METAIRIE, LA. — The last time Drew Brees visited Seattle, he was limited to the kind of numbers a likely Hall of Fame quarterback might take personally.
If he did, he wouldn’t admit as much when asked this week.
“There were a lot of things where we walked away from that game and said, ‘That’s not us,’ ” Brees said. “We have to give a lot of credit to (the Seahawks) because they forced us to be that way. But then again, there are a lot of things we have to correct and get better at.”
That’s certainly a fine, team-oriented answer, befitting a leader and face of the franchise such as Brees.
But teammates know another side to Brees. Fullback Jed Collins believes his quarterback might have left some feelings unspoken.
“He is a competitor in everything he does, so I absolutely think he knows the teams that have got him,” Collins said Wednesday as the Saints continued preparations for their Saturday return to Seattle. “He’s the kind of guy that I know is going to step up to that challenge.”
The Seahawks got Brees on Dec. 2 at CenturyLink Field, limiting him to 147 passing yards in a season in which he has averaged 323. The Saints also had season lows in points and yards (188) in their 34-7 loss.
The following week provided the Saints with a chance to observe something that doesn’t appear very often: Brees in bounce-back mode.
“I’ve been around him for four years, and on a daily basis I’m impressed with him,” said Collins, a Washington State University alumnus. “He’s a leader by example — and extraordinary example. … He was the same cool, confident leader he always is. That always makes it a lot easier for everybody else.”
The Saints followed their loss to the Seahawks with a 31-13 win against the Carolina Panthers. Brees threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns.
The fates of playoff scheduling have created another bounce-back opportunity for Brees and the Saints as they return to the Pacific Northwest, this time in the NFC divisional round.
“I think there are a number of things we’ve got to do better, just handling the early portion of the game,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “There are certain things in playoff football — or for that matter, just playing on the road — that you have to give yourselves an opportunity. I think that we are working hard to do that.”
In playoff preparations this week, most players have seemed to strive for a kind of selective memory about that game: trying to learn from what went wrong, while blocking out any negative noise that could morph into doubt.
They also point to their recent past: a 26-24 wild-card win at Philadelphia last weekend in which Brees’ arm was complemented by a running game that pushed through the Eagles for 185 yards.
New Orleans had 44 rushing yards against the Seahawks, and several Saints noted how important that additional offensive threat could prove on a rainy Northwest afternoon.
“I think we’re running the football better now than we were then,” Brees said. “I feel like we’ve experienced a lot since then. … I feel at times we played some good football, and obviously last week on the road, first round of the playoffs, getting that win the way we did — a complete team win — certainly helped us gain confidence. And hopefully we continue to grow there as we move forward.”