Brian Allee-Walsh

Ageless QB Drew Brees keeps on ticking for NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints

Brian Allee-Walsh
Brian Allee-Walsh Kathy Anderson Photography

Good NFL quarterbacks seem to be an endangered species these days.

Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Carson Palmer in Arizona. Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford in Minnesota.

And now DeShaun Watson in Houston.

The talented, versatile rookie quarterback suffered a torn right ACL on a routine play during practice Thursday, placing the Texans' once promising season on life support.

Once again, we are reminded of the remarkable durability and longevity displayed by 38-year-old quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans and the good fortune that has been bestowed upon him, Tom Benson's billion-dollar franchise and Who Dat Nation since No. 9's arrival in 2006.

Brees has missed two games in 11-plus seasons in the Big Easy -- both coming on the road against Carolina in 2009 and 2015. Only the game in 2015 was due to injury (right shoulder). Coach Sean Payton held Brees out of the regular-season finale for precautionary reasons in '09 during the team's electrifying run to Super Bowl XLIV.

And Brees will be under center once again when the NFC South-leading Saints (5-2) face the free-falling Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at noon Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

To date, Brees is the least sacked NFL starting quarterback (7), and chances are good that he will exit Sunday's game in the top spot since the Bucs have managed a league-low seven sacks this season.

By the way, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will enter the game with a sprained AC joint in his right throwing shoulder and a bruised deltoid muscle, injuries that have limited his practice participation the past few weeks. He has worked on a limited basis this week, perhaps in response to a turnover-plagued performance in a 17-3 loss against the Carolina Panthers in Week 8.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter considered inserting backup Ryan Fitzpatrick after Winston took a hard hit in the fourth quarter against the Panthers but stuck with his franchise quarterback to the bitter end.

I suspect Winston could be on a short leash Sunday, particularly if it turns ugly on the scoreboard or if he becomes a human pinata on the field for the Saints vastly improved defense under coordinator Dennis Allen. Winston had trouble throwing on the run and also encountered problems with accuracy against Carolina, resulting in two INTs and a dismal 49.2 passer rating.

Like Brees, Winston is a tough nut, brimming with grit, spit and a whole lot of football wit. He hasn't missed a start since entering the league as the first overall pick in 2015 -- 39 games and counting.

Brees' string stands at 36 games and counting, or 181 of a possible 183 regular-season starts in New Orleans.

The Old Man and the D.

Right now, it's a winning combination in New Orleans.

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