Drew Brees lights it up on third downs

You can make a case that New Orleans' Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL. But some people are going to blur that argument by bringing up Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. But there’s one specific -- and very important -- area where Brees unquestionably is the best in the business.

That’s third-down passing. Brees’ stats in that department are far and away the best in the NFL.

According to ESPN Stats & Information. Brees has attempted 54 third-down passes and completed 42 of them. That’s a 77.8 completion percentage, which is the best in the league. On third downs, Brees has thrown for 566 yards, No. 1 in the league. He’s also thrown for a league-high seven touchdowns and has not been intercepted.

Brees’ NFL passer rating on third downs is 149.9 and his Total QBR is 97.8. Both figures are No. 1 in the league.

The rest of the NFC South quarterbacks aren’t faring badly on third downs, but none of them are close to Brees.

Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman has completed 70.6 percent (36 of 51) of his third-down passes. Freeman has thrown for 395 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Carolina rookie Cam Newton has completed 48.9 percent (22 of 45) of his third-down throws. Newton’s thrown for 349 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has completed 58 percent (29 of 50) of his passes on third downs. Ryan’s thrown for 289 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ryan also has been sacked a league-high eight times on third downs.