<span>When Drew Brees watches film and prepares for this week's opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints' quarterback sees something quite a bit different than he has the past two seasons.
"They just play with a level of discipline that maybe hasn't been there in years past," Brees said. "So it's definitely a different team than we've faced over the past two years, as long as I've been here and this staff has been here. We know we have our work cut out for us."
One can forgive Brees if the recent developments to the Falcons' team causes him a moment to pause, as the Saints' quarterback has thrived against the Falcons the past two seasons to the tune of a 68.8 completion percentage, a perfect 4-0 record, 1,087 yards and seven touchdowns and just one interception for a passer rating of 107.6.
"They're very solid," Brees said of the Falcons' defense. "I think what you see when you turn on the film is that they play with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity. I think for the most part they keep it pretty simple, but they're very good at what they do."
Brees tops the NFL with 2,563 passing yards and is on pace for an NFL-record 5,126 yards, which would better the NFL record of 5,084 yards that former Miami Dolphins quarterback set in 1984.
The Saints' signal-caller said, despite questions that asked Brees about the team's long-term outlook on the rest of the season, that his feeling is the Saints are only concerned about this Sunday's game.
"We're not worried about long term at this point," Brees stated. "It really is just one game and the fact is we're going on the road against a divisional opponent. It's a very important game. They're 5-3, we're 4-4. We're trying to move our way on up in this division and get on a roll. We haven't had a time this season where we're won more than one in a row. It's time for us to get on a roll here, get a streak going and gain some momentum."
The Purdue product, who has six 300-yard passing games through his first eight games of the season and is on target to set a league record for most 300-yard passing games in a season (Rich Gannon, Oakland, 2002: 10), maintained that the Saints' used their bye week wisely by preparing for the Falcons and self-scouting the Saints in an attempt to sharpen and improve.
"At the midway point and the bye week, you're able to evaluate where you are and what you need to work on. We've done that, definitely identified those things we want to work on and when we look at the second half of the season, we have four divisional games and some tough road tests, so we know we have our work cut out for us. At this point, it's really one game at a time right where we were at this point last season, but certainly I feel like we have a better team and better opportunities."
One player that has caught Brees' eye is Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Brees has been impressed with the steady play and the rookie from Boston College's success in his first season in the NFL.
"It's impressive," Brees said of Ryan's play. "I watched him in college and was very impressed. He looked like he was very well coached. He looks like he's a guy who takes pride in his mechanics and just all the little things. I've never met him, but listening to him speak in interviews, he seems very mature beyond his years. So I think his maturity level, his attention to deal and probably confidence level. It looks like he plays with confidence, watching film on him from the similar opponents we've played. He kind of rears back and throws it with confidence. It's hard to come in as a rookie quarterback and do what he's done. He's done very well."
Brees also stated that he has been extremely pleased with the Saints' attention to detail throughout the bye week and thus far this season and that he senses a spark and a confidence in the Saints' approach that he hopes is contagious. Brees said that he senses his team has very much the same approach this week that the team had in London two weeks ago when they prepared for the Chargers.
"I felt like we came up with a formula for that game and why can't we mimic that formula just the way we were able to eliminate distractions, bear down, form a routine and go out and play a great game all the way around in all three phases," Brees said. "I don't see why not. Coming off the bye week we have some guys a little more fresh. This is our time to make a run at it."
Despite the gaudy numbers that Brees has accumulated thus far this season, Brees said that he isn't at all focused on his statistics and is instead focused on helping the team accomplish the singular goal of winning games, however it needs to happen. "I don't pay attention to yards," he said. "The stats I pay attention to are turnovers, third down efficiency, taking care of the ball, red zone efficiency. There are other things that are nice. Big plays are nice, but we're certainly ready to march the ball down the field. We're an aggressive style of offense so we're going to take shots. We'll take advantage. If not, check it down and move on, but I think the most important stat for us is taking care of the football."