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Brees chasing more history as Saints visit Tannehill, Titans

Thu Dec 19 3:20pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper, Michael Thomas, Derrick Henry, Patrick Mahomes, A.J. Brown

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) scores a touchdown on a 1-yard run against the Houston Texans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) celebrates with MyCole Pruitt (85) after Brown scored a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)


New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks on the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. The Saints won 34-7. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) celebrates his touchdown reception in the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Josh Hill, which broke the NFL record for career touchdown passes, surpassing Peyton Manning, in the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Ryan Tannehill has followed Drew Brees since he was still in high school. So Tannehill couldn't miss watching at least a little bit as the Saints quarterback wrote his name into the NFL record book a couple of more times.

“Obviously, he was on fire,” Tannehill said of Brees. “Kind of a cool moment for him, a guy that I've respected for a long time as a person, as a player. … So to be able to see him break that record, he's sustained success for a long period of time, and I was happy for him.”

That was Monday night. On Sunday, Tannehill and the Titans (8-6) get a chance at the Saints (11-3) with Brees having grabbed the NFL's career touchdown pass record at 541. Brees also set the NFL mark for the highest completion rate in a single game, completing 29 of 30 passes for 96.7%.

This could be quite the show. It's the first time since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 that two starting quarterbacks with a passer rating of 114 or better have played this late in the season, though Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers came close last season in Week 15.

Brees is the league leader in both passer rating and completion percentage (115.3 rating and 75.8%) just ahead of Tannehill (114.6 rating and 71.5%). Brees and the Saints are chasing a first-round bye to go with their NFC South title.

Tannehill is 6-2 since taking over as the starter trying to help the Titans earn their second playoff berth in three seasons, which took a hit with a 24-21 loss to Houston last week.

Now with his second NFL team after being traded away by Miami in March, Tannehill is trying to earn a new contract after this season. Brees spent his first five seasons in San Diego before landing in New Orleans. Brees is in his 14th season with the Saints, and he said changing teams offers a fresh start.

“It's kind of like reestablishing the foundation, but you're also drawing on your experiences as a starting quarterback,” Brees said. "I mean, how many games did Ryan Tannehill start prior to arriving in Tennessee, a lot? He’s an experienced veteran quarterback, but yeah, new environment, new system and yet you're bringing some experience and wisdom along with it and that's a big deal.”

Saints coach Sean Payton says he's been impressed with Tannehill's decision-making in Tennessee and how quickly he's getting the ball out, helped by the Titans' run game and Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry.

“You can see the confidence that he’s playing with," Payton said. "I think he’s 6-2 now since he's been their starter, so it’s pretty impressive to watch.”

MORE HISTORY LOOMING

Brees completed his final 22 passes in a 34-7 win over the Colts and he need only complete his first four passes against the Titans to set another NFL record for most consecutive completions. That mark currently is shared by Nick Foles, Philip Rivers and both Tennessee quarterbacks. Marcus Mariota, now on the bench, completed 25 straight over two games last November, while Tannehill had 25 straight completions for Miami over two games in October 2015.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas is closing in on his own NFL history.

He's had eight games this season with at least 10 catches, including the win over the Colts, for the most such games in a single season in NFL history. He leads the NFL with 133 catches and 1,552 yards. He needs only 11 catches to pass Marvin Harrison's league record of 143 catches in 2002 for most in a single season.

NOT REVENGE GAME

The Saints drafted safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th pick overall in the 2013 draft, and he started 67 of 68 games for New Orleans over five seasons. When the Saints let him go as a free agent in 2018, Vaccaro remained unsigned until the Titans lost Johnathan Cyprien early in training camp. He signed a one-year deal, then earned a multi-year deal from Tennessee in March.

“I grew so much as a man the five years I was there, it's exciting,” Vaccaro said. "I'm excited to see all those guys again.”

SECONDARY REINFORCEMENTS

While Saints starting cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple are healthy, that didn’t stop New Orleans from claiming former Giants starting cornerback Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins off waivers this week. Jenkins, who was waived by the Giants after using an offensive word on social media, arrived in time for practice Wednesday. Jenkins has four interceptions, as many as free safety Marcus Williams, who led the Saints in that department before Jenkins’ arrival.

IMPRESSIVE ROOKIE

Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown leads all rookies with 893 yards receiving this season and also has four 100-yard receiving games. With two games left, he could become the first NFL rookie with five 100-yard receiving games since Amari Cooper in 2015 with Oakland.

ALTERED FRONT

The Saints are trying to adapt along the defensive line after two former first-round draft choices - end Marcus Davenport and tackle Sheldon Rankins - had season-ending injuries two games ago. The defense had just one sack last week, a big drop from two weeks earlier when the Saints had nine in Atlanta.

“You talk about what he’s been able to do as far as extending plays but looking downfield, he looks like he’s more poised than he was in Miami,” Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan said of Tannehill.

Player Notes
Justin Jefferson Aug 13 3:10pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is already expected to play a pivotal role in the offense in 2020. The first-round draft pick may not have the blow-away speed of departed receiver Stefon Diggs, but is a versatile route-runner who can play outside or in the slot. The Vikings have been decimated on the defensive side of the football this past offseason, putting more of an onus on the offense to step up. The absence of preseason games creates a challenge for fantasy owners to properly scout rookies before drafts. But Jefferson figures to have a role early on, making him an intriguing late-round fantasy option.

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Anthony Miller Aug 13 3:00pm ET

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Nick Foles Aug 13 2:40pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Kittle is an elite tight end that should be among the top two or three taken universally in fantasy.

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Fantasy Spin: Conner stands to have a good bounce-back season with QB Ben Roethlisberger back under center for the Steelers. He totaled just 464 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 116 carries over 10 games in 2019. This is also a contract season for him, and he should be targeted as a low-tier RB2.

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