Superhero Brees looks to save Saints season


Superhero Brees looks to save Saints season

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Drew Brees dressed as Iron Man for Halloween.

He may have to play like a superhero to save the season for New Orleans.

With the Saints (2-5) hindered by a historically poor defense and nonexistent running game, all eyes are on Brees to find some way to turn things around, beginning with Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

``I have high standards and expectations for myself,'' Brees said. ``To me, it's about what can I do to make the plays to win the game, lead my guys, (and) instill confidence in them. That's my job.''

A year ago, Brees set an NFL record for yards passing (5,476) and guided the Saints to a 13-3 mark, tying the franchise record for wins. After some contentious negotiations, he agreed to a five-year, $100-million contract that provided the largest amount of guaranteed money ($60 million) in NFL history.

Brees is certainly earning his money, ranking second in yards passing (2,310) with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he's essentially been a one-man show, carrying a franchise rocked by a bounty scandal that led to a one-year suspension for coach Sean Payton and the banishment of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Without Williams making the calls, the New Orleans defense has become the first since at least 1950 to give up more than 400 yards in seven straight games and is on pace to surrender an NFL-record total. Without Payton guiding the offense, the running game ranks last in the league.

Last week, the Saints got a striking reminder of just how much they've come to rely on Brees.

Having bounded back from an 0-4 start with two straight wins, New Orleans traveled to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a prime-time showdown. Brees completed just 22 of 42 for 213 yards - his lowest total since the final game of the 2010 season - and the Saints were blown out, 34-14.

Naturally, Brees must resist the urge to do more than he can.

``I'm sure that along the way we've all done a little bit of that,'' he said. ``It's human nature. It's natural to feel like there is a piece missing or certain pieces missing that you would need to do more or extra. That might add pressure.''

But Brees' teammates insist they've noticed no change in his routine, which has provided a level of comfort during the tough times.

``His consistency is his most impressive attribute,'' offensive tackle Zach Strief said. ``The consistency in his preparation and the way he prepares, in his schedule every week, is identical. That is the same in good times and bad times. That is very comforting to an offensive player to know a guy that is leading the group doesn't have hills and valleys. That's very important.''

In fact, Strief said it's hard to tell much difference in Brees from one season to the next.

``It would been very easy for him last year,'' the lineman said, ``to say, `Ah, I know it now. I'm good.' He's not that guy in those times. He's not that guy in these times. He's got a schedule he believes in and a consistency about him. A lot of guys feed off that, because you know what you're going to get out of him.''

Brees is a near-mythical figure in the Big Easy, where he will always be revered for signing with the Saints just a few months after Hurricane Katrina, for putting down roots in the battered city, for guiding New Orleans to its first Super Bowl championship during the 2009 season.

He's been accepted by the locals as one of their own, and Brees reciprocates through his extensive charitable work and willingness to open up about his personal life. On Halloween, he tweeted a picture wearing his Iron Man costume before he went out trick-or-treating with his young son Baylen and wife Brittany (who was dressed as a princess).

``First of all, I do not pick my Halloween costumes,'' Brees said with a smile. ``Baylen is old enough now that he can tell me what I'm going to wear for Halloween, so he was going as little Iron Man and I was going to be daddy Iron Man.''

So, why was Baylen wearing pajamas in the picture?

``Unfortunately, at the last second, he did not want to put on his Iron Man costume,'' Brees said. ``He decided to go with pajamas instead, so he rolled in pajamas and bare feet with his Koala bear stuffed animal, trick-or-treating until he ate the first or second piece of candy, got on a quick sugar high, and then we couldn't keep up with him.''

Now, Brees must pull off a pretty slick trick of his own: Save the Saints.

``It's really one of those weeks that says, `How are you going to respond?''' he said. ``Last week was extremely disappointing, the result of the game and our overall performance as a team. We just did not play up to our standard, certainly with the hype going into that game. We were all hurt by it.

``But,'' he added, ``it also lights a fire within all of us that we don't want that to be the lasting memory that people have of our team. We're better than that and we need to show them on Monday night.''


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Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.


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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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