Metairie, La. - Drew Brees and the Saints handed the Falcons their first loss of the season in week ten of 2012 but their second meeting saw Brees throw five interceptions leaving him eager to right the wrongs.
The following are Brees' comments to the media after Wednesday's practice, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Is there such thing as a must-win first game?
"No, it's impossible. But it sure feels good to start it that way, getting a win against a divisional opponent. Knowing the track record between the two teams, these are always close games, always hard-fought games. There's always a lot at stake when we play each other. It's the earliest we've ever played each other: week one. It doesn't get any better than this."
You have played them in a home opener before though going back to 2006?
"Home opener, yes, in '06. We were both 2-0. I guess we're both undefeated right now too. The game is meaningful. They all are, especially this one. Being that it's the home opener, it is a divisional opponent. It is the Atlanta Falcons, the division winner from a year ago. We know the type of team they are, they're an extremely good team, an extremely well coached team. I know we put up a stat today that seven of our 10 games with the Falcons since Mike Smith has been the head coach have been decided by the last possession, seven out of 10. It just goes to show you the type of battle this always is with these guys."
How does it feel to have Robert Meachem back?
"Great. Obviously he's all smiles; he's happy to be back. Obviously (this is a) familiar place, a familiar offense. We spent some time together yesterday and then out here today. Watching him run around, he looks as good as ever. We look forward to getting him incorporated back in."
From afar, what do you like about Matt Ryan?
"I've got a ton of respect for Matt Ryan. First of all, he's a winner. He's going into his sixth year now and he's led his team to the playoffs four out of five seasons. He's played extremely well both in the regular season and the postseason. He obviously has great command of that offense. I think he's a great decision maker. He comes across as just one of those highly competitive guys, great work ethic, loves football, tough, all the things you want in a quarterback."
Yourself and Matt Ryan both are playing with huge contracts. Is there a different approach by the two of you since you have won a championship and he has not?
"I don't know, I guess I really haven't thought about that. It was my ninth season that we won a championship, my fourth season here. He's still very early in his career, only going into his sixth year. He seems like a guy who could play for a really long time. I'm sure there's going to be many opportunities for him and his teams to make a run at it. But, as long as we're in their division, we're going to be fighting for the same thing."
Is it easier for you to play with the big contract since you have won a championship?
"No. It's never easier. You're always thinking about the next one. If anything, maybe when you haven't won one, you've got that edge or chip there saying I need to win it. Once you have won it, you sometimes have to manufacture that chip on your shoulder, that edge. You find it however you can, but it's as difficult or more difficult once you have won one."
Do you think Robert Meachem has a chip on his shoulder with the way things ended in San Diego for him?
"I don't know. I'm not going to speak for Meach. I know it was a tough situation for him. Watching from afar some of their film from last year because we played common opponents, he wasn't incorporated in there like you would've thought. Who knows what the inner workings (were) of that team? Obviously the guy we saw on film and incorporated in the game plan wasn't the guy that we knew through his contributions here from (2007) to 2011. All I can say is that I'm glad to have him back, and I think it's all coming right back to him. Talking through stuff out on the field again today, running some routes after practice, it all looks the same."
What makes this rivalry so intense?
"Just the fact that they're a very good team and we're a really good team. Anytime you've got two prideful teams, organizations that are used to winning and used to playing well and that kind of thing going at it, that's a recipe for a very highly competitive, highly intense atmosphere. So I find, you always get that with this game. I'd say that the fan bases are probably more at odds than the teams are. That makes it fun too."
You guys obviously haven't had to manufacture an edge this year, coming off of a losing season. Is there maybe a reason to go for a back to basics mentality?
Any time that you have a season where you struggle and you don't make the playoffs, and obviously there were a lot of mistakes made and the reasons why you lost those games that maybe you shouldn't have lost. There's that tendency to say 'Let's get back to the basics (and) fundamentals, and regain that confidence from the ground up as to what makes us a great team.' So that's what it's all about. First of all, no game on Sunday is perfect whether you win or lose. We've won plenty of big games and you come in on Monday and it wasn't quite as good as you thought when you watch the film. The win kind of masks a lot of the sins of the game at times. When you lose, you can turn on the film and say 'We didn't look as bad as we thought, but we lost. That stinks, and it hurts, and I don't want to feel this way.' There's those emotions that come with it."
What does Steven Jackson bring to the Falcons?
"He's a big, powerful back. I just know at times when we played him in the past, that he's hard to bring down and hard to tackle. I just think he brings a physical element to any offense, so that was a big pickup for them."
At this point in your career, what still motivates you or drives you to be great?
"I've got this opportunity that very few have, and I want to make the most of it. I want to utilize the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with and take care of the opportunities that I've been given. At the end of the day, this is part of your legacy. It's not only what you do on the field; it's what you do off the field, it's how you carry yourself, and the type of person you want to be perceived and what type of player you want to be perceived as. I just have a competitive nature where I love to compete; I love to play. If I wasn't playing professional football, I'd be in the YMCA men's basketball league and probably whatever baseball league I could get into and play golf on the weekends and maybe get into some kind of tennis league or something. You've got to do something to get that competitive edge kind of filled. I'm just blessed to have this opportunity and I'm going to try to do it as long as I can, try to win as many games as we can, and try to win as many championships as we can."
Is there a common thread between when you have your helmet on, when you're the business owner, and when you're being a dad?
"Yes, there is. The same approach that I take with my job, (and) my career, is the same approach I take with our foundation work, our business opportunities off the field, (and) being a dad. I try to be as present as I can in each of those moments. When I'm playing football, my mind shouldn't be elsewhere. When I'm with the family, my mind shouldn't be elsewhere; it should be focused on my wife, (and) my kids, and enjoying every second of that time. It's about being the best you can be at what you're doing at that moment. That allows you, I think, to be able to do a lot of things and do them well. You've got to be able to kind of compartmentalize and say, 'Look, it's time to work. If it's time to lift weights, I'm going to lift weights and think about lifting weights.'"
Do you attribute your good preseason play to the fact that you didn't have any distractions in the offseason?
"I thought it was a very good offseason. It was a very normal offseason. It was a breath of fresh air, honestly. Coming in in April and just feeling like this is the first normal one we've had in about four years. We really had a chance to just really get to work and have it be all about football and nothing else. The work we got done here as a team during April, May, June, and the work that got done in July in preparations for camp, and then obviously training camp, has just been all about football, which is a great thing. It just allows you to focus and really get back to those basics and fundamentals that we talked about. It gets you excited too, because coming off of last season, we've got a lot to prove."
Do you feel like you're sharper now going into this season?
"I definitely feel more comfortable. People don't realize that just because I've played this game for, this will be my thirteenth season, doesn't mean that you just step on the field and it just automatically happens. There's a lot of time and effort that goes into preparing to go out there and play the quarterback position. So much of what you do as a quarterback relies on your trust and confidence in those around you. Even though you might have been together for a long time, you need that work. Missing last offseason certainly, I felt like, put my behind the 8-ball a little bit once I got to camp and then camp seemed to fly by, and then all of the sudden you're in the season. I think if you look at our play as a team last year and myself, it seemed like it took a while to get going. Obviously, we don't want that this year. We want to come out with our best stuff to beat the Falcons. That's the most important thing to us right now. I'm definitely not sitting back comfortably right now because I know I've got a lot of work ahead of me this week, and preparation. I definitely feel like I have a lot invested right now and a lot of great work that is part of the foundation of where we are right now as a team and for me personally going into this week."
As a student of the game and a guy who always tries to get better from past performances, what do you take from your performance against Atlanta the last time you faced them, which was arguably your worst game as a pro?
"Yes, it was crummy. It was funny because I watched the film and it's like, 'Well, I easily could've thrown five touchdowns instead of five picks.' Everybody might laugh, but I would turn that film on and say 'Here, here, here, here, and here. Five touchdowns.' But listen: coulda, shoulda, woulda. You turn on the game film after (the) game and said 'Ah! (I) Missed this one (and) missed that one.' Whatever it might be, a bad throw, a bad decision, or bad luck. Listen, you've got to have thick skin and you've got to be able to go water off the duck's back playing this position. You've got to have short-term memory in a lot of cases. That one stings. That one will always sting. I can think of about four or five games in my career that I look back on and they still sting me. But that's also what gives you an edge, and what keeps you motivated. It's not like you've got to go out and right those wrongs in the next game, but certainly that was not the guy that I know."
Is it hard not to make it personal when you're getting motivated to play and to try to redeem yourself?