With about 1:50 left in the game Monday night, Sean Payton took Drew Brees out to let the home crowd give their quarterback another ovation for his record-setting night.
The Superdome cameras captured him on the big screen taking in the final moments. He was teary-eyed. Fans were teary-eyed.
“I love this city,” Brees said at his post-game press conference. “I love this fanbase. I love the Superdome. I love the environment that our fans create on a weekly basis when we play here. There’s really no fanbase like it. Obviously, the bond that we share as a team with our fanbase is unlike any other, I think, in all of professional sports. They’re just so passionate, and this is as much for them as it is for anybody.”
Back atcha, Drew.
Monday night was a raucous celebration of the brilliance of Drew Brees, quarterback. By the end of the lopsided win over Washington, he had 72,103 career yards passing — an NFL record. He moved past both Brett Favre and Payton Manning in the first half of the game, and then added lagniappe yardage in the second half.
Saints fans devoutly hope he’ll put up many more yards here before he’s done.
But Monday night wasn’t only about football. Drew Brees is right, he and Saints fans have a deeper bond. Our journey officially started 12 years ago with another Monday Night Football game.
The Saints’ return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, was cathartic for New Orleanians who had spent 13 months mucking out flooded homes and trying to rebuild their lives and our city.
Drew Brees was coming back from shoulder surgery for a torn labrum. The Chargers let him go, and the Dolphins didn’t want to take a chance on his recovery. The Saints did. So, a devastated city and a wounded quarterback found each other.
“This is where I belong, and I felt like this was a calling,” Brees said in 2009 during the Saints’ Super Bowl run.
The Dolphins were proved wrong. And so were the doubters who didn’t believe that New Orleans could come back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches.
In October 2005, ESPN’s Chris Mortenson said the Saints “probably had played their last game in New Orleans.” The Washington Post reported that the NFL was worried that the New Orleans region wouldn’t recover enough to support the Saints.
When Brees visited Miami in early 2006, “It was like I was there to convince them I could still play,” he said later.
He most certainly could.
After the new passing record was set Monday night, the game stopped for a celebration. Brees kissed his daughter Rylen and hugged his three sons, Baylen, Callen and Bowen, on the sideline. “I love you guys; you can accomplish anything in life if you’re willing to work for it, right?” he said.
That message should be for all of us. It’s what we each ought to believe about ourselves and our city. It’s what we should convey to every child in New Orleans, no matter their circumstance.
Look at all Drew Brees has achieved since his injury. Look at all we’ve achieved as a city since the levees broke. We can make his wish for his children come true for all of our children.
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