Sean Payton didn’t feel it was worth answering the question.
The answer was admittedly obvious. There was really no need to say anything. But the Saints coach wasn’t in the mood to play the game where he provides an obvious answer to an obvious question about an obvious storyline.
Besides, the rejection of the inquiry probably said more than a string of platitudes.
“How do you think he played,” Payton said when asked about the performance of Drew Brees during Saturday’s 26-24 loss to the New England Patriots.
There’s only one answer: Great. The New Orleans quarterback completed eight of 10 passes for 159 yards with a pair of touchdowns and finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. There isn’t much more to say beyond that. The performance spoke for itself.
It was also the greatest takeaway from Saturday’s game. The whole team performed better after last week’s downer of an opener against the Baltimore Ravens. The good feelings are plentiful.
The defense — which was without cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner, and Delvin Breaux, and safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro — forced three three-and-outs to start the game. That’s positive, even if the Patriots were without four of their top receivers and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler.
Brandin Cooks appears to be on the verge of a huge season, and running backs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson were able to make everyone forget C.J. Spiller is on the shelf with a knee injury with their performances in the passing game.
But Brees stood above all else Saturday night. After an offseason of talk about him being on decline and no longer among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he was borderline perfect. The only way his game could have been better is if Brandon Coleman would have pulled in a third touchdown pass instead of letting it get punched away by cornerback Devin McCourty.
The performance was the first look of Brees’ refined mechanics in a live game after spending months reworking things during the offseason with the help of throwing coach Tom House.
After Saturday’s game, Brees admitted that the oblique injury he suffered in training camp lingered throughout last season. It wasn’t always obvious, because he completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 4,952 yards with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and he admitted that “it worked,” but he also developed bad habits and never felt like himself.
Now he’s good.
“I feel as good throwing the ball as I’ve felt in a long time. Everybody kind of deals with issues throughout the season,” Brees said. “I had that injury in the preseason, the oblique, and something else during the season I was battling. I think at times I got away from my fundamentals and mechanics because I was trying to survive and manufacture power.”
The difference showed against the Patriots. Brees made all the throws. He hit short passes to Cooks, Robinson and Ingram. He connected with tight end Ben Watson on a quick slant over the middle for a touchdown. But perhaps his best moment came on his final pass when he connected with Cooks for a 45-yard touchdown.
The play should satiate anyone who was concerned about this team connecting on deep passes or not having a deep threat. It also was the bow on top of a solid performance of the offensive line, which provided Brees a clean pocket for most of his three drives.
After a play-action fake, Brees hit Cooks, who beat McCourty off the line and then went behind safety Duron Harmon, for a 45-yard touchdown pass. The key to the play, however, was that Brees had 3.37 seconds to get the pass off, which gave Cooks ample time to get deep. Good things typically happen when the offensive line gives a quarterback that much time.
“Pass protection is huge, especially with a guy like that we’re blocking for,” center Max Unger said. “We know if we give him that kind of time, he’s going to make a play.”
The Saints are hoping that good things happen when you give a quarterback time to get healthy and he puts in the time to fix whatever’s ailing him.
It looks like that patience and work is going to pay off. The talk about Brees being on the decline always appeared to be overblown. But he took a big step toward silencing his doubters against the Patriots.
There’s little reason to worry his performance moving forward — unless, of course, you happen to be a defensive coordinator tasked with slowing him down.