Drew Brees, Saints have lost killer instinct

DETROIT -- Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have lost their killer instinct. And it's killing their season.

Brees threw his costliest interception to date Sunday while the Saints coughed up a 13-point lead over the final four minutes in a stunning 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.

It was the third time this season New Orleans (2-4) blew a lead in the final minutes.

And though the defense certainly played its part in the meltdown, Brees shouldered the brunt of the blame, being about as hard on himself as he has ever been in his nine years with the Saints.

"The worst feeling in professional sports is when you feel like you let your team down. And that's the way I feel right now with that interception," said Brees, who admitted he keyed in on receiver Marques Colston for a beat too long, allowing Lions safety Glover Quin to step in front of the pass with 3:15 remaining and the Saints leading 23-17.

It was Brees' first interception of the day and his seventh of the season.

"Listen, turnovers are gonna happen at times, especially at the quarterback position," Brees continued. "You've gotta throw with anticipation, you've gotta take chances at times. And I guess on the flip side you've gotta know when to take a chance -- when to try to fit a ball in there, or when to throw it away, take a sack, scramble, whatever it might be, and make sure the ball stays in your hands.

"And unfortunately that's a critical time of the game where a turnover cannot happen, and I'm responsible for that. That one's on me."

Brees and the Saints' offense got a chance to redeem themselves with 1:48 remaining, but they couldn't deliver. Brees completed just two of seven passes, scrambling for New Orleans' only first down on the ill-fated drive.

That failure was almost as disappointing as the interception itself. Brees is the guy the Saints desperately need to lead them out of this year's freefall. They're in big trouble when he's helping to create some of the adversity.

Yes, that's demanding more out of Brees than anyone else on the team -- the offensive line also started to falter down the stretch after a terrific start. But that's the standard Brees has set for himself over nine years. Heck, that's the standard he set in this game until the fourth quarter.

Brees was outstanding through three quarters Sunday, completing 25 of 31 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns, including the long completion -- a 46-yarder to Kenny Stills -- that had been missing all year. It was Brees' best work of the season, coming on a day when tight end Jimmy Graham was a non-factor while being limited by a shoulder injury and the Saints' run game was a non-factor because of Detroit's dominant defensive front.

Then in the fourth, Brees was 3-of-14 for 17 yards and a pick. His passer rating was 131.9 through three quarters and 9.8 in the fourth.

Simply put, Brees isn't allowed to have collapses like that. The Saints can't afford it -- certainly not now, with their season on the brink.

Saints coach Sean Payton wasn't as hard on Brees as Brees was on himself, saying there were "too many elements of the game to look specifically at one individual." But Payton certainly pointed to the overall failure to finish.

"I felt like most of the game we had good control over it. And we let it slip," he said.

The only saving grace for New Orleans is that the entire NFC South has been mediocre this year, with the Carolina Panthers leading the division at 3-3-1.

Check that. The Saints' other saving grace is that they still have Brees, who remains defiantly optimistic and confident -- and still offers their best hope at recovery for this season if he can just find that missing mojo.

"There's no quit in this football team," Brees said. "I mean, 2-4 is not where we want to be. But I told the guys after -- and this is what I believe -- 'No better way to get back on track than to go home on "Sunday Night Football" against the Green Bay Packers, who are rolling right now, and find a way to win.

"That's the only thing we can control at this point, and that's what our focus is gonna be."