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At 39, Saints' Drew Brees having a season for the ages

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Where does Brees' 2018 rank among all-time QB seasons? (1:41)

John Fox, Tedy Bruschi and Josina Anderson discuss Drew Brees' impressive 2018 season. (1:41)

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees laughed when he was told that Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he looks like he is 23 years old on the football field.

"I feel 25. I don't feel 23," cracked Brees, who turns 40 in January. "I mean, mind over matter, you know? You can't stop the aging process, but I think you can delay it a little bit."

Brees, whose 10-1 Saints play at Dallas (6-5) on Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network), has credited his performance to a combination of "wisdom, old age and treachery."

"Listen, I'm having fun playing the game, and I've got a definite routine. It takes a lot of time," Brees said. "Not just the time to prepare for the opponent, film work and studying the plan, practice time and all that, but the time it takes to recover and take care of your body and the maintenance and the weight room and all those things. But I've got a good routine.

"I like where I'm at, but I feel like there are still strides to be made."

It seems impossible, but Brees is having the best season of his career -- in his 18th year, at age 39.

He might be having the best season any quarterback has ever had at any age.

Consider:

  • His passer rating of 127.3 is on pace to be the best in NFL history, ahead of Aaron Rodgers' 122.5 from 2011.

  • His Total QBR of 87.3 is on pace to be the highest since ESPN began tracking the statistic in 2006, ahead of Tom Brady's 87.0 from 2007.

  • His completion percentage of 76.4 is on pace to shatter the NFL record of 72.0, which Brees set last season.

  • With 29 touchdown passes and two interceptions, Brees is on pace to have the second-best TD-to-interception ratio in NFL history, behind Rodgers, who is at 20-1 this season. Brady holds the full-season record with 28 TDs and two interceptions in 2016.

  • Brees has thrown TD passes to 13 players this season, tied for the NFL record with Matt Ryan in 2016. Brees became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw TD passes to four undrafted players in a game last Thursday.

  • Brees' fourth-quarter passer rating of 133.9 is on pace to be the second best since at least 1991, behind only Russell Wilson's 134.1 in 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

  • Brees' passer rating of 121.4 on third and fourth downs is the best in the NFL this season.

  • Brees' red zone passer rating of 117.7 is the best in the NFL this season.

  • Last but not least, with Brees at the helm, the 10-1 Saints have scored 37.2 points per game -- the fifth most through a team's first 11 games in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Brees is so locked in that Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi said it was "almost shocking" when he threw his second interception of the season during Thursday night's 31-17 win over the rival Atlanta Falcons.

"I was calling for pass interference," Lombardi said when asked for his reaction. "It can't be his fault."

If he keeps this up, Brees might finally win the first regular-season MVP award of his career after finishing second three times (2006, 2009 and 2011). Brees leads all NFL players in balloting for the Pro Bowl through Wednesday and he was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for November.

But his teammates have been campaigning for an even bigger honor. Several of them have passionately insisted that Brees is the greatest of all time.

"If you take all the GOATs from every arena, the GOATs of music, the GOATs of basketball, the GOATs of baseball, all the GOATs. … He's the GOAT of GOATs," Saints linebacker Demario Davis said. "That's Drew Brees."

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Drew Brees laughs at Garrett's comment

Drew Brees laughed when told that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he looks like he's still 23 years old. "I feel 25. I don't feel 23," Brees replied. Video by Mike Triplett

What's more striking about what Brees' teammates have said about him this season, however, is that so many of them use the exact same phrase: "You don't want to let him down."

First-year tight end Dan Arnold said that after catching his first career touchdown pass last Thursday. Rising star Michael Thomas has said it multiple times. Longtime Brees teammates Mark Ingram and Jermon Bushrod both said it this week.

They talk about Brees' relentless work ethic and the attention to detail he has in his 18th season and how he is there before they arrive at the practice facility in the morning and after they leave at night. They said that workhorse mentality rubs off on everyone in the locker room.

When asked if it surprises him that Brees could be having his best season in Year 18, Ingram said no.

"He's getting better with time," Ingram said. "You get better with experience. And he's had a lot of experience. And he's just thriving. He takes whoever it is around him, and he brings people with him. You don't want to let him down. You want to be where you're supposed to be because you want to make plays for him. You know if you're where you're supposed to be, he's gonna find you, he's gonna make the right plays, he's gonna make the right decision. ...

"He never gets complacent or feels like he's had success last week or last year, so it's gonna transfer over just because it's Drew Brees. Just the work ethic, the attention to detail, knowing the game plan, knowing what to do if it's man, knowing what to do if it's zone, knowing what to do if they're showing pressure, knowing where everyone's supposed to be. It's just an accumulation of things that he does that allows him to have success.

"He's just such a special individual ... All the records, all the success he's had is no coincidence."

Likewise, Saints backup QB Teddy Bridgewater said he has appreciated getting to watch Brees' approach as a young quarterback since he arrived via trade in late August.

"When you post a picture of who you want to be like in the NFL as a quarterback, I think Drew is sitting right there," Bridgewater said, referring to both Brees' daily routine and his command on the field. "For me as a young guy, man, he's setting a prime example of what it takes to be a good quarterback in this league."

Bridgewater also called Brees a "completion junkie -- in a good way."

"It looks like he's playing pitch and catch in the backyard with one of his family members," Bridgewater said. "He's a guy who knows this offense in and out. He knows where his guys are gonna be if he gets into trouble. He knows his outlets. He's not gonna force anything. He's a guy who's patient. ... And he has his offense rolling like a well-oiled machine."

"It's a sight to see."