Drew Brees' popularity is as high as ever in New Orleans: Saints First-and-10
I realize the coverage of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees can be a bit syrupy these days.
The Onion even took a satirical jab at New Orleans' love affair with the Saints star quarterback in a recent feature.
But it's hard not to genuflect on Brees. He's playing the position as well as anyone in the history of the game.
Brees isn't off to the high-flying start he had a year ago but he's still playing at a very high level.
Here are some interesting numbers about him as he heads into the NFC South showdown against the Falcons on Sunday at the Superdome:
The 49ers game marked the sixth consecutive game for Brees - including the 2009 postseason -- without an interception, a streak of 241 pass attempts.
The streak dates to the second quarter of the Dallas game on Dec. 19, 2009, when Michael Jenkins picked off his pass intended for Devery Henderson.
If Brees gets through the Falcons game without an interception, it would mark the first time in his Saints career he's gone four consecutive regular-season games without an interception.
The only start he's missed in his Saints career was last season's finale against Carolina, when he was inactive because the club didn't need him to play. Otherwise, he's started 65 out of 66 games.
In fact, Brees would have started 101 consecutive games in his career but his streak was snapped twice because of "meaningless" season finales. He also sat out the 2004 finale for the Chargers.
And this one, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info: Brees finished the 49ers game with a 108.9 passer rating. That's his sixth consecutive game with a rating over 100 and the 29th game he's done that since 2007. That makes him the leader in the league (one game more than Philip Rivers in games with passer ratings over 100 since 2007.
... And 10 (more observations)
Jabari Greer says he'll tell everyone about his new number when he "makes a big play".
1. Numbers game: Jabari Greer changed his jersey from No. 32 to No. 33 this season. It's the same number he wore at the University of Tennessee but he said that's not the reason he changed it. "I'll tell you guys after I make a big play," Greer said. And so the mystery continues. Greer is the 16th Saint to wear the number and immediately becomes the best player in franchise history to wear it. One man's ranking of the top 5: 1. Greer; 2. Ashley Ambrose (2003-2004); 3. Tyrone Hughes (1993-96); 4. Mike Strachan (1975-80); 5. Moran Norris (2001-2002).
2. Tweet of the week: "left the house at 9am...didn't get back til 9pm...no substitute for hardwork because sundays makes it all worth it!!" - Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51), Wednesday, 9:29 p.m.
3. Quote of the week: "I think part of that comes with winning When we came here in '06, I think every game of ours was at 12 noon or 1 o'clock (kickoff). We had the one Monday night game. That's the result of losing. So when you do start having success I think you find yourself playing on some of those time slots." - Saints coach Sean Payton on the team's irregular early schedule.
4. Required reading: Former 49ers great, Ronnie Lott, has become something of an honorary Saints captain in the past year. Saints consultant Mike Ornstein connected Lott to Sean Payton a year ago. At Payton's invite, Lott spoke to the Saints in the 2009 exhibition season and before the NFC Championship Game last November. But his decision to speak to the Saints on the eve of their game against his ex-team created a controversy in the Bay Area. He explained to a Sacramento, Calif., radio station why he did it and the San Jose Mercury News has the recap.
5. Fact of the week: After losing seven out of eight games to the Falcons in the Superdome from 1995 to 2002, the Saints have won six straight at home against their archrivals. It's the longest streak of home-field wins in the 81-game history of the rivalry.
6. Reason for optimism: For the second consecutive game, the coverage units were outstanding. The 49ers' average starting point after five kickoffs was the 19-yard line and gunner Courtney Roby made a fantastic play to beat his blocker and recover a key fumble by punt returner Phillip Adams in the fourth quarter. The Saints are off to a great start. They rank seventh in the league in kickoff return average and eighth in punt return average.
7. Reason for concern: The Saints' longest run this season has covered 11 yards. Pierre Thomas made it in the third quarter against the Vikings.
8. Something I liked from Week 2: Malcolm Jenkins continues to shine at free safety. The second-year defensive back has made a smooth adjustment to free safety and is getting more comfortable with each game. He's not making the highlight-reel interceptions Darren Sharper did but he's also not getting burned or blowing coverages.
9. Something I didn't like from Week 2: The pass rush was tepid, at best. I know the 49ers used a lot of max-protection schemes but the line isn't getting to the quarterback the way they should. Even when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams sent all three linebackers or even defensive backs on blitzes the Saints rarely harassed or hurried Alex Smith. Their only sack of the season was by defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. This needs to change.
10. Fearless prediction for Week 3: It's been a while since a Saints back ran for 100 yards in a game. The last time someone did so was Week 3 of last season, when Pierre Thomas had 126 yards against the Bills in Buffalo. That's a span of 18 consecutive games, including year's postseason. But something tells me Thomas is going to snap that streak this week. The Falcons defense is speedy and athletic but they can be pushed around up front. The Saints offensive line will have a decided edge in size. Look for Thomas to run the ball early and often. The Saints' ground game gets back on track this week in a big way.
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