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Drew Brees’ history vs. Patriots dates back to 2002

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Sunday will mark Drew Brees’ fifth regular-season encounter with New England.

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots

On Sept. 29, 2002 at Qualcomm Stadium, Drew Brees crossed paths with the New England Patriots for the first time.

Brees, a second-round pick the year prior out of Purdue, handed the ball off to eventual Hall of Fame inductee LaDainian Tomlinson 27 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns that afternoon. And he needed to deliver passes to only four targets – Tomlinson, Curtis Conway, Tim Dwight and Fred McCrary – to log a 21-14 victory in just his fourth start.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, hucked the ball 53 times in defeat.

Much has changed since then. But like the latter quarterback, Brees is still around. He’s turning to the air a little more frequently at age 38 with the New Orleans Saints than at age 23 with the San Diego Chargers.

And at 1 p.m. ET this Sunday, he’ll be doing so against the Patriots again. It’ll mark regular-season game No. 235 for Brees, a 10-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, two-time NFL offensive player the year and onetime Super Bowl MVP.

“Tremendous production, five 5,000-yard seasons,” New England head coach Bill Belichick told reporters on his conference call Tuesday, via Patriots.com. “They lead the league in offense in almost every year. He's a very good situational player, does a great job of doing the right thing that the situation calls for. He's a very instinctive player. He’s got good mobility, good accuracy. Good on the deep ball, good on short and intermediate balls. Throws well on the run, good on deceptive plays like bootlegs and screens, goal-line passes, short-yardage passes.

“Things like that, that don’t come up of that often, but when they do, they are critical plays.”

Brees has made the critical plays against New England through four regular-season encounters. His side has posted a 3-1 record, with the lone loss arriving in 2013 courtesy of a “unicorns, show ponies, where’s the beef?” Kenbrell Thompkins TD with five seconds to go.

BREES’ GAME LOG VS. PATRIOTS

  • Sept. 29, 2002 – 24-14 win: 10-of-18, 104 yards, one touchdown
  • Oct. 2, 2005 – 41-17 win: 19-of-24, 248 yards, two touchdowns
  • Nov. 30, 2009 – 38-17 win: 18-of-23, 371 yards, five touchdowns
  • Oct. 13, 2013 – 30-27 loss: 17-of-36, 236 yards, two touchdowns, one interception

Brees has gone 64-of-101 passing versus New England for 959 yards, 10 touchdowns and one Kyle Arrington pick thus far. If that line doesn’t hit home, the wide-ranging list of names he completed passes to in those games should.

There’s 23 of them at this stage, including six former Patriots and one target Belichick coached during his time with the Cleveland Browns.

BREES’ PASS-CATCHERS VS. PATRIOTS

  • Darren Sproles: seven for 57 yards
  • LaDainian Tomlinson: seven for 54 yards
  • Antonio Gates: six for 108 yards
  • Marques Colston: five for 132 yards, one touchdown
  • Robert Meachem: five for 69 yards, one touchdown
  • Pierre Thomas: four for 52 yards, one touchdown
  • Eric Parker: four for 51 yards
  • Devery Henderson: three for 116 yards, one touchdown
  • Curtis Conway: three for 69 yards, one touchdown
  • Kenny Stills: three for 64 yards, one touchdown
  • Benjamin Watson: three for 61 yards
  • Reche Caldwell: two for 36 yards, one touchdown
  • Fred McCrary: two for four yards
  • David Thomas: one for 25 yards
  • Jeremy Shockey: one for 15 yards
  • Keenan McCardell: one for 11 yards, one touchdown
  • Tim Dwight: one for 11 yards
  • Nick Toon: one for seven yards
  • Justin Peelle: one for five yards
  • Lorenzo Neal: one for four yards
  • Travaris Cadet: one for three yards, one touchdown
  • Jed Collins: one for three yards
  • Darnell Dinkins: one for two yards, one touchdown

That speaks to longevity, distribution.

None of whom will be on the field at Mercedes-Benz Superdome this weekend. Instead there’ll be Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tommylee Lewis and Brandon Coleman out wide; Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and Adrian Peterson in the backfield; and Coby Fleener at tight end. Those eight combined for 27 receptions, 291 yards and one score on Monday night.

Though even in what was a 29-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Brees converted on 73 percent of his throws while reaching the end zone for the 70th time in his last 32 contests, and 466th time in all.

He stands a long way from 2002.

“One of the top players in the league,” Belichick said of Brees. “He's had a great career.”