ATLANTA — A lingering media throng is a curious sight following a
historic sporting event, conversing in hushed tones but bodies and eyes all facing one direction. On Thursday night in the Georgia Dome,
those eyes faced the Saints locker room door, each pair straining to spot a
future Hall of Fame quarterback.
After years of playing Atlanta’s
tormenter, Drew Brees fell back to Earth against the Falcons’ defense Thursday — losing
to the NFC South rival for just the third time in his Saints career. But the
game was not Brees’ only loss of the night.
Brees’ NFL-record streak of 54 straight
games with a touchdown pass came to an end as well, a historic accomplishment for a
defense Brees has toyed with for years.
“I realized it. I guess records are
meant to be broken and at some point they come to an end,” said Brees, who
passed for 341 yards and five interceptions in the 23-13 loss. “It’s tough, we
felt like we could have kept that one (going) for a while.”
Brees broke Hall of Fame quarterback
Johnny Unitas’ record of 48 consecutive games earlier this season against the San Diego
Chargers. Before Thursday’s game, Brees had thrown a touchdown pass in every game since
Week 4 of the 2009 season.
The cruel irony of the story is the opponent and the timing.
Brees had won four straight games
against the Falcons — 11 of 14 career matchups overall — often posting back-breaking numbers in the process. In 15 games against Atlanta, he’s now thrown for 300 or
more yards nine times.
The Falcons had not
held Brees scoreless since 2006.
“I didn’t realize that (we ended the
streak) and we walked off the field and somebody told me,” Falcons coach Mike
Smith said. “It’s an unbelievable streak. Drew Brees is an outstanding
quarterback. … That guy has gone out
there and thrown touchdown after touchdown, game after game after game. Just
says a whole bunch about the way out football team played tonight.”
“Anytime you can end an offensive player’s streak you have to be happy about that, especially when they’re wearing a black and gold uniform,” Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon added.
In his postgame interview, Brees said he
felt better about the offense than he had at any point in the season — the
preparation, the passing game, it was all there. But not only did his historic
touchdown mark conclude, he also threw a career-high five interceptions on the
night. Safe to say, it was a night to forget.
“It doesn’t really matter how they happened,
though. The fact is there was five of them, and that’s the first time it’s ever
happened,” Brees said of his interceptions. “That’s extremely disappointing. I pride myself on being
a great decision-maker and a guy that’s going to help us win the game and not
be a detriment and turn the ball over like that. … I can hold myself
The Super Bowl-winning quarterback has
long talked about the meaning of the streak to him personally — his
record-breaking throw to wide receiver Devery Henderson in October sent him barreling toward
his receiver, arms raised — as even Unitas’ son, Joe, wrote him a letter
following the game. Brees called the experience humbling.
And after it was all over, with the
horde of microphones and recorders circling his position on a makeshift platform, he
was not about to dismiss the accomplishment or put it squarely in his illustrious past.