Brady, Brees and Bono. How's that for a middle-aged power trio?
When New England quarterback Tom Brady and his prolific New Orleans counterpart, Drew Brees, take the Superdome field on Sunday, it'll be just days after U2's concert there. Seems fitting, given the association the Irish rockers had with seminal moments for both franchises in that same stadium.
U2 played when the renovated Superdome reopened a year after Hurricane Katrina for the Saints' triumphant 2006 home opener. They also played halftime of Brady and the Patriots' maiden Super Bowl victory in the Big Easy in 2002.
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For many football fans in New Orleans, U2's latest Superdome show could be viewed as an apt prelude to a game featuring two quarterbacks who are not only among the most accomplished in NFL history, but who also can actually remember when "The Joshua Tree" album came out in 1987.
Meanwhile, Brady, 40, and Brees, 38, come in highly motivated to help their clubs recover from Week 1 losses.
"It is very important. It is our home opener and we want to get everybody back on track," Brees said. "Obviously there's a lot of things to correct."
Similarly, Brady noted that the Patriots "played very poorly in the fourth quarter" of a season-opening loss to Kansas City.
This week, they must "be the kind of players that our teammates can depend on and try to go get a win at a very tough place to play," Brady said.
Between them, Brady and Brees have combined for staggering passing numbers: 128,251 yards and 922 TDs. Brees stands third in NFL history with 66,402 yards and 466 TDs, and Brady fourth with 61,849 yards and 456 TDs. Brady's 208 career wins as a starter, including playoffs, rank first in NFL history.
They also hope their careers are nowhere near over, particularly after last season, when Brees led the NFL in yards passing, while Brady led the Patriots to a fifth Super Bowl title.
"I'd say we probably both have the mindset that we want to change the norm of what is possible in regards to how long a guy can play and the level that they can play at," Brees said.
Here are some things to know about the Patriots-Saints matchup:
MUTUAL ADMIRATION: Brees said he's admired Brady ever since he first played against him in college before the turn of the century -- a 1999 victory for Brady's Michigan over Brees' Purdue.
Brees recalled how Brady, then a senior, had to share snaps with Drew Henson in the midseason game.
"Standing on the sideline across from him, to me, it was obviously Brady's team and he had to share time with this freshman," Brees recalled. "And yet, his approach and his discipline during that time -- he played at such a high level, but he just worried about what he controlled. ... By the end of the season, they just flat out gave the starting spot to Brady and they played lights out.
"That probably shaped and molded a lot about him -- a little bit of a chip on his shoulder which has obviously served him well, a mental discipline and a mental toughness that's unmatched."
Brady said it was "pretty cool" to be able to play Brees once again some 18 years after their college clash.
"I have so much respect for Drew and what he's accomplished," Brady said. "Playing against him for a long time; I know the challenges a Drew Brees-led team presents. We've got our work cut out for us."
RUN SUPPORT: Both teams were disappointed by their running games last week, particularly in light of key free agent signings: Adrian Peterson with the Saints and Mike Gillislee with New England. Gillislee had three touchdowns in his debut, but it was largely a footnote as New England's ground game was ineffective in the second half against the Chiefs. Still, that compared favorably to Peterson, who played just nine offensive snaps, gaining only 18 yards on six carries -- and giving coach Sean Payton a glare on the sideline. "I didn't sign up for nine snaps," Peterson said. "But unfortunately that's the way the game played out."
HOME COOKING: The game marks the return of Brandin Cooks to New Orleans, where he was a 2014 first-round pick and played his first three seasons. Brady said he's glad Cooks is on his side now. "He's pretty unique. I don't think there's many that I've played with that are like him," Brady said. "His maturity is probably what surprised me the most. ... He wants to do extra. He wants to know what I'm thinking. He just wants to do the right thing all of the time."
ROOM FOR ERROR: While one team will drop to 0-2, recent NFL history suggests neither team should be in panic mode no matter what the outcome is. Since realignment in 2002, 108 of the 180 playoff teams (60 percent) opened 1-1 or 0-2.