NEW ORLEANS — Sunday’s showdown in the Superdome got more intriguing Friday morning following news from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Saints star quarterback Drew Brees will return to start against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brees suffered fractured ribs and a punctured lung against the San Francisco 49ers on November 15, leaving him sidelined up until this week when New Orleans designated him for return from injured reserve. Taysom Hill had been running the Saints offense in his place, but now Sunday afternoon’s matchup will feature two record-setting quarterbacks when Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs in search of a 13th win.
Mahomes leads Chiefs vs. Saints coach who nearly drafted him
Saints coach Sean Payton seriously considered drafting Mahomes in 2017.
But the Saints were slated to pick 11th overall and Kansas City traded up to snag Mahomes at pick No. 10.
Brees was 38 years old then, but had no intention of retiring. And as it turned out, the Saints wound up with one of the greatest drafts in franchise history that year anyway.
It began with the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who’ll get his first chance to see how he fares against Mahomes and Co. in a potential Super Bowl preview.
“Everything worked out for the best,” Lattimore said. “He’s over there doing his thing. I’m over here doing my thing. So, everybody won.
“And yeah, I’m excited to play him because he’s one of the great up-and-coming quarterbacks,” Lattimore continued. “So you know our game is going to be way up, and you know we’re going to be ready for him.”
With help from playmakers such as receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, Mahomes leads the NFL in yards passing with 4,208 and has his team in pole position to defend its Super Bowl title.
“To be that young and to be as talented as he is is rare,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes. “For him to have excelled the way he has is a real tribute to the kid and the genes that his parents gave him, too, is part of it — and how hard he works.”
The Chiefs have the best record in the AFC. But ensuring that it stays that way another week requires a victory against a contending Saints squad looking to bounce back from a stunning loss in Philadelphia. The Saints can win the NFC South for a fourth straight season with a victory (or a Tampa Bay loss).
“It’s going to be a great battle,” Lattimore said. “I feel like we’re stacked, just like they’re stacked. So, we’re going to go out there and play and the best man wins.”
PAT IN BLACK
Payton has said Mahomes and Lattimore were the two prospects left under consideration for New Orleans at No. 11 in the 2017 draft when the Chiefs traded up and made the decision easy.
Mahomes recalled having a good workout for the Saints, “but I didn’t sense they were going to pick me with Drew still there. … They got a great player with Marshon, so I’m sure they’re still happy with that.”
Not to mention the rest of that draft class.
The Saints picked current starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk later in the first round and current starting safety Marcus Williams in the second. They traded up to take 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara in the third round — the same round they also drafted defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who this season has blossomed into one of the NFL’s sack leaders.
Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a Louisiana native who’s preparing to play in the Superdome for the second time in less than a year. Last January, he helped LSU beat Clemson for the national title — and the Saints’ brass was watching.
“He was someone that we really liked,” Payton said. “I love how he’s built. You feel a sturdiness.”
Edwards-Helaire leads the Chiefs with 724 yards and four TDs rushing to go with 293 yards and a score receiving.
“He just does so many things well,” Payton said. “That was a great pick.”