When the Seahawks host the Saints at CenturyLink Field Sunday, someone other than Drew Brees will be at quarterback for New Orleans, which will be an unusual sight, to say the least.
Since becoming the Saints' starting quarterback in 2006, Brees has missed only three starts, and two of those were in Week 17 games after New Orleans had locked up playoff seeding. On Sunday, however, Brees will miss just his second game as the Saints' quarterback due to injury, the result of a thumb injury sustained in last week's game in Los Angeles that led to Brees having surgery on Wednesday.
Former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater took over for Brees last weekend after the injury and figures to be the starter, though for now Saints coach Sean Payton isn't divulging whether Bridgewater or Taysom Hill will start, because, well, there's not much upside to him divulging that information earlier than necessary. But regardless of who starts, it won't be Brees, who has faced the Seahawks six times, playoffs included, since joining the Saints.
"It's unfortunate," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "I was looking forward to playing him. I always find playing against him is like a chess match out there. Him coming up to the line, changing the calls, and trying to see what we're in. It's always fun playing against him. I hope he has a real good recovery and we'll see him soon."
While the loss of Brees will obviously be a blow to the Saints—his numbers and the Saints' success over the last decade-plus make him a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame—the Seahawks know that New Orleans is not a team to be taken lightly.
For starters, Bridgewater is a pretty darn good quarterback in his own right. The former first-round pick was a two-year starter in Minnesota before a serious knee injury in 2016 cost him nearly all of two seasons. In 2015, he helped the Vikings reach the playoffs, where they lost to Seattle in a frigid wild card game, and he earned Pro-Bowl honors that year. The Saints also feature a number of dangerous weapons on offense, led by running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Michael Thomas, who are both two-time Pro-Bowlers.
"They've got one of the most exciting players in the NFL in Alvin Kamara," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's an incredible football player and they use him. Sean (Payton) knows how to do all of the tricks and figure out all the spots to put him in to make him a really dangerous weapon. Michael Thomas caught 125 last year, he's already had 20 catches. They have all kinds of stuff. It's a very difficult challenge for us."
For Seattle's defense, one key will be to maintain the right mentality with Brees sidelined, which for the veteran leaders means making sure there's no letdown. As linebacker K.J. Wright noted, there might have been an element of that in Seattle's play last weekend when Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger left the game with an elbow injury, and backup Mason Rudolph came in and enjoyed more success than Roethlisberger had.
"It's going to be addressed," Wright said. "If we see anything, any moping around, we'll address it, but I don't think that will be the case at all, because we know those guys are still talented. Even if you take out their best player, they still have guys across the board who can get the job done. The thing with Teddy is, Teddy was a first-round pick, he's a quality guy in this league, so there's no sleeping on them. I think we even learned our lesson last week when the backup quarterback came in, we got a little bit lax and he came in and made some noise. In the NFL, everyone's good, so we've got to handle our business."
Said Wagner, "You definitely got to remind the guys not to let their guard down because at the end of the day, this is a professional league and the guys behind those guys are professionals. You can't take anybody light, because they can come out having one of their best games. It's just part of letting the guys know we've got to stay locked in. It doesn't matter who we're playing, we've got to put our best foot forward every chance we get. So myself, K.J., Russ (Wilson), all those guys, we've just got to remind them that no matter who we're playing, we've got to play out there; we can't let the opponent dictate how we play."
And it's not just Kamara, Thomas and the rest of the Saints' offense that the Seahawks have to worry about. While the Saints were a somewhat one-dimensional team earlier this decade, they have improved drastically on defense over the past few years, and now have the weapons on both sides of the ball and on special teams to make things difficult.
"Over the years, they've been winners and all of that and champions and all that," Carroll said. "Sean's got a team that they're good on offense, they're good at defense, they run the football, they protect the quarterback. They attack the heck out of it, they lead the league in sacks. They've got a really good kicking game, probably the best we've seen to date. Speed and toughness and all of that and scheme. It's a game that calls for us to play really solid across the board. Everybody's got to show up. Everybody's got to do well because these guys can get you a lot of ways. We have a lot of respect for this opponent."
Photos from Wednesday's Seahawks practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Sunday's Week 3 game against the New Orleans Saints.