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|Brees is cool as ice|
Sorry Matty Ice.
The real comeback kid was in the house.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has been superb this season in leading the Falcons to a year similar to New Orleans' unforgettable run last season.
Through 14 games, Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons to a 12-2 record, including six comeback fourth quarter wins, beating the Saints in the Superdome in overtime, 27-24, in their first meeting.
But there's a reason Drew Brees' book is called "Coming Back Stronger." And that reason showed up again Monday night as Brees came through in the clutch once again to give the Saints a must-win in a hostile arena with some unforgettable and even forgettable plays.
All through his book, Brees talked about overcoming adversity — his parents' divorce, being second string in junior high and most of high school, being called too small, not being recruited by a Texas college, being let go by San Diego after his injury.
But each time he responded.
Monday night may have been the coup de grâce for the quarterback of the fleur-de-lis team.
Brees struggled against a fierce Atlanta rush most of the night and committed two bonehead fourth-quarter turnovers, the first a silly underhand toss that Chauncey Davis fielded and returned for the go-ahead score, the second an interception by John Abraham in which Brees had to make the tackle to prevent a bad situation into turning even worst.
After the interception to Davis, Saint head coach Sean Payton would not even speak to his quarterback for a few seconds, which is really saying something considering how close the two are on and off the field.
But before the Saints went back on the field, Payton was back huddling with his quarterback, knowing there is no other quarterback in the league who can put such a bad mistake behind them more than the guy he chauffered around New Orleans (even accidentally around some of the rough spots) to bring him in the fold.
And, sure enough, in the end, Brees delivered.
The Falcons had a chance after the Abraham swoop to close the case, but a possession sputtered after one first down. Whereupon the Saints drove to a touchdown, Brees finding Jimmy Graham on a slant with 3:24 remaining that would give the Saints the win.
There would be no comeback for Ryan this night, as the Saint defense came up with another crucial stop in a crucial situation.
But it was vintage Brees — cool, calm, collected and, most of all, confident.
While the Saints were able to ride the emotions of the Superdome on their way to the Super Bowl last year, it appears they will have to do it on the road this season.
Atlanta will not lose to Carolina Sunday. And if the Saint offensive line does not step up, New Orleans will have a tough time with Tampa Bay.
But you can bet Payton will find a way each week to have the Saints ready.
In his book, "Home Team," Payton gives great insight into last season. He is the master motivator. During tough summers in Jackson he would find the right time to give his guys a break with a trip to the water park. Or in New Orleans when he arranged to rent an entire paint ball jungle for the squad. It was the break the team needed at the time and a great way to bring the team closer together.
Payton is the master of showing motivational clips. Before the Saints' first game back in the Superdome against Atlanta after Katrina, Payton had the team watch a clip on the Superdome screen the Friday before the Monday night game about the effects of the hurricane so they would not be caught up in that emotion on Monday night.
There was hardly a dry eye in the place after the clip. And a focused Saint team delivered three nights later.
Payton has had top motivational speakers before big games.
Before one playoff game last year, he had former coaching buddy Jon Gruden pumping up the team with a taped speech and when the lights came up, Gruden was there live to finish his pep talk.
But he also knows how to lighten up the moments.
When the Saints' bus arrived at their hotel in Miami for the Super Bowl last year, Payton was there to greet them in a bellboy uniform, along with five other Saint players who arrived earlier to promote the Pro Bowl.
He also hired Reggie Bush's former marketing agent as a special ops guy before the Super Bowl to go into Miami and set up billboards promoting New Orleans as the home team, while also taking care of the players and their wives with gifts in their room before they arrived after he heard that the New England Patriot players and their wives were upset by the New York Giant players receiving better gifts than they were in Super Bowl XLII, won by the Giants, 17-14.
Motivations aside, you can bet Payton will be working hard to give his prized quarterback more pass protection for its final regular season and for the playoffs.
And you can bet, if the game is on the line, Drew Brees is the guy with ice in his veins you want leading the final drive.
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