For the second time this month, an NFC South quarterback threw no touchdowns and five interceptions in a single game. And neither of those quarterbacks were the youngsters -- Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman and Carolina's Cam Newton. Nope, the two guilty parties were Atlanta's Matt Ryan and New Orleans' Drew Brees, who put up his five-pick debacle against Ryan's Falcons on Thursday night. Unlike Ryan, Brees wasn't buttressed by his defense, and he lost the game, 23-13. Ryan actually won his five-pick game against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 18.
Brees' game was epically bad for a number of reasons. It's the first time he's thrown five interceptions in a single game -- he threw four picks against the Tennessee Titans in 2007, and against the Cleveland Browns in 2010. This performance also stopped his NFL-record streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass at 54. The last time Brees was shut out was against the New York Jets in October of 2009. In addition, the loss puts the Saints at 5-7, third in their division behind the 11-1 Falcons and 6-5 Buccaneers, and just about completely out of the playoff hunt.
One more thing -- Brees now leads the NFL in interceptions on the season with 16. And that's the primary matter of concern for the Saints. Brees has thrown seven interceptions in his last two games -- the five on Thursday, and two pick-sixes against the San Francisco 49ers in a 31-21 loss.
"I guess records are made to be broken, and at some point, they come to an end," Brees said after the game. "We played well enough to win, with the glaring exception of the turnovers. It doesn't really matter how they happened. The fact is that there were five of them, and that's extremely disappointing."
Brees was clearly pressing, because many of his throws were unacceptable from a player of his caliber. The first pick, with 8:55 left in the first quarter, came when Brees tried to hit Marques Colston on a long post in the end zone with two Falcons defenders clearly converging on the throw. Safety Thomas DeCoud got that one. The second interception wasn't really Brees' fault -- he tried to hit running back Chris Ivory on a short pass to his left after running play action, and Ivory saw the ball slip out of his hands, and into the hands of Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. But Brees threw the ball behind Ivory, making the play that much tougher.
Pick No. 3 happened late in the third quarter, when Brees was trying to hit Devery Henderson on a crossing route, and somebody got their wires crossed. Henderson ran his route about 5 yards past where Brees threw the ball, and safety William Moore had the first of his two steals on the night. Pick No. 4 was all on Brees, though. Late in the game, left defensive end Kroy Biermann beat right tackle Zach Strief around the edge, pressured Brees, and the veteran threw like a rookie -- Brees tried to get the ball out under extreme duress, and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux had the easiest interception he'll ever enjoy in his NFL career.
Brees' final pick was actually the second interception he threw on the drive, but only the last one counted. With 2:06 left in the game, Brees threw a pass to Darren Sproles that was picked off by defensive tackle Corey Peters, but the turnover was negated by an offside penalty on defensive end Jonathan Abraham.
On the very next play, Brees tried to hit Colston on a deep sideline route to his left, and Moore got his second pick with an amazing speed play, covering half the field in a split second to steal the ball. That, as they say, was all she wrote.
One can say that the Saints clearly miss suspended head coach Sean Payton in situations like this, and it's true that Brees' offense was shooting itself in the foot from a game management perspective most of the evening. But no quarterback should try to make throws like Brees did on this night, and one of the best quarterbacks of the last decade is going through the worst stretch of his career.