The G.O.A.T. That term is an acronym used by today's younger generation, and it stands for "greatest of all time". And for the New Orleans Saints, that can only mean one person: future Hall-of-Fame QB Drew Brees.
And — if the Saints are to have any chance of beating the visiting Detroit Lions today and finally have their first winning record during the NFL regular season since 2013; then it not only will have to come from a great defensive effort by the Saints defense against the Lions offense, but also a solid (and more importantly) mistake-free performance from "the G.O.A.T" as well.
After slicing and dicing the Lions in the first 3 times that he faced them starting back in the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl season and which included a win in the 2011 NFC Playoffs, Brees has since lost 3 straight games against the Lions for the last 3 consecutive seasons (2014, 2015, and 2016).
In his 6 games total of facing Detroit since that first time back in 2009, Brees has completed 175 out of 251 pass attempts, for 2,060 yards and 16 TD's, with only 5 interceptions.
The Lions have undoubtedly had Brees' number in the past 3 years, and the Saints will definitely need the 38-year old ageless wonder to be on his "A-Game" later this afternoon against the Lions.
Brees has passed for 5,000-plus yards in four of the past six seasons including last season, bur so far this season hasn't put up the "pinball machine score" type of numbers that fans have grown accustomed to.
Nevertheless, "the G.O.A.T" is efficient as he's ever been — completing 69.1% of his passes and averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game (1,185 total so far in 4 games) with 8 TD's and most importantly: ZERO interceptions.
The Saints later today will be seeking to become the 1st team in the NFL's entire 97-year history not to have committed a single turnover in its first 5 games; and a big reason for that has been Brees' efficiency and accuracy with throwing the football and not making any critical mistakes.
Amazingly: Brees thus far through the first 4 games, has yet to throw an interception despite averaging 38 pass attempts a game.
However: the last time that the Saints faced the Lions in the Superdome (last November), Brees was intercepted 3 different times, as the Lions beat the Saints 28-13 and hung the worst loss of the 6 meetings they've had with the Saints, since he became the starting QB for New Orleans in 2006.
But despite last year's performance and this year's dip in his numbers, the Lions are well aware of what the Saints "G.O.A.T." is capable of doing on any given Sunday.
"You don't shut down Drew Brees. He's a talented guy that's going to rack up some yardage and points against any and everybody," Detroit coach Jim Caldwell told the Detroit area media on Thursday. "He is tough to handle."
Now let's not kid ourselves: the Saints will need their suddenly resurgent defense to shine to win this football game this afternoon, and to put themselves into the NFC Playoff mix with 11 more games still to go after today's contest.
While New Orleans currently ranks 29th overall in the NFL defensively, in their previous 2 games they've shown an UNDENIABLE improvement.
In their first two games during losses to Minnesota and New England, the Saints allowed 1,025 yards and 65 points combined.
However, in their last 2 games combined during wins over Carolina and Miami, the Saints only allowed 475 total yards and 13 points while making 8 sacks and 4 interceptions.
That's about as dramatic of a turnaround that you will ever see from one point of the season to the next, and it's the reason why that after the Saints appeared to be headed for another disastrous season; they now suddenly find themselves on the cusp of entering the Playoff conversation in the NFC — for the first time since anyone can hardly remember.
But make no mistake about it: as well as the Saints defense has been playing in recent weeks, if New Orleans expects to leave the Superdome with a win today, then their chances ultimately will all rest on the shoulders of "the G.O.A.T".
In those last 3 straight losses to the Lions, Brees has thrown a total of 4 interceptions (including a critical one in the 4th quarter of the 2014 loss at Detroit's Ford Field) and he was hit, hurried or sacked 42 times by the Lions Front 7.
The Lions will be without veteran nose tackle Haloti Ngata, who was placed on injured reserve this week with a bicep injury and is out for the rest of the 2017 season.
"Obviously he is one of the all-time greats," Caldwell said. "He added a lot to the ability to run-stop and rush the passer."
Nevertheless, regardless of Ngata's absence; the Detroit Front 7 has obviously given the Saints fits in their recent meetings, and Brees will need his O-Line to step up big time today if he is going to be able to efficiently guide the Saints offense.
Both starting left tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and left guard Andrus Peat (hip) are listed as Questionable on the injury report heading into today's game, and Brees' success will certainly hinge on their availability.
Still, it will all simply come down to playing mistake-free football — and nobody has done that any better in the team's entire 51-year history, than "the G.O.A.T".
And if the Saints are to have any realistic chance of winning today, then they'll need him to do it yet again, just one more time.......