BALTIMORE (AP) — The challenge of facing one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and the league’s highest-scoring offense is precisely why 36-year-old Terrell Suggs still gets a kick out of playing football.
Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens’ top-ranked defense take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in an intriguing matchup of first-place teams.
“They’re the kind of explosive offense that gives you nightmares,” Suggs said. “We get to play football against one of the premier quarterbacks. It’s going to be a good, fun game.”
Suggs had one of Baltimore’s 11 sacks last week in a 21-0 rout of Tennessee. The Ravens (4-2) are allowing an NFL-low 12.8 points and 270.8 yards per game and have given up only 12 second-half points.
“There’s really no weakness,” Brees said. “They do so many things well.”
The Saints (4-1) come off a bye with a four-game winning streak. New Orleans is averaging an NFL-best 36 points per game behind Brees, the league’s career leader in yards passing with 72,103 yards .
“It’s definitely going to be a task there, but we’re up for it,” said Suggs, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker. “We like this game. We get the chance to compete against as good a team as there is.”
The prospect of facing the Saints and the 39-year-old Brees is enough to make Suggs feel young again.
“He’s been here longer than me, so I won’t be the old guy,” Suggs said with a smile. “But definitely, I mean that just goes to his experience. He’s mastered his craft. He’s not showing age; he’s just one of those ferocious, deadly quarterbacks in our league.”
Brees is 0-4 lifetime against the Ravens. When the teams last played, in November 2014, Suggs had six tackles and a sack in Baltimore’s 34-27 victory.
“He’s the ageless wonder,” Brees said of Suggs. “He’s still playing at such a high level deep in his career, and man, he’s been doing it so well for so long. I’m obviously aware of that they are the only team that I haven’t beaten, but they’ve always had a great team.”
Some other things to know about the Saints-Ravens game:
The Saints’ defense stumbled out of the gate, but has looked markedly better in the previous two games. New Orleans yielded averages of 421 yards and 34.3 points through its first three games, but allowed fewer than 300 yards and 20 points in each of the past two.
The improvement could stem from increasing comfort within the scheme of a few new players, including veteran linebacker Demario Davis and rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport.
New Orleans has been — at least statistically — the NFL’s best against the run, allowing just 71.4 yards per game. One reason is that opponents have gone to the air on nearly two-thirds of their offensive plays against the league’s 30th-ranked pass defense.
HELLO, OLD FRIEND
Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead was once one of Brees’ favorite targets. He left for Baltimore as a restricted free agent during the offseason, and now is catching passes from Joe Flacco.
“It’s great to see him doing well and doing the things I’m sure a quarterback like Joe appreciates,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Snead intends to trade jerseys with Brees after the game.
“Absolutely,” Brees said. “He’s a stud, man. I love Willie.”
Brees is trying to become just the third QB in NFL history to defeat every team in the league, joining Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
Now in his 13th season with the Saints after five years with the Chargers, Brees is still searching for a victory against the Ravens.
“I would love to beat these guys,” Brees said. “You always know it is going to be a slugfest.”
Coming off a three-game road trip, the Ravens play four of the next five at home, where they’re 61-21 since coach John Harbaugh arrived in 2008.
“We get to play in front of our home fans, so that’s going to be exciting,” Suggs said. “It feels like it’s been forever since they got the opportunity to see us play.”
It took three games for free-agent acquisition Cameron Meredith to make his first catch with New Orleans and four games for third-round draft choice Tre’Quan Smith to make his initial reception.
Now it appears as if they’ve got the hang of it. Smith had touchdowns of 62 and 35 yards against Washington, and Meredith had five catches for 71 yards, including a 46-yard gain. Their emergence has strengthened a receiving group led by Michael Thomas, who leads the club with 46 catches for 519 yards.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.