There are some milestones that are purely individual, and some that belong to the entire team.
Drew Brees’ 400th touchdown pass was a little bit of both.
Brees became part of an exclusive club Sunday night, joining Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks in the 400 club. That Brees did so in such dramatic fashion — the game-winner in a contest the previously winless New Orleans Saints so desperately needed to win — might very well change the course of the season for his young team.
“It’s our first win. Hopefully it’s the first of many. Unfortunately, we’ve been on the other side of this the first few games. It’s good to get one of these: a tight game, we come from behind, we win it. Now we can build on that.”
Brees bristled at the suggestion he was laboring to throw Sunday, that the bruised rotator cuff that sidelined him last week might still be affecting him. But there is no question he is not the same as he was a few years ago, a gunslinger who could throw downfield bombs with as much accuracy as most quarterbacks throw short out routes.
Then again, these Saints aren’t the same team who dominated the NFC South, either.
They’ve struggled to come up with big plays when they needed them. They couldn’t hold the lead after going up 20-13; three drives later, Weeden picked them apart with cool efficiency, taking the Cowboys 91 yards in a little over two minutes to tie it up.
Brees put New Orleans in position to win in regulation, but Zach Hocker banged what should have been a 30-yard chip shot for the victory off the left upright.
“I said it going into this game, we needed something to validate everything we’ve been doing,” Brees said. “I feel like we’re doing things the right way. Guys are working hard. Guys care, and they’re trying to be professionals, learning how to do things the right way through the week.
“You need wins though in order to validate what you’re doing.”
And that is where Brees is the same as when he was in his prime. Maybe even better.
Two plays into overtime, Brees saw the Cowboys were late getting lined up and uncorked a bombshell to Spiller. The pass itself was only 18 yards, with Spiller taking it the remaining 62.
But as pandemonium reigned in the Superdome, Spiller found Brees and handed him the game ball.
“I ran up to him and said, ‘This is your ball, brother, you deserve it,’ ” Spiller said. “He’s probably the best teammate that I’ve ever played with, just from his work ethic, his preparation, the way that he believes in his guys.”
Brees’ milestone gave the Saints their first victory, one they desperately needed if they’re to have any shot in the NFC South, where the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are already 4-0. More than that, it proved to Brees’ young teammates that they could win, and the confidence that comes with that can’t be overstated.
“If we drive down and kick the field goal, that’s great. We came from behind, we did that,” Brees said. “But to have that emotion of, `Man, we’re there, about to win, oh no!’ Now you’ve got to rally the troops again and go out there and put together a big drive.
“That’s how a team grows,” he added. “Those are great wins. Those are ones that strengthen you a great deal.”
All milestones are special. This latest one for Brees was just a little moreso.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today.