GREEN BAY, Wis. — This is new territory for quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Super Bowl champions just 31 months ago, the Saints are now a mess. Their head coach is suspended for the entire season. Their interim head coach is suspended until Week 7, and their interim interim head coach has led them to a 0-3 record. Traveling to Lambeau Field this Sunday, it’s desperation time for Brees.
“It’s all been tough,” Brees said in a teleconference with Green Bay media. “It’s all been really tough, but we’re making our way through. We knew it was going to be challenging. Obviously, (we) didn’t expect the way that we started off here, but (we’re) very confident in the guys that we have in the locker room and the type of character guys that we have that we’re going to be able to turn this thing around.
“I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit better each week. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated into wins yet. But, hopefully, it will very soon.”
In New Orleans’ losses, which already include defeats at home against the Redskins and Chiefs and on the road to the Panthers, there’s been little evidence that things will get better quickly. The Saints’ passing offense is still fairly good, ranking sixth in the NFL in passing yards. But even Brees has not been his normal self, sitting at No. 25 among quarterbacks in passer rating this season with a 54.7 percent completion rate, five touchdown passes and four interceptions.
“When things don’t go the right way, especially when you’re losing, you want to take that very personally,” Brees said. “You want to feel like, ‘Hey, what am I not doing? What more can I do?’ I think those are just the natural feelings of somebody who feels like they can really control the situation, especially when you’re a leader on the team and certainly the quarterback.
“I think there’s a balance to doing that and yet not putting too much pressure on yourself. There’s this balance of, ‘Hey, I just need to worry about the things I can control. I need to worry about doing my job to the best of my ability.’ The thing with the quarterback position is you feel like, ‘Hey, I can influence others,’ whether it’s by what I say to them or putting them in positions to succeed.
“I think the mark of a great quarterback is you make everyone around you better. You look at the greats of all-time and that’s certainly what people say is great leaders, great quarterbacks, make those around you better. I’m always trying to find ways, not only to make myself better, but how can I help my teammates. That’s why this is frustrating because, certainly, this is not a situation we’re used to being in. It’s not something we like. So, yeah, as the quarterback of the team, I take it very personal, and I want to get this thing turned around just as much as anybody.”
With head coach Sean Payton out the entire season for his role in the team’s bounty system, it’s been obvious early on just how much he meant to the Saints. But Brees isn’t using that as an excuse.
“Of course we miss him, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Brees said. “We are perfectly competent and capable with the guys that we have as coaches and players to right the ship. That’s what we’re worried about and focused on.”
If New Orleans is going to get their season turned around Sunday, its offense is going to have to perform well against a drastically improved Packers defense. After giving up more passing yards last season than any team in NFL history and finishing 27th in sacks, Green Bay’s defense has been the Packers’ strength this year. Entering Week 4, Green Bay is second in the league in sacks — the same spot it finished during the Super Bowl season of 2010 — and third in total team defense.
“Here’s the thing that you forget or maybe people don’t realize, but last year, they were winning,” Brees said. “When you get up by three touchdowns, teams have no other choice but to throw the ball. They’re probably in prevent defense, and that’s why you’re giving up yardage. Those statistics don’t really tell the story.
“This is a very good defense, extremely good against the run, great pass rush, extremely talented guys in the secondary. So all the way around, this is as solid a defense as there is. For us, we have to execute. We have to protect, we have to run the football, we have to throw and catch, we have to get open, and we have to make plays. When we have the opportunity to make plays, we have to make plays. We have to take care of the football.”