Drew Brees’ 34 Touchdowns in 2014

Drew Brees finished the 2014 season almost breaking the 5,000 yard mark for what would have been his fourth consecutive season. 48 yards shy Drew Brees still threw 33 touchdowns posting his fewest number of thrown touchdowns since 2010 after averaging over 42 touchdowns for the past three years. In this breakdown we will take a look at Brees’ 34 touchdowns and see what he did correctly to score them. In my next article we will take a look at his 17 interceptions as well.

Drew Brees – 456/659 (69.2%), 4,952 yards, 7.5 ypa, 33 TDs, 17 INTs, 27 rushes for 68 yards, 1 rushing TD

First let’s take a look at the recipients of Brees’ 33 thrown touchdowns during the 2014 season:

Receiver Breakdown

Jimmy Graham 10
Josh Hill 5
Marques Colston 5
Brandin Cooks 3
Kenny Stills 3
Ben Watson 2
Nick Toon 1
Austin Johnson 1
Erik Lorig 1
Pierre Thomas 1
Travaris Cadet 1


Here is a quarter and down breakdown of the touchdowns:

Quarter Breakdown

1st Quarter 2
2nd Quarter 11
3rd Quarter 10
4th Quarter 11


Down Breakdown

1st Down 15
2nd Down 8
3rd Down 10
4th Down 1


While here is a breakdown of Brees’ passes by distance and location. Reminder: Distance is broken down by how long the touchdown score actually was, while location is the position on the field where Brees placed the ball.

Distance Breakdown

Fewer than 6 Yards 11
Between 6 and 15 yards 14
More than 15 yards 9


Location Breakdown

Deep Left Deep Middle Deep Right
2 1 4
Intermediate Left Intermediate Middle Intermediate Right
2 3 2
Short Left Short Middle Short Right
8 1 10


Here is the route breakdown of the touchdown passes by Brees:

Route Breakdown

Fade 6
Flat 6
Seam 4
Go/Out-n-Up 3
Out/Quick-Out 3
Hitch/Spot 3
Slant/Drag/Angle 3
Swing 2
Dig 1
Post 1
Screen 1


With that in mind let’s take a look at some of his plays:

Play 1
Situation: 2nd and 1 at 50
Description: Q3 – (5:43) D.Brees pass deep right to B.Cooks for 50 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Pass 47, YAC 3 S.Graham extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Drescher, Holder-L.McCown.
Opponent: 8. GB

Offensive Formation: I-formation GL Right
Offensive Personnel: 22
Defensive Formation: Cover 1 – Bracket coverage on Cook/Watson

The Saints are in 2nd and 1 with 5:43 left on the clock in the 3rd quarter. They bring out their goalline package (22 personnel) in an effort to disguise the deep shot downfield. WR10 Cooks, the rookie 1st round pick from Oregon State, is split wide as the only wide receiver.

Brees takes the snap and runs play-action to his runningback #22 Ingram to draw the linebackers into the line of scrimmage and open up the tight end crossing route by TE82 Ben Watson. The Packers rush five pass rushers and drop three linebackers into coverage. The middle safety is playing deep zone while the outside defensive backs are playing man-to-man against Cooks and Watson.

After the snap, WR10 Cooks explodes off the line of scrimmage pretending to run a go-route which drags the single high safety FS33 Micah Hyde closer to the sideline overpursuing as Cooks cuts back inside on a deep post for a deep touchdown pass.

The ball is actually slightly underthrown forcing Cooks to slow down to it adjusting in the air, but he makes the catch rolling into the endzone. From Brees’ point of view after the play-action, he has a clear lane in the pocket to step up to make the throw as LB52 Matthews rushes in from the right edge of the pocket. Give credit to Cooks for his incredible speed, Brees for the excellent throw albeit slightly underthrown, and blame FS33 Hyde for taking a horrible angle on Cooks by the sideline when he should have played the deep ball more conservatively.

Play 2
Situation: 1st and 10 at GB 22
Description: Q3 – (2:13) D.Brees pass deep left to J.Graham for 22 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Pass 22, YAC 0 S.Graham extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Drescher, Holder-L.McCown.
Opponent: 8. GB

Offensive Formation: I-formation Slot Left
Offensive Personnel: 22
Defensive Formation: Cover 1

Later in the same game, Brees is once again in I-formation goalline personnel and motions TE80 Graham across the formation to the left slot. After the snap, Brees runs play-action again to RB22 Mark Ingram but this time the Packers defensive lineman play more conservatively on 1st and 10. Brees still has an incredible pocket to stand in and lofts a ball to TE80 Graham who runs an out-n-up by the left sideline for a touchdown.

The reason why I wanted to show this pass is to show Brees’ incredible ball placement, but also show how the Saints use Jimmy Graham as a mismatch in the passing game lining up as a wide receiver. If you’re a Seahawks fan watching this, you have to be happy seeing what Graham represents for Russell Wilson’s opportunities next season in Seattle.

This is just an excellent ball placement on the sideline behind CB38 Tramon Williams who gets burned on the out-n-up pass.

Play 3
Situation: 1st and 10 at SF 31
Description: Q2 – (9:19) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass deep right to B.Cooks for 31 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Pass 31, YAC 0 S.Graham extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Drescher, Holder-L.McCown.
Opponent: 10. SF

Offensive Formation: Shotgun Trips Right
Offensive Personnel: 11
Defensive Formation: Cover 3

The Saints are in shotugn slot right far pre-snap and Brees motions WR10 Brandin Cooks to the right side of the formation. CB29 Culliver stays on his side of the field (bottom of your screen) indicating zone coverage after the motion on his side of the field. If I had to guess, the 49ers were in Cover 2 and shifted to Cover 3 post-motion but really only the coaching staff knows this answer.

After Cooks motions to the right side of the field the Saints take advantage of the shifting of the coverage by sending all three routes vertical on the trips right side while releasing TE80 Graham on a seam route up the left sideline to pull CB29 Culliver out of the play completely.

This is an obvious mismatch for Brees: Three vertical routes against two deep safeties. The 49ers attempt to play man-to-man on Cooks, but his speed is just unstoppable. Additionally with the interior WR of the trips running a post route up the middle of the field it pulls the deep right safety completely out of the play for an great touchdown strike to Cooks and another perfect ball placement by Brees.

I want you to go back and watch the endzone camera after the snap. Brees watches the safeties post-snap to see where they are and then he keeps his eyes focused on the post route that I mentioned before. THIS is what moves the deep right safety out of position. IF Brees releases it to this WR it’s almost assuredly an interception and we’d blame Brees for “staring down the receiver”. Instead, we see great eye discipline as Brees draws the safety out of position, and then makes him for it by putting the ball past him deep for his intended target WR12 Cooks on the seam route.

Play 4
Situation: 2nd and 10 at BAL 26
Description: Q2 – (:24) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass deep left to M.Colston for 26 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Pass 26, YAC 0 S.Graham extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Drescher, Holder-L.McCown.
Opponent: 12. BAL

Offensive Formation: Shotgun Twins Left – Slot Right
Offensive Personnel: 11
Defensive Formation: Cover 1

In shotgun again, Brees takes the snap and has four receives split out side. The outside left wide receiver runs an out-n-up while the inside receiver (WR12 Colston) runs a seam route against the deep Cover 1 by the Ravens defense pictured below. The Saints actually mirror this same WR route combination on the opposite side of the field.

FS26 Matt Elam, who is notorious by this point in his career as being awful in pass coverage and only good in run support is playing man-to-man coverage on WR12 Colston. Brees in the pocket has the ball and pump-fakes to the out-n-up route on the left outside not fooling anyone in coverage then releases the ball deep to his wide receiver for the touchdown. The ball sails over the head of FS26 Elam right into the hands of Colston as FS31 Will Hill attempts to intercept it thinking the ball is overthrown. Another perfect ball placement.

Play 5
Situation: 1st and 2 at BAL 2
Description: Q4 – (:44) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass short left to J.Graham for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Pass 2, YAC 0 S.Graham extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Drescher, Holder-L.McCown.
Opponent: 12. BAL

Offensive Formation: Shotgun Trips – Twins Stack Right Far
Offensive Personnel: 11
Defensive Formation: Goalline Cover 1 (LB)

Finally this last play showcases one of the few plays the Saints loved to run on goalline situations – the fade to Graham, where he uses his body positioning and size as a mismatch in man-to-man coverage against defenses to box them out for almost guaranteed touchdowns. The other main play the Saints love to use is the play-action bootleg to a tight end that slips outside on a quick-out release after he pretends to block to sell the run.

Overall, the main takeway I saw while watching Drew Brees’ plays was his ability to perfectly place balls deep and all over the field. Drew Brees is consistently great at this. In these five plays above, the offense had time to develop down the field due to misdirection by play-action and the offensive line doing a great job of blocking, but that wasn’t the case at all last season for the Saints last season. Only right tackle Zach Strief graded signficantly positive in pass protection by ProFootballFocus with a score of +7.9, while the rest were near the bottom of the league. For example, All-pro right guard Jahri Evans who normally is great played horribly this past season allowing 6 sacks and 7 quarterback hits and finished the season with a score of -17.7 in pass protection. Just terrible. Hopefully, he can return to form next season after fully recovering from an injury he was playing through all last season.

Outside of Brees, we need to answer the most obvious question and it relates to Jimmy Graham. Graham scored 10 of Brees’ 33 thrown touchdowns this season and represented such a versatile weapon for this offense that they will sorely miss him. So, where will Drew Brees go since Jimmy Graham is gone? In my opinion, this helps TE82 Ben Watson as he’ll be targeted more frequently, but it will also help WR12 Colston. Against the Pittsburg Steelers and throughout his career, the big 6’4″ wide receiver was also targeted on a goalline fade. The vast majority of them (five of six) when to Graham, but this shows me that Colston can be used as a respectable target. With Graham gone, this will open up opportunities for 2nd year veteran Brandin Cooks who displays the speed and deep threat separation that is extremely valuable when paired with Brees’ downfield accuracy.

Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.

Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.