Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― For what could be the first time in Drew Brees’ life as a New Orleans Saints savior, he failed to do something he set his mind to.
He took off on his right leg and realized he didn’t have the rise he needed to get up above the crossbar.
So he improvised, finger-rolling the football through the goalpost instead of dunking it.
He apologized to Michael Jordan after the game, saying the layup was supposed to be a replica of the dunks the basketball great used to do in the 1980s and he used to do on 7-foot goals when he was a child.
As blasphemous as this might sound, Jordan might need to apologize to Brees for trade-marking dunks instead of finger rolls.
Because Monday night, Brees was that good.
These columns are beginning to come off like scratched records – Brees plays lights out, the media talks about how great and underrated he is and then he does it again.
In guiding New Orleans to a 49-24 win over the Giants on Monday, Brees was 24 of 38 for 363 yards, four touchdowns passes, a 129.6 quarterback rating and a ridiculous improvised eight-yard touchdown run that preceded the missed dunk.
“We sit in kind of awe sometimes on the sideline,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “When it’s third down, it can be third-and-15, I usually don’t get up because I know they’ll probably convert. We know we have a special quarterback. He’s the heart-and-soul of this team and he’ll continue to lead us.”
We’ve read and written this before. But then Brees goes out and has a game like he did against the Giants.
This much we know – the franchise changed the day Sean Payton took over as head coach.
He instilled a new attitude at the Airline Drive facility. He brought in different kinds of players through the draft and free agency.
But Payton truly changed the franchise the day he signed Brees as a free agent ahead of the 2006 season.
We know what he has done since – taken New Orleans to two NFC championship games, winning one, and a Super Bowl, where he secured the franchise’s first world championship with an otherworldly performance.
Yet, that’s what we’ve come to expect from Brees.
Talk to his teammates and you get the impression they’d do anything he tells them to. They’d follow him anywhere he led them. And they’ll defend him until the end of time.
Brees has steamrolled, sprinted and blasted right by the description ‘rare leader.’
Just listen to them.
“This guy is special,” Saints linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. “Anytime that he’s put in a bad situation, he makes the best of it and he comes up with a first down. That one where he escaped two guys and threw to Pierre (Thomas), that’s huge. That’s something you come to expect out of Drew. He’s a great player and we appreciate him.”
Said receiver Marques Colston, “He’s playing at an extremely high level. There are not too many guys playing at that level. We’re lucky he’s in this locker room.”
Added Thomas, the running back, “We follow him. He’s our leader. We listen to what he says and watch what he does and move forward from there.”
But left guard Carl Nicks might have summed up what everyone else danced around.
“You can’t take nothing away from (Green Bay quarterback) Aaron Rodgers,” Nicks said. “He’s ballin’ out of control . But Drew is right there. To be kind of quiet after the kind of season he’s having, being under the radar, it’s crazy to me.”
It’s crazy to a lot of people but his consistency might be the thing holding everyone back from completely patting him on the back. They're used to his exploits now.
In six years with the Saints, he has 45 300-plus yard game with 43 with a passer rating better than 100.
He has thrown a touchdown pass in 38 consecutive games, second only to Johnny Unitas’ 47.
He has thrown at least 20 completions in 31 straight games, an NFL record.
Monday, alone, he set a Saints franchise record with four passing touchdowns and a rushing for another in one game. According to ESPN, he’s the first quarterback in the 42-year history of Monday Night Football to throw for 350-plus passing yard, four touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in one game.
And yet, he’s not satisfied.
“There’s plenty of room for improvement,” Brees said. “Despite what the stat sheet says, whether it’s good or bad, there’s always things you wish you would have done better. This game, I could have been more efficient. I’m hard on myself. I expect perfection and Understand that’s impossible to achieve and yet you’re always striving for it.
“I just know deep down there are some things I can definitely do better and have to continue to work on.”
That’s the reason the Saints are 8-3 this season and 5-0 at home.
Now if only he could perfect the dunk instead of the finger roll.