How many New Orleans Saints fans struggled to sleep Sunday night? I had so many thoughts running through my head, mostly about how I didn’t want it to end this way. Not again, and certainly not for Drew Brees.
We’ll know soon enough whether Brees is really retiring – as Sean Payton said postgame, “That’s for another press conference.” But seeing Drew embrace his wife, Brittany, on the Superdome turf afterward and savor every moment with his four children, even conversing with Tom Brady, who earlier scored three touchdowns off of four Saints turnovers in a complete role reversal from their Week 9 matchup, the story seems to be written. (AP Photo)
And when they watch the tape of the 30-20 loss to a Bucs team they beat twice before, they’ll realize the ingredients for winning football present in those victories were inexplicably absent Sunday. Brees threw three interceptions in a game for the first time since 2016, Tampa Bay ran 35 times for 127 yards, and the Bucs capitalized with 21 points off Saints turnovers.
Add it all up, and it’s not at all the way a first-ballot Hall of Famer wanted to see his career potentially end. This was the year – Super Bowl or bust. But instead, the Saints are the first team ever to win 49 regular season games over a four-year span and not reach the Super Bowl.
Yes, we were robbed in the 2018-19 season, but Brees is such a competitor that he truly believed he could thrive and bring the Saints back to championship glory one more time. It just didn’t happen – he missed time with injuries and the Saints generally rallied in his absence (8-1 without Brees).
But the bottom line is the Saints AS A TEAM couldn’t get it done in the playoffs with two consecutive disappointing exits on their home field. I emphasize “as a team” because Sunday’s loss is not on one player. I saw causes for concern against the Bears, and sure enough, Tampa Bay took advantage, scoring 17 unanswered points after Jared Cook’s fumble when the Saints led 20-13.
It’s been a privilege to watch his career unfold in New Orleans, celebrate a Vince Lombardi Trophy a decade ago, and see him embrace this city with open arms the past 15 years. I guess that’s why I had to fight back tears seeing those images and video of the Brees family on the field last night.
Thanks for the memories, Drew. There are too many too count. You’re one of a kind, and New Orleans loves you. Forever.