NEW ORLEANS — This one is going to hurt Drew Brees more than most.
Because the New Orleans Saints quarterback knows how precious each of these opportunities is as he approaches his 41st birthday on Jan. 15. And because he quite literally dropped the ball with two rare turnovers in the Saints’ stunning 26-20 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a wild-card playoff game.
Brees will almost certainly return for a 20th season — even though he, too, is an unsigned free agent just like Tom Brady. It’s hard to imagine Brees calling it quits after he played so well this year, finishing with the best passer rating of his career (116.3).
And it’s really hard to imagine him ending on a sour note like Sunday’s loss in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees struggled for much of the game, throwing an interception on an ill-advised deep ball into double coverage in the second quarter and losing a fumble while being sacked late in the fourth quarter.
Brees did lead New Orleans to a game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation. But he never got to take the field in overtime since his counterpart Kirk Cousins marched the Vikings downfield for a game-winning TD and Cousin’s first-ever playoff victory.
This entire Saints team should be back in contention next year. They’re uber-talented with six players named either first- or second-team All-Pro. And they showed their resilience by coming back to finish 13-3 in each of the past two seasons despite crushing last-second playoff losses to the Los Angeles Rams and these same Vikings over the previous two years.
But it doesn’t get any easier to keep a team like this together. They already had to sign receiver Michael Thomas and defensive end Cameron Jordan to mega contract extensions this past offseason. Running back Alvin Kamara is among those who could push for a new deal this offseason. Brees, backup QB Teddy Bridgewater, safety Vonn Bell, guard Andrus Peat, defensive tackle David Onyemata and cornerback Eli Apple are among their top free agents.