Saints QB Drew Brees’ first game at 40 is his biggest in 9 years

METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees is about to play his first game as a 40-year-old — and his biggest game in nine years.

When the Saints host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans on Sunday, it’ll be the first time that Brees, who turned 40 on Tuesday, has played for the conference title since the 2009 season. Brees turned 31 shortly before the Saints defeated Minnesota en route to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl title.

One of the enduring images from that championship season was Brees standing next to his wife, Brittany, holding aloft their son, Baylen, who grasped at confetti floating around them.

Baylen was Brees’ first child, born on his father’s 30th birthday, and had recently turned 1 when the Saints beat the Colts in Miami in Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010.

Now Brees is a father of four — three boys and one girl, ages 4 to 10. They were all present on the sideline when Brees set the all-time NFL record for yards passing in Week 5 of this season, and Brees said after practice this week that he has cherished the opportunity to share one of his best seasons with them.

“They’re so football-crazed right now,” Brees said. “That’s what makes this so much fun.”

Brees recounted that during some recent one-on-one time with his second child, Bowen, the quarterback asked his 8-year-old son what his favorite thing to do is.

“He said, ‘Go to the Saints facility with Dad,’” Brees said. “That kind of stuff is what memories are made of and you want them to enjoy that as much as possible and give them those moments as much as possible.

“They love football. They love the Saints. They love our team. They love this season,” Brees said. “We’re just trying to stay in the moment and enjoy it as much as we can.”

There has been plenty to enjoy. While leading the Saints to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, Brees broke NFL records for completions and yards passing. Through 18 regular seasons, he has completed 6,586 passes for 74,437 yards. His completion total surpassed Brett Favre’s 6,300. His yards passing eclipsed Peyton Manning’s 71,940. Brees’ 520 TD passes leave him 19 behind Manning — but also only three ahead of 41-year-old New England QB Tom Brady — for that record.

This season was not Brees’ most prolific, but was his most efficient.

While Brees’ 3,992 yards passing were his fewest since he joined the Saints in 2006, but his 74.4 percent completion rate broke his own NFL record of 72 percent set just last season. His TD-to-interception ratio of 32-5 was the best of his career.

And after a slow start in a divisional playoff victory over Philadelphia on Sunday, Brees finished 28 of 38 passing (73.7 percent) for 301 yards, with two TDs and one interception.

Brittany threw a surprise party for her husband Sunday night — after the divisional-round victory — at a brew pub owned Saints tackle turned radio play-by-play announcer Zach Strief.

Brees seemed to embrace the milestone birthday, enthusiastically donning a black baseball cap with a large No. 40 in gold numerals.

The Saints did not have practice on Brees’ birthday, but he went to work anyway.

“A very normal day,” Brees said. “Come in early and get grinding on the film, get home in time for dinner and hang out with the kids and have a little cake, read bedtime stories and tell them to quit talking and laughing and go to bed.”

Brett Martel is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Saints-QB-Drew-Brees-first-game-at-40-is-his-13546048.php.

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