clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Drew Brees and the Art of the Untimely Interception

New, comments

Drew Brees has thrown seven interceptions so far in 2014. All but one have led to a touchdown for the opposing team. So far this season, Brees has turned "throwing an untimely pick" into an art form, and he likely won't stop at seven.

Help us Breesus, you're our only hope.
Help us Breesus, you're our only hope.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints' start to the 2014 National Football League season has been underwhelming. Perennial pro-bowl quarterback Drew Brees has been at the center of the team's struggles, both literally and figuratively. Many, including several on this blog, have noted that Brees is having a subpar year, with the main point of criticism being an apparent decline in arm strength. Others have countered, using less politically-correct language than me, that the "deteriorating arm" talk is nothing but panic and overreaction.

I have personally been a staunch supporter and at times defender of Brees' play over the years, because I believe that quarterbacks, although they get the lion share of the praise when things go well, also get unfairly criticized when things go south. Yes, Brees isn't what he used to be physically, but there are plenty of strong-armed quarterbacks riding the pine in the NFL, selling insurance in a strip mall or working a nine-to-five job to earn a hard living like you and me.

Where Brees has made his mark in the NFL despite being a diminutive quarterback who has always possessed an average arm, is with his smarts and his accuracy. But the smarts come first: make a good decision then fit the ball in the window you've diagnosed to be the best to throw into.

Through six games in 2014, Brees has often left his smarts on the bench at the worst possible moments. This is something that cannot continue if the Saints are to ever climb out of their 2-4 hole and finally look like the contender that their talent suggest they should be.

So how bad has Brees truly been so far this year? Below are the Saints quarterback's numbers, game-by-game in 2014.

Date

Opponent

Att

Cmp

Yds

Cmp%

Yds/Att

TD

TD%

INT

INT%

LG

Sack/Lost

Rating

9/7

@ Atlanta

42

29

333

69.0

7.93

1

2.4

1

2.4

57

0/0

90.7

9/14

@ Cleveland

40

27

237

67.5

5.93

2

5.0

1

2.5

23

2/14

89.3

9/21

Minnesota

35

27

293

77.1

8.37

2

5.7

0

0.0

34t

1/5

120.3

9/28

@ Dallas

44

32

340

72.7

7.73

2

4.5

1

2.3

46

1/4

100.6

10/5

Tampa Bay

57

35

371

61.4

6.51

2

3.5

3

5.3

37

0/0

70.1

10/19

@ Detroit

45

28

342

62.2

7.60

2

4.4

1

2.2

46t

1/7

91.2

TOTALS

263

178

1916

67.7

7.29

11

4.2

7

2.7

57

5/30

91.7

What we see is that Brees has been good, yet he hasn't been great. The Saints quarterback is completing nearly 68% of his throws, despite being third in the league in passing attempts (263) behind only Matt Ryan from the Falcons and Andrew Luck of the Colts. That is pretty good. What's not so encouraging is Brees' quarterback rating of 91.7 has him ranked 17th in the NFL. That is as average as average can be, for an NFL quarterback commonly mentioned in the "elite" category.

What has been downright bad for Brees has been the number of interceptions he has thrown so far (7), a number that ties him for third in the NFL, with only Blake Bortles of Jacksonville (10) and Kirk Cousins of Washington (9) ahead of him. That's not exactly some company you want to keep if you're a future hall-of-famer.

But there's more about Brees' interceptions: that's when they have occurred and the crushing impact they've had on the outcome of Saints games this year. Alright, let me set the table first: there is no such thing as a timely interception in football. They're all bad. Throwing an interception is like having a flat tire. Have you ever heard someone say: "man, I was so delighted to have had that flat tire the other day?"  No you haven't. However, there are levels of annoyance in every flat tire occurrence.

1)      There is the flat tire you discover in the morning just before going to work. It sucks, but hey, you can still use your wife's or husband's car, carpool with the cute neighbor your significant other can't stand, or take the bus. Annoyance level: 1.

2)      There is the flat tire you get in traffic at rush hour, with everyone yelling and honking at you as if it was your fault that Bridgestone or Firestone didn't do their job properly, building a faulty round rubber thing. Annoyance level: 3.

3)      Now there's the flat tire you get on your way home after a late night at work, you're then stranded in a gloomy neighborhood when an old guy with a dirty tank top and an axe in his hand tells you that he can put you up for the night for "only" $100 because "it ain't that safe around here you know?" Annoyance and terror level: 5.

Brees' interceptions in 2014 have been maddening, infuriating, frightening. Alright, let's take a look (or actually, don't look if you're easily upset, the following descriptions may be disturbing for sensitive Saints fans).

***

Interception 1 (@ Atlanta)

With New Orleans up 20-17 late in the third quarter, the Saints were at the Falcons' 14-yard line looking to increase their lead to either six or ten, when Brees threw a pick to Robert McClain in the endzone, trying to hit Brandin Cooks.

Result: On the very next possession, Atlanta would drive 80 yards in five plays to take a 24-20 lead, forcing New Orleans to once again chase the game instead of further burying their division rival.

Annoyance Level: 3

***

Interception 2 (@ Cleveland)

Trailing 3-10 but driving at its own 44-yard line with 3:37 left in the second quarter, Brees lofts a nice little gift to Browns' safety Tashaun Gipson.

Result: Gipson takes the pick to the house, giving Cleveland a 17-3 lead, further hampering the Saints chances at a comeback.

Annoyance Level: 3

***

Interception 3 (@ Dallas)

New Orleans was down 0-10 with 5:04 left in the second quarter. Hey, a quick score and it would be anyone's game. Brees had other ideas. Ignoring an open Marques Colston, Brees decided to force the ball to a covered Robert Meachem at the Saints' 40-yard line. Cowboys' linebacker Justin Durant said: thank you.

Result: In two plays, the Cowboys were in the Saints endzone. With a 17-0 lead, they never looked back.

Annoyance Level: 3

***

Interception 4 (Tampa Bay)

Leading 13-3, the Saints were fixing to start sealing the Buccaneers' coffin with 1.21 left in the second quarter. At his own 38-yard line, Brees thought the game wasn't interesting enough, so he flipped the ball up to Buccaneers Johnthan Banks while being pressured.

Result: On the very next possession, Tampa would drive 40 little yards for a touchdown and go into halftime having wrestled all the momentum away from New Orleans.

Annoyance Level: 5

***

Interception 5 (Tampa Bay)

After the Bucs had scored 14 unanswered points for a 17-13 lead, Brees decided to make the Saints comeback a bit harder by throwing a pick to Tampa's linebacker Danny Lansanah.

Result: Lansanah takes the interception to the house, leaving behind a trail of fat Saints offensive linemen panting on the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Annoyance Level: 5

***

Interception 6 (Tampa Bay)

I'm sure some of you had forgotten about this one huh? With 24 seconds to go in the game and the teams tied at 31, the Saints were driving at the Buccaneers' 49-yard line, trying to kick a game-winning field goal. Brees heaved a pass deep to wide receiver Robert Meachem and dreadfully underthrew it (listen to all the cheering of the decline-truthers), allowing Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner to pick it off at Tampa Bay's 11-yard line.

Result: That pick fortunately did not cost the saints much apart from them having to sweat the overtime coin-flip. Who knows, had the Bucs won the toss, they might have just driven down the Saints throat and won the game.

Annoyance Level: 1

***

Interception 7 (@ Detroit)

Hanging on to a tenuous 23-17 lead, the Saints were trying to close out a Lions team that had been inept on offense until the closing minutes of the game. Under duress, Brees decided to impersonate Brett Favre at his worst, throwing an ill-advised pass to a tightly covered Marques Colston. Lions' linebacker Glover Quin picked the ball off and is probably still wondering how a veteran quarterback threw that ball.

Result: Quin returned the interception to the Saints 14-yard line. The rest, as they say is history: the Lions would eventually score a touchdown, take the lead 24-23 and win the game.

Annoyance Level: 5

***

If the Saints are to right the fast-sinking ship that is their 2014 season, they'll need their leader, the guy who fires them up in the pregame chant, tells them to be accountable and to win, they'll need that guy to stop making rookie decisions when he throws the ball. More importantly, they'll want him to stop trying so hard to make a circus play with defenders draped all over him, because it always ends with the opposing team celebrating.

How do you take the Brett Favre out of Brees? Let's hope that Saints head coach Sean Payton has the exorcism technique necessary to perform that miracle. It seems to me that Brees has increasingly taken these foolish chances late in his career and unfortunately, I'm not so sure that even Payton has the ability to rein him in. Wait...he does: he could call more run plays! But that's a topic for another piece.

Hang in there Who Dat Nation, the roller-coaster ride that is the 2014 season has only just begun.