METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees doesn’t appear angry about the fact that his NFL-leading production has been wasted by the New Orleans Saints’ 0-3 start.
For now, he’s trying to compartmentalize.
“I’ve always been a big believer in, if you focus on the process, the result takes care of itself,” Brees said after practice Wednesday. “Sometimes, if you get too caught up with the result, that affects your preparation process and it affects what should be your good, sound decision-making.
“So I have a great process in place throughout the week — my routine, what I do to take care of my body, to take care of my mind, to prepare myself to go out and play my best. And that’s all that I can do — try to put the guys around me in the best position to succeed as well, and if that’s good enough to win, then that’s good enough to win.”
So far, it hasn’t been good enough, although it has been close.
New Orleans lost its first two games by four points combined. The Saints then put up 32 points against Atlanta on Monday night, only to give up 45 — the lowlights being a pair of turnovers the Falcons converted into touchdowns, accounting for Atlanta’s victory margin.
All the while, Brees has passed for an NFL-best 1,062 yards. He has passed for eight touchdowns, which ties him with Tampa Bay’s Jamies Winston atop that category. His QB rating of 105.1 ranks fifth in the NFL.
Brees has been intercepted once so far, making him one of just 12 QBs who’s been intercepted fewer than twice. Only three QBs who’ve started all three weeks of this season — San Diego’s Philip Rivers, Dallas’ Dal Prescott, and Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz — haven’t been intercepted yet.
When Saints coach Sean Payton cites reasons why his team has been losing, Brees’ play isn’t been one of them.
“He is playing at a high level,” Payton said. “I know this. He is not interested in the numbers —nor are we — aside from wins and losses.”
This week, Brees returns to San Diego — where he began his NFL career — for the first time since playing his last game for the Chargers at the end of the 2005 season.
And if the Saints don’t start winning soon, Brees could very well wind up doing what he did in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2015 — put up elite numbers for a non-playoff team that finished .500 or worse.
Making matters worse, Brees is 37 and under contract in New Orleans for only this season and next. Brees has said he can’t envision finishing his career with any other team, but there’s also little precedent for how much longer a QB of Brees’ age can continue to perform as well as he is now.
When the Saints have struggled in the years since Payton became coach in 2006, defense has been the problem. Current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who took over last November when Rob Ryan was fired, is the Saints’ fifth defensive coordinator of the Payton regime. Whether Allen has the talent, given a rash of injuries to his unit, to show how effective his scheme can be is a matter for debate. The numbers so far, however, are not flattering.
New Orleans is giving up 448.3 yards and 32 points per game, which ranks second-to-last in both categories.
Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro said New Orleans’ defense will either need to improve soon or once again take the blame for squandering Brees’ elite quarterback play.
“He’s a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. I want him to get as many Super Bowls as possible. I want him to pass (New England’s) Tom Brady. I think he’s better,” Vaccaro said. “If the defense doesn’t get it together, then it is our fault because he’s doing everything he can for us to be a championship team. We have an elite offense. They’re top-five every year. We’ve got to get going and we’ve got to take ownership of that.”
Brees, meanwhile, is avoiding the temptation to express bitterness or assign blame.
“You can’t change anything about it. I’m disappointed that this is the start and this is the position that we’re in now, but it’s a long season ahead of us,” Brees said. “I’m confident that we’re going to be able to turn it around. I’m confident that once we get our first win, that things will begin to fall into place.
“We’re an ascending team — ascending,” Brees insisted. “We have gotten better in a lot of ways as we’ve gone along. We just need that first” victory.
Notes: The Saints added offensive tackle Khalif Barnes to their active roster on Wednesday while placing defensive end Obum Gwacham on injured reserve. The Saints have not disclosed Gwacham’s injury.