At 77.9 percent for the season, he’s on pace to break the season record. He won’t break Manning’s record this time — he’ll break the record (72 percent) he set himself last year shortly after turning 39.

It’s starting to look like maybe he’s just scratched the surface of what’s to come.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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