Running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have missed a combined 17 games for the New Orleans Saints this season due to injury, which would seem to place a tremendous burden on quarterback Drew Brees.
But the Saints rank sixth in the NFL, averaging 25.4 points per game under Brees' direction.
"I think by nature, the quarterback has a lot of the offensive burden because he touches the ball on almost every snap," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday afternoon. "That being said, other players in the absence of certain starters, [wide receiver] Lance Moore has stepped in and given us a lot of production. Jimmy Graham's a young tight end who's gotten more playing time. And whether it's [tight end Jeremy] Shockey or [wide receiver Marques[ Colston, I think by and large, that burden doesn't just shift to the quarterback. I think it shifts to the group in general in regards to touches and receptions and rushing attempts."Brees' 362 passing attempts trail only the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning (378), and perhaps not coincidentally, Brees has been intercepted 18 times, which already ties a career high.
But Brees also ranks second in the league in touchdowns (28) and completion percentage (69.0) and third in passing yards (3,855). Payton said the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIV continues to make adjustments to his game.
"He's got a very high bar, and he's probably as hard on himself as anyone," Payton said. "So he's very competitive, he pays a ton of attention to things he wants to improve on season to season. And one of the reasons he's been so successful is that attention to detail and his commitment to becoming better each year. He's been in this offense. This is his fifth year now, we've all been together, and he's got a real good grasp as to the protections, a good grasp as to what we're doing within the running game. So all of those things are things that he's worked on improving – ball security, tempo. I think that's something that he takes very seriously, and it's something that certainly his teammates see."