Monday, February 08, 2010

Don't Let the Pretty Name Fool You: Drew Brees was Colts' Poison

He has a name sent by the heavens to us cranky, weathered writers. It’s a Hollywood name—even laced with a bit of Native American in its sound.

The Drew Breeses of the world don’t come down the pike too often. The name is the anti-Dick Butkus: melodic, modern, All-American.

He could only be a quarterback—or maybe a fleet-footed wide receiver. Someone named Drew Brees doesn’t work in the trenches. That’s reserved for the Otis Sistrunks and Verlon Biggses and Vern den Herders. Don’t fret if you don’t recall those dudes—I promise that they existed, and they were no Drew Brees types—in looks or in name appeal.

It was Drew vs. Peyton in yesterday’s Super Bowl. One was looking for a piece of greatness; the other was trying to cement his.

The New Orleans Saints are “champions of the pro football world!”—as was famously shouted by NBC’s Curt Gowdy after the New York Jets stunned the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. They earned every bit of their 31-17 win over the Indianapolis version of the Colts.

The Saints are champs for many reasons, not the least of which is the way they demonstrated the best way to stop Colts QB Manning: don’t let him touch the football.

As Manning fidgeted and looked at the scoreboard and made faces and paced and fidgeted some more, Brees and the Saints dominated possession in the second quarter. At one point, the Saints had run off 20 plays from scrimmage to the Colts’ mere three. It was keep away of the highest order. Dean Smith and his four-corner offense in college basketball had nothing on Brees and the Saints in the second quarter yesterday.

It was a double-edged sword the Colts were battling, for while Manning was being kept on the sidelines, Brees was on the field. And that was poison for the Colts.

Brees filleted the Colts. He carved them like a surgeon. He didn’t let a pedestrian running game stop him. He threw 39 passes, completed 32 of them. Two went for touchdowns, and the completions traversed 288 yards. He was snazzier with the blade than a Japanese steak house chef.

Brees was the game’s MVP—as if.

Eight guys, no less, were recipients of Brees passes for the Saints. Drew was an equal opportunity employer.

The Colts have Peyton, but the Saints have Payton.

How about coach Sean Payton and his onside kick to start the second half? It was as if he was trying to make up for the ill-advised fourth-and-goal running play that went nowhere late in the second quarter.

“No—really—I can coach!” Payton seemed to be saying as he stunned the Colts, hundreds of millions of TV viewers, and his own team by ordering the daring onside kick that precipitated a scrum that was better than anything rugby can dish out.

The Saints were awarded the football after the bodies were unpiled, and Brees got his scalpel out again. Moments later, the Saints were in the end zone and had a 13-10 lead.

Manning was good, but not as good as Brees. Peyton was 31-for-45 for 333 yards and a touchdown (and an interception). Not shabby. But “not shabby” isn’t going to get it done when your counterpart is unconscious.

A Manning finally lost a Super Bowl.

Suddenly, the question isn’t “How many more can that family win?”

It’s, “How in the world can you stop Drew Brees from winning more?’

Drew Brees. It sounds pretty but is drenched with toxin.