NEW ORLEANS – Unfortunately, for the New Orleans Saints, the Drew Brees of the recent past could not suit up and play.
Brees, a sure future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was honored at halftime of the Saints-Buffalo Bills game Thursday night at the Superdome. And he easily drew the loudest ovation from the New Orleans fans as the Saints were shut out in the first half, 10-0, by the Bills with their offense held to 64 yards and four first downs.
Quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has been the starter since Jameis Winston was lost for the season with a knee injury in week seven, completed 7 of 13 passes for 68 yards in the first half.
“Words cannot express what you mean to our team and to our city,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said during a brief ceremony.
Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl XLIV victory over Indianapolis and New Orleans native quarterback Peyton Manning on Feb. 7, 2010, and took the MVP award.
“Thank you to the great city of New Orleans,” Brees said to a roaring crowd at midfield after leaving the NBC booth, where he was serving as an analyst in his new job after retiring following last season.
“Thank you to the Who Dat Nation,” Brees said. “We have experienced so many unbelievable moments here. Thank you for embracing me and my family. We will always love you, and we will always work to make you proud.”
Taped messages from Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady and actors Matthew McConaughey and Wendell Pierce were played on the dome’s video screens. Brady’s words could not be heard because of boos. McDonaughey is a fellow Texan from Uvalde. Brees is from Austin.
“You will forever be the greatest,” said Pierce, a New Orleans native who starred in The Wire and Treme on HBO.
Brees, who came to New Orleans after the 2005 season from the San Diego Chargers, holds NFL records for completions (7,142) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (54). He is second all-time in passing yards with 80,358 behind Brady at 82,381.
The Saints were down 24-0 late in the third quarter.