Saints hold ex­pe­ri­ence edge un­der cen­ter

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports -

Drew Brees will lead the New Orleans of­fense onto the field at Min­nesota and commence the 13th post­sea­son game of his stel­lar ca­reer, al­ready armed with seven such vic­to­ries and one Su­per Bowl ring for the Saints.

“I pre­pare for ev­ery game as if it’s that mag­ni­tude,” Brees said.

“When you’re in games of that mag­ni­tude, it’s as if you’ve been there and done it many times be­fore, even if it was just in your mind.”

For Case Keenum, it’s truly all in his mind.

His first start in the NFL play­offs will come when the Vik­ings kick off their di­vi­sional round game on Sun­day.

“I’m go­ing to play like I know how to play. I don’t have to be any­body but my­self. Not more con­ser­va­tive or less con­ser­va­tive. Ei­ther way, I’m go­ing to be me,” said Keenum, whose suc­cess­ful takeover for the in­jured Sam Brad­ford helped lead the Vik­ings (13-3) to their best record in 19 years.

“That’s all I have to be. I’ve got a great squad in this room.”

Solely mea­sur­ing quar­ter­back ex­pe­ri­ence and ac­com­plish­ment, the Saints have a clear ad­van­tage over the Vik­ings in this di­vi­sional round game to help de­ter­mine the matchup in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game. Keenum, though, has been over­com­ing the odds all sea­son, let alone his ca­reer.

“I al­ways root for guys like that. Kind of the un­der­sized guy that is com­ing out and no­body wants to give him any credit and al­ways plays with a chip on his shoul­der,” Brees said.

Though he was drafted by the San Diego Charg­ers in the sec­ond round in 2001 out of Pur­due, with Keenum go­ing un­drafted out of Hous­ton and need­ing the Tex­ans prac­tice squad to get his ca­reer go­ing in 2012, Brees can re­late. He’s shorter than the NFL stan­dard for their po­si­tion, too. Oh, and they’re both from Texas.

Brad­ford ready to go: The Min­nesota Vik­ings have ac­ti­vated quar­ter­back Sam Brad­ford from in­jured re­serve, putting their orig­i­nal starter this sea­son on the ros­ter be­fore their first play­off game.

Starter Case Keenum, Teddy Bridge­wa­ter and Kyle Sloter give the Vik­ings four quar­ter­backs on the ac­tive ros­ter.

Not look­ing back: At the time the score looked like a mis­print. Jacksonville 30. Pitts­burgh 9. On the road.

A re­sult so stun­ningly one-sided Steel­ers quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger stood in the locker room on that gray Oc­to­ber af­ter­noon only half-jok­ingly won­dered if he still had “it.”

Throw­ing five in­ter­cep­tions, two of which the Jaguars re­turned for mo­men­tum-swing­ing, con­fi­dence­sap­ping touch­downs, will do that.

Yet, Roeth­lis­berger in­sists he’s not out for re­venge in the re­match on Sun­day when the Jaguars visit Heinz Field in the di­vi­sional round with a trip to the AFC ti­tle game on the line.

There’s too much at stake for him to set­tle some sort of per­sonal vendetta.

Or so he says.

“I’ll play any­one in the post­sea­son,” Roeth­lis­berger said.

Only Jacksonville isn’t “any­one.” Not any­more. Not af­ter the NFL’s top-ranked de­fense proved that break­out per­for­mance three months ago was a sign of things to come.

The Jaguars don’t play a par­tic­u­larly pretty brand of foot­ball. They also don’t par­tic­u­larly care.

Doubt them all you want. Mock their of­fense at your leisure.

Last they checked, there will be 24 teams watch­ing the play­offs this week­end and Jacksonville isn’t one of them.

“We’ve just got to score one more point than they do,” Jaguars quar­ter­back Blake Bor­tles said.

“It doesn’t mat­ter who scores it, where it comes from, how we do it, what it looks like, we score one more than them and I’m happy with how we did it.”

One more sea­son: Carolina Pan­thers line­backer Thomas Davis says the 2018 sea­son will be his last.

Davis con­firmed his de­ci­sion dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on NFL Net­work on Fri­day. While the Pan­thers didn’t make an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment, the team posted a pic­ture of Davis on its Twit­ter page with the word “Re­spect.”

Davis, 34, was Carolina’s firstround draft pick in 2005 and has spent his en­tire ca­reer with the Pan­thers. He’s sev­enth in team his­tory with 13 ca­reer in­ter­cep­tions and eighth with 28 sacks.

Davis was sus­pended for one game late in the sea­son for a hel­met-to-hel­met hit on Green Bay Pack­ers re­ceiver Da­vante Adams.

New GM in Hous­ton: The Hous­ton Tex­ans have hired Brian Gaine as gen­eral man­ager and ex­tended the con­tract of coach Bill O’Brien through 2022.

The team an­nounced the deals Satur­day. Gaine signed a five-year con­tract and O’Brien was ex­tended for four years.

Gaine brings 19 years of NFL per­son­nel ex­pe­ri­ence to Hous­ton. He spent the 2017 sea­son as the Buf­falo Bills’ vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel. He also served as the Tex­ans’ direc­tor of player per­son­nel from 2015-’16 and direc­tor of pro per­son­nel in 2014.

Trou­ble finds Fos­ter: San Fran­cisco 49ers line­backer Reuben Fos­ter is free on bond af­ter his ar­rest in Alabama on a charge of sec­ond-de­gree pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana.

The Tuscaloosa News re­ports the 23-year-old, who just fin­ished his rookie sea­son, was ar­rested about 9 p.m. Fri­day.

Tuscaloosa Po­lice, in a news re­lease Satur­day, ac­knowl­edged of­fi­cers en­coun­tered Fos­ter and “found prob­a­ble cause to ar­rest him.” The re­lease did not ad­dress whether he was pulled over, why po­lice sus­pected he had mar­i­juana or how much they say he had.

A state­ment from the 49ers Fri­day night said: “The San Fran­cisco 49ers or­ga­ni­za­tion is aware of the mat­ter in­volv­ing Reuben Fos­ter and we are cur­rently gath­er­ing all rel­e­vant facts.”

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