No body part was more talked about in New Orleans last week than Jimmy Graham’s left foot.
Graham injured it in the Saints’ loss at New England on Oct. 13, and he only practiced once on it after his team’s bye before facing the Buffalo Bills at home Sunday. Could the Saints’ aerial attack fly the same without that foot’s owner at full strength, if not without him altogether, restless fans and curious pundits wondered?
Everyone, of course, already knew the answer. But Sunday, they got a reminder that the Saints offense will steam right along as long as one body part is fully functional.
And that’s Drew Brees’ right arm.
Brees may not have been thrilled with his 332-yard, five-touchdown, no-interception performance to lead the Saints (6-1) to a 35-17 romp at home over the Bills (3-5). He was whistled for two false-start penalties and delay of game, costing his team 15 yards.
“Even though we come out and score 35 points and we don’t turn the ball over and we do a lot of good things, we could’ve done much better,” Brees said shortly after becoming the first quarterback to throw for five touchdowns eight separate occasions.
But the rest of us can — and should — allow ourselves to be amazed by the show Brees delivered for the crowd Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Fourteen of the 26 completions Brees threw to 10 different receivers went for first downs. Brees connected with at least six different players strictly for first downs.
Two of his five scores went to the hobbled Graham, who ultimately did dress out but lined up for just 18 snaps. A third went to Lance Moore, who had missed the previous three games with a hand injury. A fourth went for 69 yards to rookie Kenny Stills.
But Brees came up with a throw that topped those combined three TDs to players recovering from injuries and the aforementioned bomb to the first-year player. It was a 42-yard touchdown to Stills on third-and-20, his second third-and-20 TD toss to Stills in as many games.
To anyone who couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the pair of third-and-20 connections, there was a reason for that. As ESPN Stats & Information verified Monday, Brees had never before thrown a touchdown pass of that distance.
It’s understandable to want to roll your eyes whenever the media quote the Saints saying that they’re confident they will make do if the status of one of their top playmakers is in doubt, which Graham’s was, right up until shortly before kickoff. What else are they supposed to say?
But Brees used Sunday to again prove that those words the Saints preach to anyone with a microphone or recorder aren’t empty, that the offense he and coach Sean Payton command will indeed get the ball into the hands of the next man up — and the nine under him in the pecking order.
“It’s great having a future Hall of Famer at quarterback,” Stills said. “Every week, you never know.”