Sunday could be Drew Brees' last chance to beat the Ravens, who are 4-0 against the New Orleans Saints quarterback during his brilliant 18-year career. The Ravens are the only NFL team Brees has never defeated.
Brees knows he has an 0-4 record against Baltimore. If he wins Sunday, Brees will join Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history with at least one victory against every franchise.
"I'm obviously aware of that, that they're the only team that I haven't beaten. They've always been a great team," Brees said on a conference call with Baltimore media.
"Going back to 2003, when I first played in 2003 with the San Diego Chargers, it was Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and then I think they drafted (Terrell) Suggs that year. Obviously, he's the ageless wonder. He's still playing at such a high level deep into his career.
Brees has watched film of the Ravens' 11-sack performance against Tennessee, and came away even more impressed with this year's defense.
"I really have a ton of respect for these guys," Brees said. "Look at every facet of the game, whether it's the defending the run, the pass, getting pressure on the quarterback. They're just good in every facet of the game."
Joe Flacco and Eric Weddle Focus on Brees' Talent Than Height
Listed at six feet tall, Brees is one of the NFL's shortest starting quarterbacks, but that has not stopped him from being the league's all-time passing leader. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who stands 6-foot-6, said Brees erased doubt about overcoming his size a long time ago.
"I think so much is made about guys that are undersized playing in this league," Flacco said. "It really just comes down to guys that can play, having the talent, having the drive to work as hard as he does. He's just a good quarterback. Talking about the height that he has and everything, it's one of the things he had to overcome, I guess, in terms of how you guys can put it. But the bottom line is he's a really good football player. The other part of that is he works really, really hard at what he does. He deserves everything he's gotten."
Speaking from a safety's perspective, Eric Weddle said Brees being a shorter quarterback actually can make it harder to get a quick read on his passes.
"It's hard to get jumps on balls if I can't see the quarterback," Weddle said. "It happened a couple of times against the Browns, where I had no idea where (Baker) Mayfield was, and then the ball comes out and you're late. He (Brees) is an amazing quarterback. I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage. The guy's the all-time leader in passing yards. Maybe it is an advantage."
WR Willie Snead IV Excels in 'Blood Area'
Tied with Michael Crabtree for the team lead in receptions (30) and tops in first-down catches (20), Willie Snead IV has solidified his reputation as a receiver who will make tough catches in the middle of the field.
Snead has made a number of grabs in heavy traffic this season and has taken some big hits in the process. Yet, Snead has held onto the football and has come back for more.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh loves Snead's tenacity. After making a third-down catch against the Titans on Sunday, Snead rose from his feet and defiantly made a first-down signal after absorbing a hard tackle.
"He can go inside or outside, but man, he makes some – scouts call them 'blood-area' catches," Harbaugh said. "That blood area, in that area right there in the middle, is a pretty cool term. And that's where he thrives."
Snead said his diligence with film study helps him anticipate where the hits will come from and how to find open areas in the middle of the field.
"I think the key is just knowing what's going on in there, knowing that there are going to be people in there," Snead said. "The timing that I wanted to get with (Joe) Flacco comes down to third-and-18 like that, him trusting me to be able to throw it across the middle, off the linebacker's ear. That's all timing. And to be able to catch the ball and roll up the field, that's just film and studying and knowing what they like to do in that situation. If you go in there blind, you're going to get knocked out, or it's not going to be pretty."
Signing Snead during the offseason has been one of the Ravens' most important additions. Now he's preparing to go against his former team this Sunday.
"To bring him here was something we were just thrilled [about], because he fit us so well," Harbaugh said.
Terrell Suggs Praises Young Players for Adding Defensive Depth
In his 16th season with the Ravens, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been part of many top defenses. Asked what has made this year's unit special so far, Suggs gave props to the team's younger players.
"I would definitely say the maturity of our young guys," Suggs said. "We have a tremendous amount of depth. Our young guys are coming into their own, so that's definitely an exciting piece."
Suggs could have been referring to several players, like third-year linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, rookie linebacker Kenny Young, second-year linebacker Tim Williams, second-year cornerback Marlon Humphrey, third-year cornerback Tavon Young or fourth-year linebacker Za'Darius Smith. All are playing key roles on defense, complimenting the experience and leadership of Suggs, Weddle, and linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Weddle said the Ravens have confidence in whoever takes the field this season, and that their defensive depth is an advantage.
"This defense is based on 11 guys playing their hearts out, doing your job," Weddle said.