Savor what is likely the final meeting between Drew Brees and Tom Brady | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

If this is to be Drew Brees’ final season with the Saints, then we should all thank the football gods for Sunday’s  NFL Divisional Round matchup against visiting Tampa Bay.

It could be the final time we will see Brees’ and Tom Brady face each other.

Both quarterbacks are nearing the end of their Hall of Fame careers, although it is quite likely Brady will keep playing past this postseason run for the Bucs.

More:Marcase: Saints, Brees now primed for perhaps final postseason run together

Except for a season-ending knee injury in 2008 while with the Patriots, Brady has stayed relatively healthy.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and Tampa Bay  quarterback Tom Brady will meet for the third time this season on Sunday in the NFL playoffs divisional round.

Brees, on the other hand, has now endured back-to-back seasons in which an injury cost him significant playing time.

The thumb injury on his right throwing hand in 2019 was mere child’s play compared to the nasty injury he suffered in November against San Francisco to which he is still recovering. Eleven broken ribs and a punctured right lung are difficult for anyone to experience, let alone when they are 41 and the league’s second oldest starting quarterback.

The oldest starting quarterback? That would be the 43-year-old Brady. Brees turns 42 Friday.

The two first met in college. Somehow, both ended up playing in the Big Ten.

Brees, who hails from Austin, Texas, starred at Purdue.

Brady, a California kid who attended 49ers games as a lad, was a backup on Michigan’s 1997 national championship team that also featured freshman running back and future Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Anthony Thomas of Winnfield.

In their first meeting, Brady and Michigan won, 38-12, during the 1999 season.

They did not meet again until 2002, only this time as starting NFL quarterbacks with Brees and the Chargers coming out on top, 21-14. That win became a rarity for opposing quarterbacks against Brady.

In all, Brees is 5-3 versus Brady.

The only quarterbacks with as many wins against Brady are Peyton Manning (6) and Ryan Tannehill (5), but Brady beat Manning 11 times and Tannehill 6 times.

Should this be the final matchup between the pair, no matter the outcome, Brees will retire as one of just three quarterbacks with at least three victories to own a winning record against Brady.  The other two are Eli Manning (3-2) and Jake Plummer (3-0).

In their last meeting, the Saints turned in perhaps their best game of the season in embarrassing the Bucs, 38-3.

Brees was 26 of 32 for 222 yards and four touchdowns, while New Orleans’ defense intercepted Brady three times. The Saints outgained Tampa Bay, 420-194, in sweeping the season series. New Orleans opened the 2021 season with a 34-23 victory over Tampa Bay, spoiling Brady’s Buc debut.

In two games against the Saints, Brady has thrown five of his 12 interceptions.

Brees and Brady rank 1-2 in NFL career passing categories. Brees leads Brady in passing yards (80,358 to 79,204) and completions (7,142 to 6,778) while Brady leads in touchdowns (581 to 571).

Where they differ is in Super Bowl victories.

Brady is in a class by himself with the six championships won in New England.

Drew Brees hoists the Lombardi Trophy after leading the Saints to the Super Bowl in 2010.

Brees has the one Super Bowl victory, leading the Saints past Peyton Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

The past three seasons have ended in playoff disappointment for Brees and company – the Minneapolis miracle, the no-call against the Rams and last season’s overtime loss to the Vikings at home.

Quite honestly this may be the best team Brees has had surrounding him, perhaps better than the one that won the Super Bowl. The Saints ranked fifth in total defense and in the top five in rushing defense and pass defense. When healthy, New Orleans is full of weapons on offense and no longer has to rely on Brees to carry it.

But …

Tampa has won five straight, averaging 35.8 points, and is led by the winningest postseason quarterback in NFL history.

Can New Orleans beat a team three times in a season?

Can Brees shed his recent past playoff performances?

Can the Saints overcome their inconsistent special teams play?

Brady’s legacy is secure, no matter Sunday’s outcome.

Brees’ legacy is also secure but adding another Super Bowl ring wouldn’t be a bad way to transition to broadcasting.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.