New Orleans Saints

Brees, surging Saints try to finally solve Stafford, Lions

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9), left, greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) last year in New Orleans. At 38 and in his final season under contract, Brees could make a statement about his longevity by outshining Matthew Stafford, who this year became the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9), left, greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) last year in New Orleans. At 38 and in his final season under contract, Brees could make a statement about his longevity by outshining Matthew Stafford, who this year became the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback. Associated Press

If Saints quarterback Drew Brees wants to showcase how much he has left, he'll get few better platforms than Sunday’s game against Detroit.

The other quarterback will be the Lions’ Matthew Stafford, who this year received the richest contract in NFL history – a distinction that belonged to none other than Brees back in 2012.

Now, Brees is 38 and in the final year of his contract, and therefore could benefit considerably from playing brilliantly against the 29-year-old Stafford’s Lions.

Brees generally walks the company line when it comes to emphasizing winning over individual accolades. But he also isn’t shying away from highlighting how productive he might have to be when Stafford is leading the opposing offense.

“Bottom line is he is a great player and I know this: You go into a game against a team like this and a quarterback like this, you know that the game’s never over,” Brees said. “He can change the game very quickly and he is that type of playmaker and has that type of talent and competitive nature. That’s what you always know when you go against a guy like this.”

Brees, who has passed for 5,000-plus yards in four of the past six seasons, including last season, hasn’t looked quite as prolific early in 2017. But he hasn’t lacked efficiency, averaging about 284 yards passing per game with eight TDs and no interceptions.

“You don’t shut down Drew Brees. He’s a talented guy that’s going to rack up some yardage and points against any and everybody,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “He is tough to handle.”

If any team has handled Brees well in recent years, it’s Caldwell’s Lions, who’ve beaten New Orleans in three straight meetings since 2014.

While the Saints rank 29th defensively, their previous two games have represented a dramatic improvement. During their first two games, losses to Minnesota and New England, the Saints allowed 1,025 yards and 65 points combined. During the next two games combined, the Saints gave up only 475 yards and 13 points while making eight sacks and four interceptions.

“There’s not huge personnel changes, or style changes, or anything,” Stafford said. “They’re just executing better. They’ve got talented players, they’ve got a young back end with some guys that can really run and move, and they’re long and physical. They got guys that can get after the passer, so they’ve got what you need to have a good defense.”

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