Payton gets first Saints victory sans Brees as QB

SEATTLE -- Sean Payton got his first New Orleans Saints win without Drew Brees on Sunday. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got his first win since the 2015 season. And the Saints proved their playoff hopes aren't sunk while their star quarterback recovers from thumb surgery.

The Saints (2-1) showed impressive resilience with a 33-27 victory at Seattle -- their first since Brees was sidelined during last week's loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Making the win all the more impressive, it was the Seahawks' first home loss in September during the Pete Carroll era. They were previously 15-0.

"It was definitely different not having Drew there," said Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who came up as big as anybody on Sunday with 161 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. "We know Drew's a hell of a leader, his presence is missed for sure. But not having him there, I think guys, it's like guys trying to kind of find a leadership role.

"I'm thinking I've got to talk a little bit more. Somebody like Mike [Thomas], somebody like Ted [Ginn Jr.] has to step up and lead a little bit more, and to let Teddy find his voice in this offense without Drew. So it's just everybody trying to balance and find that little spark, like everybody combining to be Drew."

Indeed, the Saints won with a total team effort. Their first touchdown was a 53-yard punt return by undrafted rookie Deonte Harris just three minutes into the game. And their second touchdown was a 33-yard fumble return by safety Vonn Bell after cornerback Eli Apple forced a fumble in the second quarter.

Bridgewater was solid in the victory, especially during the third quarter, while playing almost every snap at quarterback. Bridgewater finished 19-of-27 passing for 177 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions -- including one 5-yard completion to fellow QB Taysom Hill on a third-down conversion in the fourth quarter.

Veteran linebacker and team captain Demario Davis texted Brees to ask if he could replace him by breaking down the team with a fiery speech in the pregame huddle. And several players said they texted with Brees after the game. He wasn't able to travel because doctors said it wouldn't be good for his thumb so soon after surgery.

"That's why it's a team game," Payton said. "I thought we had a good week of practice. There was something about the week in the locker room -- even going through pregame."

Payton, however, rejected the fact that New Orleans was previously 0-3 without Brees as a "silly stat," since two of those games came when starters were rested in Week 17.

"Look, this happens at other positions. And it's unique when it's the quarterback, I understand that. And we approached things a little differently," Payton said. "Shoot, at our quarterback meeting last night, Teddy changed it up [moving up one planned meeting by 90 minutes]; I texted Drew, I said, 'We're changing everything up now.' And he called right away.

"And I was proud of the way [Bridgewater] played. He's someone, if you follow his career, he's kind of won wherever he's been."

Bridgewater's last victory came during his second NFL season, when he led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs in 2015. He then suffered a devastating knee injury the following summer and missed nearly two full seasons.

He was admittedly emotional before the game -- and appeared to get a little choked up again after the game while discussing his emotions.

"This morning when I woke up, I told myself, 'Man, no matter what happens, I'm a winner,'" Bridgewater said. "And we all talk about winning on the football field, but I feel like I'm a winner in life. Because I always try not to make it about me, but I just think about the process that I had to go through to get here and all the ones who believed in me. So those are the winners with me. And then when I'm out there on the football field and we're able to win a football game like that, my emotions were at an all-time high."

Bridgewater said he didn't have any doubts about his ability to lead the Saints to a win. But he said a victory in a setting like this will definitely do a lot to boost the team's confidence.

"We know that we have a good football team. But I think coming into this game, we were a desperate team. We knew that we needed to win. And we played with that mindset," Bridgewater said. "It gave us that chip on our shoulders. 'Man, we're not leaving here without a win.'"

Brees is expected to miss about six games, although no specific timetable has been determined. The Saints' next game is another showdown of top NFC contenders, with the 3-0 Dallas Cowboys coming into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday Night Football.