Around the NFC South: Easy Brees-y


Yes, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, at age 39, is still one of the best offensive talents in the game. Did we already know that prior to the Saints' Monday night drubbing of the Redskins? Of course. But that doesn't make Brees' record-breaking performance any less magnificent.

Elsewhere in the division, the Falcons continued to fly south following a lopsided loss to the Steelers while the Buccaneers watched the division get flipped on its head from the comfort of home. As the momentum at the top of the division continues to surge, is it already too late for Tampa Bay and Atlanta to reenter the picture as those two prepare to face off in Week 6?

Saints: Peyton Manning? Who Dat?

It took Brees only one half to eclipse the future Hall of Famer's 71,940 yards to become the NFL's all-time yardage leader. After leading the Saints to three-straight scoring drives to start the game, Brees needed just one pass to break the record and it was a beauty. Brees lofted a pass to wide open rookie wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith with 2:46 remaining in the second quarter for an unimpeded 62-yard catch-and run into the end zone.

With the crowd in a frenzy, Brees took a moment to soak in his triumph, embracing his family and showing respect to a fan base and city that stood by him since he joined the team as a free agent in 2006 after spending his first five seasons with the Chargers. Brees also shared a hug with head coach Sean Payton in what was the tandem's 179th game together.

The Saints went on to steamroll the Redskins for a 43-19 victory to improve to 4-1. Brees finished 26-of-29 for 363 yards, giving him an all-time total of 72,103 yards, and three touchdowns.

"The way that it happened, I don't think you could have drawn it up any better," Brees said. "We were able to actually enjoy it with the fans, my teammates, my family on the sideline. It was just unbelievable."

Despite having his debut overshadowed, running back Mark Ingram returned from his four-game suspension to contribute 53 yards on 16 carries, and two touchdowns. Smith led all receivers with a career-high 111 yards - good night to breakout, rook - while Michael Thomas added four receptions for 74 yards.

To add even more to the onslaught, the defense pressured Washington quarterback Alex Smith all night, leading to three sacks, four QB hits and a forced fumble. Smith was 2-for-8 against the blitz and Washington went 4-of-13 on third down. The Saints' pass defense improved in Week 5 but lost in the madness was the injury to starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who left during the game's opening drive with a concussion.

All in all, the Saints are heading into their bye week on a very high note.


Falcons: As a team that has nursed more than a few injured wings in 2018, the Falcons needed to topple Pittsburgh in Week 5 to try to turn their season around. Problem was the Steelers needed a win just as badly.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan found himself tasting dirt 18 times - six sacks and 12 QB hits - in the loss en route to posting his lowest QBR (56.7) since the Week 1 loss to the Eagles. Aside from a solid performance by wide receiver Mohammed Sanu, who recorded a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter (his longest as a Falcon) the offense couldn't get anything going. Wide receiver Julio Jones extended his scoreless streak after registering only 62 yards while rookie Calvin Ridley was limited to 38 yards after shining in back-to-back weeks.

"Yeah, definitely not by design," head coach Dan Quinn said about Jones not getting touches. "Just have to make sure he gets as many touches as we can in the game. He's one of our best and most explosive players so every game, we want him involved."

The defense has been where the bulk of the injuries have occurred for Quinn's squad and it showed against the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger posted a modest 250 passing yards, but his three touchdown passes exploited the Falcons' ailing secondary. A 18-yard pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, which birthed arguably the season's best celebration, and a 47-yarder to Antonio Brown put on full display how much Atlanta is missing those key defenders.

Something else to concern the Falcons? Ryan underwent an X-ray postgame for a foot injury, but the results came back negative. Still, Atlanta finds itself in a massive 1-4 hole after five weeks.

Buccaneers: Somebody may want to send the Buccaneers some Beats headphones because the noise around the NFC south is deafening at the moment.

After dropping two straight to go into their Week 5 bye, the Bucs enter Week 6 as a team still seemingly in flux.

Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's play in the team's 30-27 Monday night loss to the Steelers in Week 3 re-ignited the questions surrounding whether or not Jameis Winston would start when he returned from suspension. Winston did return in Week 4 and, following a slow start for Fitzpatrick in Chicago, the 2015 first overall pick was handed the keys to start the second half. Winston went 16-of-20 for 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions but Tampa Bay fell 48-10.

The last two games have been an offensive struggle, but the Bucs have a chance to bounce back against the Falcons. Moving forward, Winston will once again take the reigns and attempt to re-capture the play that made him a Pro Bowler as a rookie.

At last glance, thanks mostly to Fitzpatrick's early 'Fitz-Magic', the Bucs offense still ranks second in yards per game. The defense (remember them?) also sits in a No. 2 spot, as in two from the bottom in terms of total defense so that will be something else to keep an eye on in Atlanta.