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New Orleans Saints program cover story: Drew Brees

Quarterback has been everything for New Orleans Saints

Photos of Drew Brees from the 2015 season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. New Orleans Saints photos.

If the late Dave Dixon is considered "Father of the Superdome" because of his instrumental role in the creation and construction of the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in 1975, then Drew Brees should be known as the best interior decorator that the world-class facility ever has had.

Brees updated the status of the building's most-renowned tenant, the New Orleans Saints, once he joined the franchise in 2006, and began the renovation process of making it one of the best home teams in the NFL since.

So there is no quarterback in franchise history more equipped – or likely – to lead the Saints (4-7) to victory Sunday against Carolina (11-0), the league's lone remaining unbeaten team, winner of 15 straight regular-season games going back to last season and one of New Orleans' NFC South Division rivals.

All that Brees has done, en route to becoming the most productive quarterback in franchise history, one of the most accomplished in league history and a likely first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer the second he becomes eligible for the honor, is lead the Saints to victory 65.8 percent of the time in the Superdome.

His 52-27 home record accounts for 34 percent of the franchise's 154 victories in the Dome, and just 18 percent of the 154 losses; the Saints were 102-127 at home before Brees became their quarterback.

Want more evidence that he has had an unparalleled ability to provide the right décor while helping make home comfortable and inviting for the Saints, but decidedly inhospitable for visitors?

In home games as a Saint, Brees has completed 2,050 of 2,961 passes (69.2 percent) for 23,863 yards and 191 touchdowns, with 70 interceptions. In 40 of his 79 home games – roughly, half – he has thrown three or more touchdown passes and in 17 of those games, he hasn't thrown an interception.

That's not to suggest he hasn't been spectacularly effective on the road, too, where he has completed 1,916 of 2,895 passes (66.2 percent) for 21,640 yards and 139 touchdowns, with 75 interceptions, while helping the Saints to a 39-35 record in the games he has started.

But home is where Brees and the Saints have soared, a venue where he has rolled up more passing yards than the No. 2 passer on the Saints' all-time list, Archie Manning, accumulated in all of his Saints games (21,734).

"Obviously, there are a lot of qualities that go into playing the quarterback position and playing it at a high level, and so, I think any quarterback has to possess those things," Brees said. "First of all, leadership, confidence, you have to be smart, you have to be tough. I think being dependable and consistent might be two of the most important things, just because of your job description. And I think the best quarterbacks to have played this game have made everyone around him better.

"How did they do that? Why did they do that? Those guys had confidence, so every time they stepped on the field they were able to relax and go play. But in order for them to have that confidence in you, you need to be there all the time. You have to be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Any day. It doesn't matter who the opponent is or what. You're dependable and consistent and they know what to expect of you every day."

Few Saints have shown themselves to be more dependable than has Brees.

He only has missed two starts with New Orleans, the regular-season finale in 2009 and the third game this season, when the Saints played the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. He sat out the 2009 finale because the Saints already had clinched home-field advantage through the playoffs, and missed the game this season due to bruised right rotator cuff.

Even with one less game this season he's among the league's leading passers – 282 of 414 (68.1 percent) for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. In the Superdome this season, Brees is 154 of 207 (74.4 percent) for 1,818 yards and 14 touchdowns, with four interceptions.

And even with the Saints staggered by their second three-game losing streak of the season, the possibility of Brees developing an ounce of unbelief is nonexistent. Former teammate Scott Fujita, a Saints linebacker from 2006-09, called Brees "annoyingly optimistic."

"I'd never say that we couldn't turn things around," Brees said a month ago, before New Orleans beat the Giants to win its third consecutive game and even its record at 4-4. "There's always enough. Last year was a tough year and hence the reason why so many changes were made from last year to this. I felt that we needed to change the culture in the locker room. We really did.

"Still, you feel like there are enough good things that we can find a way. I am the eternal optimist, always feeling like things are happening for a reason if you are facing adversity. It is there to make you stronger, and our best is yet to come and it is going to happen for us if we just keep doing the right things."

The right things, Brees and his teammates hope, can get the Saints back in the win column. And this could be the perfect opportunity; the Saints particularly have performed well under Payton, with Brees, when the spotlight has been on them.

They've won 80 percent of their prime time games and while Sunday's game isn't a night game, it was moved from a noon kickoff to 3:25 p.m. for its marquee value. Even with the Saints struggling this season, it's known how well they perform when an inordinate amount of attention is on them, and Brees – as you might surmise – sizzles in those games, too.

Of the 20 times he has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, 10 have come in prime- time games. This game likely will be treated as the equivalent of one.

"I guess if you're going to save your best for something, it's good to save it for that," Brees said.

For that, and for home, where he has proven to be a master at installing upgrades and producing rare art.

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