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John DeShazier: Drew Brees turned in another special performance against Steelers

He threw for five touchdowns with no interceptions

Annoyingly optimistic and confident.

Drew Brees said that's how his New Orleans Saints teammates often have described him and with his track record, why shouldn't he be?

The Saints needed a Brees-level performance in order to win Sunday's game against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, and that's exactly what they got from their quarterback in a 35-32 victory that ended a three-game losing streak – a streak that never threatened to undermine Brees' optimism or confidence.

Thus, the term "Brees-level," rather than "uncharacteristic," "surprising" or "special."

Brees routinely has been special, and Sunday was his latest installment. Against the Steelers, he completed 19 of 27 passes for 257 yards and five touchdowns, without an interception. In the second half, as the Saints built a commanding 35-16 lead, he went 9 for 11 for 143 yards and three touchdowns.

It was the seventh time in his career that he's had a five-touchdown, no-interception day (all victories) and the 18th time he's thrown at least four touchdowns in a game, without an interception. He's also had a five-touchdown, one-interception day and one game with six touchdowns and one interception.

"He was outstanding," Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "His intermediate throws, down the field – we had some big plays, which were important, (and) some of them came on third down. I thought he did a great job with our tempo, against a good defense. It was really good. Good film."

It was along the lines of what has become expected of Brees, who has set his performance bar in nine seasons in New Orleans.

It's one of the reasons his production and effectiveness have been questioned this season, when three interceptions returned for touchdowns (and 11 overall), and two lost fumbles have led to questions about whether the 35-year-old is on the decline.

But for the season, Brees has completed 344 of 489 passes for 3,758 yards and 27 touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 101.7.

"My mentality, my approach, my preparation and process throughout the week does not change regardless of whether people are singing my praises or telling me I can't play anymore," Brees said Sunday. "I really don't care (laughing). I pride myself on the way that I work, the way I prepare, the type of leader and person that I'm trying to be for my team."

Preparation and execution against Pittsburgh helped Brees and receiver Kenny Stills dial up a double move against Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor on third-and-10 from the Saints' 31-yard line Sunday, after the Steelers had closed to within 21-13.

Stills' out-and-up pattern left Taylor flailing at air, and the second-year receiver wide open for a 69-yard touchdown reception down the right sideline. It was Taylor's first game back after missing eight games due to a broken arm.

"When you play inconsistently, that's what happens – starting with myself," Taylor said of Sunday's result. "Put it this way, (with) a future Hall of Famer quarterback like Drew Brees, man, you have to be on your P's and Q's.

"Like I was saying earlier during the week, he's the captain of that team, and it showed. If he sees something, he's going to hit it. He doesn't miss a lot. Regardless of how much you feel like you've got him rattled, he stays in the pocket, he has good feet, and he did what he needed to do."

It has helped keep the Saints afloat, their 5-7 record not what they anticipated, but still good enough to keep them in control of their fate as they attempt to win the NFC South Division.

"He has been there, and gone through games or stretches in our seasons where maybe we've fallen a few games back, or gone through some adversity," Payton said. "His response to that, and how he handles that, is strong. That's the one thing you can't put a true value on."

Official team photos from the New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers game on Sunday, November 30, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)

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