Brees' focus on Raiders, not play vs. Washington

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Oct 14, 2005
San Diego Union-Tribune

By Jim Trotter

November 29, 2005

SEAN M. HAFFEY / Union-Tribune
Drew Brees threw three picks against the Washington Redskins, a week after one of his best games, against Buffalo.
Drew Brees followed up one of the greatest passing performances of his career with one of the worst. He went from throwing four touchdown passes in the first half against Buffalo to being intercepted a season-high three times with no touchdowns the next Sunday against Washington, which limited him to a career-low 35.7 passer rating.

Asked if Brees' demeanor was different yesterday than it was a week earlier after his 149.1 passer rating against the Bills, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said: "You know how competitive he is. I'm sure he's very disappointed in the fact that he knows he can play better than what happened. He also recognizes there are a number of factors that contribute to that. But I feel quite sure he's going to be zeroed in this week."

Schottenheimer's assessment stems not only from the reality that Brees is his harshest critic, but also from the fact this is Raiders Week. And with the exception of running back LaDainian Tomlinson, no Chargers offensive player relishes seeing the Silver and Black more than Brees, who will get another shot against them Sunday night at Qualcomm Stadium.

In his past four games against Oakland – all of them wins – Brees has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes. In one game, he had a passer rating of 111.3. In another, he had a mark of 153.1.

A perfect rating is 158.3.

At times, Brees seems obsessed with trying to play the perfect game, even while acknowledging there might not be such a thing. If there were, he came tantalizingly close to it last season, completing 22-of-25 passes for 281 yards and five scores with no turnovers against – you got it – the Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium.

He set franchise records for passer rating (153.1) and completion percentage (88) and established a personal high for touchdown passes. He was so good that two of his three incompletions were throwaways.

Brees chuckled yesterday when asked about his success against the Raiders, who have lost three of four to fall to 4-7.

"It's Raiders Week," he said. "It's the attitude around the locker room; I think that goes for everybody. Obviously, Marty takes a lot of pride in beating the Raiders. So it's always a big, big game for everybody. It's a big game for San Diegans. Everybody gets fired up for that, especially when we have it at home.

"But, I don't know. To me it's just another game that I need to go out and play well."

Brees has played so well the past two seasons that he has left no doubt to anyone with 20-20 vision that he deserves to be the team's starting quarterback this year and beyond. In games he has started and finished, he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns just three times, twice against Denver. And he has not been on the negative side in back-to-back games since late in the 2003 season, a span of 33 games.

"The thing that I know about Drew is the way he is able to come back (from adversity)," said Tomlinson. "He's going to learn from what happened (Sunday), and he's going to come back even stronger.

"Just knowing him and seeing him today, with Drew, he gave me that smile. Like, what's up? We talked for a while. But the sense I got was it was behind him already. He's looking forward to this week."

Why wouldn't he? It's Raiders Week.

Nuts 'n' Bolts
Schottenheimer reported no major injuries from Sunday, although he said center Nick Hardwick was undergoing tests on his right (snap) hand after sustaining an undetermined injury. Schottenheimer said it was too early to say whether Hardwick might be sidelined Sunday, adding: "They still haven't completed the evaluation and analysis of it."

Schottenheimer has been successful on five of seven replay challenges, the highest percentage (71.4) of any coach. He credited assistant coach John Pagano, who makes a recommendation to Schottenheimer from the coaches' box after watching television replays. "He does a terrific job," said Schottenheimer, who added that Pagano advised him to challenge an interception by Washington's LaVar Arrington in the third quarter. "He said, 'The ball was moving when he hit the ground. It's not a catch,' " recalled Schottenheimer, who won the challenge.

With five games to play, Tomlinson has 19 touchdowns. If he maintains his average, he would finish with 28 scores, one better than the league record set by Kansas City's Priest Holmes in 2003. Seattle's Shaun Alexander has 20 TDs, which puts him on pace to score 29 times.