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'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

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Old 10-04-2018, 09:35 PM   #1
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Old 10-04-2018, 09:39 PM   #2
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Re: 'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

BY NICK UNDERHILL | nunderhill@theadvocate.com Oct 4, 2018 - 8:25 pm

Drew Brees has completed a lot of passes.

Anyone can tell you about his greatest moments, the comebacks he put together, or this pass or that pass. But at some point even the highlights start to blend, the greatness somehow fading past greatness as it continues to accumulate. But there are a few moments that will stick around forever, and one of those happens to be an incomplete pass.

Ask anyone inside the Saints’ headquarters who was around when “Fire 82 Strief Pop” was called and you’ll get a smile or a groan. Sometimes both. There is another part of the play call that went before those four other words, but they’re unessential to this story. Only one of those words matter here: Strief.

Brees has completed 6,344 passes for 71,740 yards. He is days away from becoming the most accomplished passer in the history of football. A lot of teammates helped him get to this point, but he has targeted 14 players who did not catch one of his passes, including six in New Orleans. One of them happens to be former right tackle Zach Strief.

“It’s my single greatest regret as a player,” Strief said. “It’s the one thing that I had the chance to accomplish that I didn’t accomplish.”



New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, and Zach Strief stand for the U.S. national anthem before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) ORG XMIT: TH118
Tim Ireland


Strief spent years entering the game as an extra blocker as the former seventh-round pick waited for an opportunity to work as a starter. The “No. 64 is eligible” announcements, when Strief took the field, became a staple of the Superdome experience.

“He wasn’t someone you thought much about, but he was tackle eligible a lot,” Eddy Guttierrez, a season ticket holder since 2005, said. “I even remember a guy had a No. 64 jersey with the name ‘I’m Eligible’ on the back. It seemed reasonable in short yardage or goal line because Zach’s so big, but I certainly never thought they’d throw him the ball.”

The perfect storm formed in 2010 against the Steelers on Halloween.

Teams started thinking the same way as fans. They didn’t show Strief any respect as a receiving threat, and they knew Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu would be aggressively indifferent to an extra blocker since they saw him immediately crashing downhill against other teams in similar situations.

It was finally time to throw Strief a pass. The Saints had been preparing for the moment for years. Every Friday, Brees would throw a handful of passes to Strief. Saints lore has him catching every single one for three years straight.

During the week leading up to the game, they ran the play several more times with no issues. If everything went right, Strief should be wide open in the end zone with no one around him when the pass arrived. Everyone felt confident.

“Strief catches the ball well,” Brees said. “He’s just like pluck, pluck, pluck. Working great like a charm.”

The call came late in the third quarter with the Saints near the goal line. Strief was supposed to sell a run fake by blocking linebacker LaMarr Woodley for three seconds and then release into the end zone. By then, Polamalu was supposed to be crashing into the backfield.

It didn’t play out like that. When Strief went to shed Woodley, the linebacker did not initially let him go. That small detail threw off the timing of the play and created a series of errors. Instead of cleanly getting into the end zone, Strief had to put his hand down to maintain his balance and he never quite regained as he attempted to get into the end zone.

Despite having all kinds of open space once he got free, Strief fell backwards toward the ground as he stretched to catch the pass, which was delivered to where he was supposed to be instead of where he was.



New Orleans Saints tackle Zach Strief (64) celebrates a 31-24 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and New Orleans Saints offensive guard Jahri Evans (73) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON


“I went to throw him and stem, and he pulled me,” Strief said. “I kind of rolled around while I was off balance, and I’m falling down the whole way. As I look back as I’m going, I see Drew’s eyes. There’s actually a photograph of it, and he’s like, his eyes are all big.”

“I throw the ball where we had done it all week long, kind of like right here in his eyes,” Brees said. “But as he’s stumbling back that ball comes right here, and he’s reaching up, and it tips off his hands.”

After the drive ended with a field goal, Brees came to up Strief. He was laughing.

“Awe, man,” Brees said. “I should have told you about the release.”

“Yeah!" Strief shot back. "You should have told me about the release."

The play isn’t infamous simply because it failed. It is notorious because of how it failed. Strief didn’t just fall. He went stiff in the air and then hit the ground.

Strief says he has also seen photos of that moment. Others have been sure to create ways to dissect the moment.

“If you slow motion the replay he literally is parallel off the ground before impact,” Brees said. “He did not live that down the rest of his career.”

It gets worse.

“I landed on my right butt cheek solely. Nothing else hit the ground,” Strief said. “It was just my right butt cheek. I got up, and it was locked. I could barely move my leg. I had to run off the field, and there’s no leg, and I had that happen, which is the worst case scenario, and then get hurt.

“I’m trying to hide my limp off the field, and I get to the sideline and Sean (Payton) is just staring at me like I ruined his play again.”

Strief knew immediately that his chance was over. Brees would never throw him another pass.

It wasn’t a shock. Payton had that talk with Strief when the Saints began installing him in jumbo packages. The look on Payton's face on the sidelines that day sealed it.

“Once that happened it was like, all right, that’s Strief’s one chance,” Payton said. “It was just ugly to begin with. It was doomed to begin with.”

The play still exists. The concept and design were too good to throw out. That part of the call now lives on as “Fire 82 Pop Pass.”

So, every summer when the Saints install the play, Strief gets some texts and remarks about what he considers one of the lower moments of his career. For others, it’s just another chance to rib him about the play.

“What was so funny about it was we run a version of that play now usually with a tight end and not a blocking tackle,” Brees said. “So every offseason when we do goal-line install day you pull up all your goal line passes from all the years, and it’s like, OK, we can run this, OK, we can run this, OK, we can run this, and that rep always comes up. So, it’s not like it faded away into history.”

That probably won’t ever happen as long as Brees is around.

“Your best?!? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home (with) the prom queen.” - Sean Connery in The Rock
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Old 10-05-2018, 01:26 AM   #3
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Re: 'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

LOL, Payton said. “It was just ugly to begin with. UM
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:22 AM   #4
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Re: 'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

Anyone have pictures or video of this? Seems like they would have put them in the article, as much as they referenced them.
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Old 10-05-2018, 11:30 AM   #5
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Re: 'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

Strief is not the prettiest man when mobile, but I wouldn't want to be a LBer or DB with him lumbering at me...
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Old 10-05-2018, 12:32 PM   #6
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Re: 'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

Originally Posted by jeanpierre View Post
Strief is not the prettiest man when mobile, but I wouldn't want to be a LBer or DB with him lumbering at me...
Me either. Ryan Ramczyk would be worse
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Old 10-05-2018, 04:56 PM   #7
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Re: 'Fire 82 Strief Pop': How the most memorable incompletion of Drew Brees' career came to be

Dammit son! Catch the ball! Or better yet get back there and block!
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