Brees: Difficult wins help us to be ‘battle-tested’

NEW ORLEANS — Chalk up another rare milestone for Drew Brees on Monday Night Football.

Brees and the New Orleans Saints rallied from a 20-3 deficit on Monday to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 30-27 in overtime, marking the second time in Brees’ career that the quarterback rallied from a deficit of 17 points or greater.

Brees was previously 1-48 in such situations, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The other win? A thrilling 46-34 victory at Miami in 2009 — during the Saints’ Super Bowl season — in which New Orleans trailed by 21.

“Yeah, this was a wild one,” Brees, 41, said on the ESPN broadcast after he finished with 325 yards, a touchdown pass and a TD run.

Brees now has 12 career OT wins, including the playoffs, tied with Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady for the most by a starting QB in NFL history.

When asked if he knew the history of those 17-point rallies, Brees pointed out that he was part of Saints teams that came back from similar margins before losing gut-wrenching playoff games at San Francisco in 2011 and Minnesota in 2017.

“So I know there’s this exact number of 17, but I’m sure if we clumped in the 13s, 14s, 15s, there would be quite a bit more,” Brees said with a smile. “But the bottom line is we were not playing Saints football in the first half. There were too many mistakes that get you beat.

“We shouldn’t have had to mount the comeback we had to mount in order to win this game.”

No one is suggesting that these Saints (3-2) look ready to make another Super Bowl run just yet, after an up-and-down start to this season and an even more turbulent start to Monday night’s game, which included way too many defensive breakdowns. But they did overcome a 14-0 deficit in Detroit just last week, and now they get a chance at a much-needed reboot after the Week 6 bye, which should include the return of star wide receiver Michael Thomas.

“At the end of the day, these are growing experiences. These are learning experiences,” Brees said. “And to have wins like this, where you really have to fight to win — just like we did last week … this is how you grow as a team. This is how you become battle-tested. And I think it pays dividends as you move along here.”

Saints coach Sean Payton declined to elaborate on his decision to bench Thomas for this game after Thomas threw a punch at a teammate in practice Friday, saying that he preferred to discuss “the players that played tonight.”

Brees said he and other team leaders have spoken with Thomas, and “Mike is a big part of this team, and he’s gonna be a big part of this team moving forward.”

“We had an incident, and Sean addressed it … and we’re gonna be all good,” Brees said of Thomas, who missed three games because of an ankle injury before Friday’s incident.

Brees and the Saints’ offense got off to a lackluster start Monday before they caught fire during a two-minute touchdown drill before halftime.

Brees started the game 7-of-15 passing for 43 yards with an interception before his strong finish. His 41-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook included 32 air yards — the second most of any of his throws this season, per ESPN Stats & Information research. He also led the Saints downfield for kicker Wil Lutz‘s 36-yard field goal to start overtime before New Orleans’ defense came up with a game-winning stop.

Brees connected with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a career-high 12 catches and 122 yards and with running back Alvin Kamara for a gorgeous, 28-yard catch in tight coverage late in the fourth quarter.

“Some games we get what we want more than other games. But it is what it is,” Kamara said. “It’s a different flavor to every game. And tonight was a dirty, dirty, dirty game. So we just had to claw and scratch and come out on top.”

Brees has had some memorable Monday Night Football performances, including games in which he set the NFL career passing yardage record, the NFL career TD pass record, the NFL single-season passing yardage record and the NFL single-game completion percentage record.

Brees has a total of 18 300-yard passing games and six games with at least four touchdown passes on Monday nights — both the most in league history.

New Orleans’ comeback spoiled a historic Monday night performance for Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who became the first rookie to throw four TD passes on Monday Night Football.

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