Saints' Brees sees playoff Conflict with Brady's Bucs as fate

Drew Brees periodically discusses his lengthy, extraordinary NFL journey concerning fate and destiny.

Saints' Brees sees playoff Conflict with Brady's Bucs as fate

The Saints quarterback states, for instance, that his career-threatening throwing shoulder injury at the conclusion of the 2005 season was meant to be. It precipitated his departure from the Chargers and move to New Orleans, where he shattered passing records and won a Super Bowl -- while helping reconstruct a beloved American city that was reeling from Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

When six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady made a decision to leave New England and start a new chapter together with Tampa Bay, at the NFC South, Brees couldn't escape the feeling that he'd visit Brady in a high-stakes match in January.

"Listen, when Tom Brady signed with the Bucs and I knew he was coming to our branch, I envisioned this game," Brees maintained this week. "I pictured this match occurring because I understood our aspirations as a group, to be in the playoffs and beyond. And I clearly understood what he was bringing to the Bucs and that talented roster."

Similarly, Brady guessed that success at Tampa Bay would hinge on how he and the Buccaneers managed their experiences with all the Saints.

"They have been one of the top teams in the league for quite a while and they have had some difficult playoff losses (on) some really fluke plays," Brady said, speaking to some last-second loss to Minnesota on a long passing play two seasons ago, and an admitted officiating blunder that helped the Rams beat the Saints in the NFC title game two seasons ago.

"Apart from that, there's not a great deal of bad about" the Saints,'' Brady said. "They are pretty magnificent."

Brees and Brady have been doing"spectacular" for 2 years now. No wonder there is so much buildup with this particular match.

"We were texting back and forth on Monday just kind of chuckling at this entire scenario," Brees, who was turning 42 on Friday, due to an exchange he had with the 43-year-old Brady. "That's 85 years and a lot of football experience that's going to be about the area on Sunday."

THREE OF A KIND

The Saints won equally regular-season meetings with double digits en route to their franchise-record fourth straight division title. This week, there has been a good deal of discussion about how difficult it can be to beat a team three times.

However, the Saints have done it before, beating Carolina twice at the 2017 regular year and again in the playoffs.

NFL history favors the Saints. There were 22 past playoff games with a team that had been swept by its rival during the regular season. In 14 of those matches, the team that had won the first two matches won the third as well.

"If you beat a team twice, needless to say, you're confident, but at the exact same moment, you look over there and you also see Tom Brady, the gift they have and you know at a minute's notice they can score from everywhere," Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "They are going to pull out all the stops; we're going to pull out all the stops, because it is win or go home."

While the Saints have owned the Buccaneers in recent decades, Brady and his All-Star cast of playmakers are one of the hottest crimes in the league during what is presently a five-game winning streak.

Brady has finished 116 of 176 passes for 1,714 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception through the explosion.

"We have certainly come a long way," Brady explained. "It's a complex game; there's lots of moving parts (and) there's a lot of coordination involved between a lot of different places. I believe the quarterback-receiver relationship is really important."

Still, no defense has had greater success from Brady this year compared to Saints.

Brady has thrown five of his 12 interceptions against New Orleans. He was sacked six times in the two earlier meetings.

But the Saints also have discovered that the Bucs' rising level of play lately.

"These guys are serious contenders," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said.

The Saints are accustomed to confronting Bucs receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin two times a year. The addition of Antonio Brown has made Tampa Bay's passing strike even more powerful.

The former Steelers, Raiders and Patriots receiver created his Bucs introduction in Week 9 from New Orleans after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

With five TD receptions in his past four games, Brown has had a significant effect on Tampa Bay's season-ending surge.

"I don't think there is any doubt. He's back up to his normal playing speed and producing plays," Arians said. "He is another threat for us."

He desires 57 yards receiving to pass Larry Fitzgerald (942) for the second-most among active players.

GROUND AND POUND

Considering that Sean Payton became Saints coach in 2006, New Orleans hasn't rushed for as many yards in one season as this one.

The Saints gained 2,265 yards rushing during the regular season and added another 123 yards in their playoff opener against Chicago's formidable front.

So while Tampa Bay's defense led the NFL in stopping the run, letting 80.6 yards per game, it does not sound as if the Saints intend to shy away from handing the ball off to star running back Alvin Kamara, that had 99 yards and a touchdown rushing last week.

"We've got the mentality that we're going to run the ball," right tackle Ryan Ramczyk asserted. "We are going to do it efficiently. We are going to be aggressive. It is sort of a beat-you-up mindset"

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