Brees finished the season with 364 completions, 489 attempts, 3,992 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and five interceptions over 15 games. He sat out the season finale after the Saints had clinched the NFC's #1 seed the week prior. He set an NFL record for completion percentage (74.4%), breaking his previous record (72.0%) set in 2017, and led the league in passer rating (a career high of 115.7). However, with his 3,992 yards, his NFL record streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards came to an end. He led the league with six fourth quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives.
The Buccaneers can rest a little easier on that transatlantic flight after engineering a stunning last-minute comeback to beat the Los Angeles Rams, 16-13, in Week Nine. That win halted a three-game losing skid and put the Buccaneers back into the top spot in the NFC South, albeit with a sub-.500 record. It also could prove to be an emotional turning point.
There are different ways to process the Bucs' comeback win, and it's fair to point out that the 59-minute performance that made another Brady miracle necessary was uninspiring in some familiar ways, including a surprising lack of explosiveness on offense. But for the Buccaneers the outcome showed that they are still battling extremely hard, and still believing that they can re-emerge as prime NFC contenders.
The Steelers had a very similar performance the following Monday against Washington, but this time they did not find a way to close the game and suffered their first loss of the season. Things got even worse in Buffalo with Roethlisberger throwing a 51-yard pick-six before halftime that led to a 26-15 loss. In Week 15 in Cincinnati on a Monday night, the Steelers turned in maybe their worst offensive half of football in the Roethlisberger era. No play summarized the struggle better than Roethlisberger throwing a drag route to JuJu Smith-Schuster on a third-and-7 where he was blown up and fumbled. The Steelers were about to lose their fourth game in a row to the Colts before a vintage Roethlisberger rally from down 17 points in the second half at home. But then the starters rested against Cleveland, lost 24-22 to let the Browns make the playoffs, and then were blown away 28-0 in the first quarter in the wild card game after center Maurkice Pouncey blew the opening snap for a touchdown. The Steelers tried to make a brilliant comeback but fell well short in a 48-37 loss.
But with such a noticeable decline starting in that Wednesday game against Baltimore, I wanted to do a comparison of the 10-0 start to the now 10-game sample since that has seen the Steelers go 3-7 with a win over the COVID Ravens, a huge comeback against the Colts, and a surprise comeback in Buffalo in Week 1 that looks like a mirage now.
Brady has even carried this tradition with him to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have had three games where they allowed 30-plus points with Brady, and he threw a pick-six in two of them to get them over that mark (34-23 loss in New Orleans and 38-31 comeback win over Chargers).
In his physical prime in Indianapolis, Manning led the Colts to at least 12 wins in every season from 2003 to 2009. They were almost never out of any game then, including that 21-point comeback in the final four minutes in Tampa Bay in 2003 or the 18-point comeback win over the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. With most quarterbacks you can turn the game off with a big deficit in the fourth quarter, but Manning was the best at making those games uncomfortable for the opponent.
This argument actually works better for Brees, who has seen more great seasons and games go to waste than any QB in NFL history. Sean Payton has just never done much to coach up the defense in New Orleans. Brees won three passing titles in a row in 2014-16 for teams that never won more than seven games in any of those seasons. Brees has been saddled five times with a defense that ranked 31st or 32nd in points per drive allowed. As I already explained a few weeks ago, Brees has the most fourth-quarter comebacks in NFL history, but not the most comeback wins. 2b1af7f3a8