Drew Brees and Tom Brady, the NFL’s respective all-time leaders in career passing yards and touchdown throws, finally will meet in postseason play for the first time in their illustrious careers.
The 40-something future Hall of Famers will face each other next weekend in New Orleans after Brees and the Saints took care of the Chicago Bears, 21-9, in a NFC wild-card playoff game Sunday at the Superdome.
Brees, who will turn 42 on Friday, threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns to join Brady and Brett Favre (2009 with Minnesota) as the only quarterbacks in their forties to win a playoff game.
“I don’t take it for granted. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity,” Brees said after the game. “Listen, the minute that he signed with the Bucs and came into the division, you felt like that was going to be a team to contend with. That was going to be a team that had playoff aspirations and beyond, just like us.
“So, I guess it was inevitable.”
Tampa Bay’s 38-3 loss to the Saints in November was the worst point differential of the 43-year-old Brady’s 21-year NFL career, and he threw five of his 12 interceptions this season in the Buccaneers’ two losses to their NFC South rivals. Brady totaled 381 passing yards with two touchdowns Saturday night in a 31-23 win over Washington.
Brees is believed to have first fractured multiple ribs — an injury that sidelined him for four weeks — in the second game against Tampa Bay on Nov. 8.
Sunday’s game also was simulcast and catered to a younger audience on Nickelodeon, replete with character tie-ins and virtual green “slime” cannons being shot off after touchdowns. Saints coach Sean Payton told the network before the game that he’d be “willing to be slimed if we [win], whatever that means.” He followed through on that promise following his postgame press conference.
“They’re waiting, so as soon as I finish here, I told Nickelodeon I would do it,” Payton said with a laugh. “I just saw the buckets [of slime] and we’re going to do that.”
Payton wasn’t all smiles about the win, but the Saints — who pulled out a 26-23 overtime victory in Chicago in Week 8 — held Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense Sunday to 239 total yards and 11 first downs.
“Believe it or not, I feel fortunate to win a game,” Payton said, “There’s a lot of things that we can do better.”
The Saints offense was whole again with Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara (COVID-19) and wide receivers Michael Thomas (ankle) and Deonte Harris (neck) back in the lineup following IR stints late in the regular season.
Thomas didn’t score a regular-season touchdown in seven games this season, one year after setting an NFL record with 149 catches for a league-leading 1,725 yards in 2019. Brees found Thomas over the middle, however, for an 11-yard scoring play with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter to open the scoring.
The Saints’ other touchdowns came on a 6-yard checkdown to Latavius Murray in the third and a short scoring run by Kamara to extend the lead to 21-3 with 8:50 remaining in the game.
“It was great to get [Thomas] in the end zone and hopefully we broke the seal,” Brees said. “But listen, we’ve got some work to do.
“This is playoff football and each game becomes more meaningful. … We still need to improve. That’s what this week is going to be focused on.”