The No. 2 seeded New Orleans Saints will play their fifth straight playoff game next weekend after defeating the Chicago Bears 21-9 on Sunday.
Brees, who turns 42 on Friday, is expected back after his 20th birthday. NFL season to retire. But that won’t happen until another epic showdown with the 43-year-old Brady, who contributed to the intensity of this long-running rivalry by signing with the Buccaneers in the offseason.
– Matches, X-factors and other for each team
– Experts predict surprises, QB under pressure
– Myths for 14 teams in the playoffs
– Schedule, brackets, TV time and other
– What went wrong for teams that didn’t make the playoffs.
Once he signed with the Bucs and came into the league we felt like they were a team to compete with, said Brees of the upcoming game. So I guess it was inevitable.
Brees is the first player in NFL history to play for yards, Brady for touchdowns and of course Super Bowl rings. In Week 1, they became the first pair of quarterbacks over 40 to start. They are now the first to do so in the post-season.
The Saints (12-4 in the regular season) are looking for a hat trick after their 34-23 home win over the Buccaneers in Week 1 and a 38-3 win in Tampa in Week 9.
The Bucs (11-5) have played their best football recently. But the Saints are as healthy as they’ve been all year after receivers Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris returned from the reserves with injuries and Alvin Kamara returned from the Reserve/COVID-19 roster in time for Sunday’s playoff opener.
Thomas (five strikes for 73 yards and his first strike of the season), Kamara (23 strikes for 99 yards and a touchdown) and Harris (seven strikes for 83 yards) all made their presence felt in Sunday’s win over Chicago.
But the Saints relied even more on their solid defense, scoring just seven points in the first 40 minutes of the game.
Error! The file name is not specified. Drew Brees cheers after a touchdown by Alvin Kamara. The win sets up a duel with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady, 40. Chris Greiten/Getty Images
Ubiquitous game: Brees had a solid performance, completing 28 of 39 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. But his best play of the day was improvised. Brees had to escape a lot of pressure after his first two readings failed to open at the end of the third quarter – and he narrowly escaped an emergency fight against replacement Latavius Murray. Murray also improvised beautifully, turning around to find the ball after a blocked kick – and doing the rest on his way into the end zone, giving New Orleans a comfortable 14-3 lead.
After the game, Brees said Murray wasn’t even in the game.
There are four other kinds of people at …. and it’s really blocked, Brees said. He was there to cut up Khalil Mack. So he was on the floor, and then he came out and I kind of threw him over Mac’s head into Latvia. They played with a completely different lighting than the room. So no one was open.
A promising trend: The Saints’ defense has been outstanding the past two months – and that was on the same Sunday, even with leader Trey Hendrickson suffering a neck injury. They never let the Bears into the game, even though the Saints’ offense kept the door open for so long. Chicago (who scored their only touchdown in the last game) finished third at 10.
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Defenseman C.J. Gardner-Johnson led the Saints with seven tackles – including a fantastic save on the fourth attempt when he chased quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from behind. And surprisingly, Gardner-Johnson was able to provoke another Bears receiver to hit him and was taken out of the game for the second time this season (Sunday it was Anthony Miller; earlier this year it was Javon Weems).
Unpleasant tendencies: Saints striker Wil Lutz missed a 50-yard goal in the first half and has missed four of his last seven attempts in the last six weeks. Lutz, who also missed the extra point last week, played in the Pro Bowl last year and was one of the top players in the NFL until his recent fall.
It’s Will coming back, Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game. I think he’ll take the call.
In addition, Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill lost his sixth game of the season when he was sent back to the second quarter after holding the ball too long. Hill was looking for a deep (and seemingly open) pass attempt. But he didn’t get rid of the ball fast enough. His ball control was also one of his biggest weaknesses during his four games as the starting quarterback for the Saints when Brees was injured early in the season.