METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees could have been forgiven for first interception he threw in the Georgia Dome last November.
He was trying to hit one of his favorite targets, Marques Colston, streaking into the end zone for a game-tying score.
The second wasn’t even completely his fault as running back Chris Ivory turned the wrong way and lost track of the ball, letting it bounce off his hands into those of an Atlanta linebacker.
But by the end of the night, Brees was a shadow of himself, his worst game as a professional in the books.
Never before had he thrown at least five interceptions and finished with a passer rating of as low as 37.6.
The Saints lost 23-13 that night to the Falcons, largely because Brees wasn’t himself.
Fifty-one weeks later, Brees will get his chance to atone for that night when the Saints (8-2) once again travel to Atlanta (2-8) for a Thursday night game.
And yet, that’s not the game that’s bugging Brees.
“I would say more so it’s playing them the first game of the season, just knowing the last time we played that wasn’t a good day,” Brees said. “You want to kind of get past that and get on to better things.”
The Saints, of course, opened up 2013 with Atlanta, holding off the Falcons 23-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It wasn’t as bad as Brees necessarily remembers it; he went 26 of 35 for 357 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
New Orleans was only 1-for-3 in the red zone, however, and 1 of 2 in goal-to-go situations. When the Saints could have put the game away late in the fourth, the team couldn’t get into the end zone from the 10, settling for a Garrett Hartley field goal.
Brees then had to watch on as the Falcons drove to New Orleans’ 3, getting two cracks from there to put up the game-winning points. They didn’t but that isn’t keeping Brees from using that game as a chip on his shoulder this week.
In other words, last November’s game in Atlanta is long out of his memory.
“He’s going to prepare just like he threw eight touchdowns against this team last year,” safety Roman Harper said. “That’s just who he is. That’s just his routine and he sticks to it. He’s always the first guy here, the last guy to leave.”
This season, that has led the league’s fourth-best passer rating, second-best for those having thrown at least 300 passes. He’s second in the NFL in completions and touchdowns and third in completion percentage.
He’s on pace for his third straight 5,000-yard/40-touchdown season and fewest interceptions since 2009.
For this reason, his teammates have his back.
“When Drew says something and speaks it means volumes,” Harper said. “I believe in the guy wholeheartedly. I don’t even blame him for the five picks. I blame the scout team. We didn’t give him good enough looks. We don’t blame Drew and we’re not even close to the position we’re in if not for him.”