The Bolts played to Drew Brees' strength on Sunday. They came out with a no-huddle offense that kept the Oakland defense on its heels. And Brees looked like he was born to run it.
Completion after completion was tallied and Brees had scored a direct hit with his first eight throws. After his second incompletion, he rattled off another six in a row before his next and final incompletion of the day.
"Drew was on fire," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "He may have had a perfect quarterback rating."
Brees, however, was sacked in the fourth quarter – prompting the team to punt for the first time in the game and his quarterback rating dropped to a pedestrian 153.1. Perfection is 158.3 – and Brees was as close to perfection as one could get.
He took advantage of every matchup he saw. When a safety lined up to cover Tim Dwight, Brees knew where the ball was going. When Gates was in one-on-one coverage, he was the man. And if everyone was covered, Brees turned back to find Eric Parker wide open.
It wasn't just the line protecting him well – it was every decision he made. When he pulled the ball down and ran with it in the third quarter – a 22 yard run through the defense – it showed his comprehension of the game.
But what about his struggles from a year ago which remain vivid in many fans' eyes?
"I look at last year as a fluke," he said. "It was something we had to go through to elevate our game. That was tough. I did things physically and mentally. Things are starting to happen."
"His dedication to be recognized as a winning quarterback put us in a position where we have been able to play effective on offense," Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer confirmed.
Wins are starting to happen with regularity for Brees and the Chargers. They have won four of their last five and Brees had an October worthy of recognition. He has 14 touchdown passes to three interceptions on the year and besides the Pro Bowl, is looking to the playoffs.
Brees said he played one better game – back when he was in college. It was a game he played against Minnesota when he passed for over 500 yards.
And this isn't the team that went 6-1 back in 2002. And Brees is not the same quarterback. He had nine touchdowns and six interceptions during that seven game span. And he only crossed the 200 yard passing plateau twice during that stretch.
He is elevating his game to the next level and the preparation he is doing has paid off. He no longer zones in on one receiver but has become accustomed to looking off his first and second progressions to find his third wide open. A quick flick of the wrist and the ball is being delivered – with no hesitation for a reception.
"I prepare myself during the week so when I step onto the field I can picture things before they happen," the fourth year pro said. "That is the point I want to get to. It is the here and now."
"The thing about Drew, everybody in this family has tremendous confidence in Drew," tight end Antonio Gates said.
And that confidence is growing everyday. What will they do in the offseason has suddenly become a common question. Alas, there is still eight weeks to go in a season of change for the Chargers. Marty Schottenheimer has changed some of his tactics – such as the requirement that says a player must practice on Friday to be eligible to play in Sunday games and Drew Brees has changed and become a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
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