Monday, February 8, 2010

Brees reaches "next level" with Super Bowl victory

After what Peyton Manning did to the Jets top-ranked defense in the AFC Championship game, I stated that he was the best quarterback in the game, if not ever, and that no other active quarterback was close to being on his level. Two weeks later, I must revise my statement thanks to Drew Brees.

I billed this matchup as the league's two best quarterbacks facing off, with Manning obviously ahead of Brees for a multitude of reasons (previous Super Bowl title, ability to make uncanny throws into tight windows, etc.). But with his MVP performance last night, Brees entered that upper echelon of quarterbacks that previously had belonged solely to Manning by outplaying his counterpart.

You can say all you want about Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger deserving to enter that level thanks to a combined 5 Super Bowl rings between the two. But neither of those quarterbacks is as deathly accurate as Manning or Brees and honestly, I don't think even Brady and his 3 rings are on the same level as either Manning or Brees as a quarterback. I would take both of this year's Super Bowl quarterbacks over Mr. Giselle any day of the week, and that's not me hating on the Patriots.

Before the game, I said if the Saints won and Brees was a major reason, that I would have to place him on the same level as Manning. Both of those happened and I'm sticking by my word. Brees tied Brady's record for Super Bowl completions with 32 on 39 attempts, throwing for 288 yards, 2 touchdowns and perhaps most importantly, no interceptions. He looked cool, calm and composed at all times and never got impatient facing an early 10-point deficit.

His yardage numbers aren't gaudy, but Brees was able to dink-and-dunk the Saints down the field while Indianapolis focused on taking away the big play downfield. Even without the explosive aerial attack that was a New Orleans staple all season, Brees was still able to lead his team to victory with great decision-making and pinpoint throws in the short and mid-range passing game. After completing just 3 of his first 7 passes, Brees finished 29 for his last 32 including just one second-half incompletion.

And he did it without much of a running game, something I said the Saints would need to win. The Saints ran for just 51 yards on 18 carries and the game was placed squarely on Brees' shoulders, but he showed no signs of collapsing under that immense weight. In fact, he seemed to thrive on the knowledge that the outcome of this game was in his hands and he responded like true superstars do.

Manning may have won the regular season MVP and there is no doubt in anybody's mind that he deserved it. But he would surely trade that hardware for Brees', which includes a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP trophy. The Saints as a whole deserve a lot of credit, including Sean Payton for his gutsy coaching decisions and the defense for containing the Colts' offense and forcing that one turnover I said could make the difference.

The Saints were the better team on this day and honestly, there were the better team all season. Solid overall teams like the Ravens and the Jets who lacked superstar quarterbacks were unable to match Manning's magic, but when he ran into a quarterback on the same level as him with a stronger supporting cast, Manning was unable to leave Miami with his second championship. The real question now becomes who will win another title first, Manning or Brees?

With the young team the Saints have in place, I think I have my answer. Who dat you say? Drew Breeeeeeeeees!

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