By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
METAIRIE, LA. — The last time Drew Brees visited Seattle, he was limited to the kind of numbers a future Hall of Fame quarterback might take personally.
If so, he wasn’t admitting it when asked this week about the 34-7 loss to the Seahawks on Dec. 2.
“There were a lot of things where we walked away from that game and said, ‘That’s not us,’” he said. “We have to give a lot of credit to (the Seahawks) because they forced us to be that way. But then again, there are a lot of things we have to correct and get better at.”
That’s a fine, team-oriented answer, befitting a leader and face-of-the-franchise such as Brees.
But teammates also have seen the fire that burns within him, and fullback Jed Collins believes his quarterback may have left a few feelings unspoken.
“He is a competitor in everything he does, so I absolutely think he knows the teams that have got him,” Collins said Wednesday as the Saints continued preparations for their Saturday return to Seattle. “? He’s the kind of guy that I know is going to step up to that challenge.”
The Seahawks got Brees a month ago at CenturyLink Field, limiting him to 147 passing yards in a season when he averaged 323. The Saints also recorded season-lows in points and yards (188) in their loss to Seattle.
That following week provided the Saints with a chance to observe something that doesn’t appear very often: Brees in bounce-back mode.
“I’ve been around him for four years, and on a daily basis I’m impressed with him,” said Collins, Washington State alum. “He’s a leader by example – and extraordinary example. ? He was the same cool, confident leader he always is. That always makes it a lot easier for everybody else.”
The Saints followed their loss to the Seahawks with an important game against division-rival Carolina. And New Orleans answered with a 31-13 win in which Brees threw for 313 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Now, Brees and the Saints have another bounce-back opportunity, as the fates of playoff scheduling return them to the Pacific Northwest.
“I think there are a number of things we’ve got to do better, just handling the early portion of the game,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “There are certain things in playoff football — or for that matter just playing on the road — that you have to give yourselves an opportunity. I think that we are working hard to do that.”
The Saints don’t think they gave themselves much opportunity in their regular-season visit to Seattle, when they fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter.
In playoff preparations this week, most players have seemed to strive for a kind of selective memory about that game: trying to learn from what went wrong, while blocking out any negative noise that could morph into doubt.
They also have pointed to their more recent past: a 26-24 win at Philadelphia last weekend in which Brees’ arm was complemented by a running game that pushed through the Eagles for 185 yards.
Several Saints noted how important that additional offensive threat could prove on a rainy Northwest afternoon.
“I think we’re running the football better now than we were then,” Brees said. “I feel like we’ve experienced a lot since then, played six games since then. Some haven’t been our best performances. ? I feel at times we played some good football; and obviously last week on the road, first round of the playoffs, getting that win the way we did, a complete team win, certainly helped us gain confidence; and hopefully we continue to grow there as we move forward.”