Drew Brees' sudden departure from Sunday's win over San Francisco now has a clear explanation.
Brees entered Week 10 with at least one cracked rib, and suffered multiple broken ribs and a lung issue as a result of the hits he sustained against the 49ers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Injured reserve is not currently being discussed, Rapoport added.
If Brees did end up on IR, he'd miss a minimum of three weeks. Instead, it appears as if the Saints are hoping the future Hall of Famer will be able to return in a shorter amount of time.
Brees exited Sunday's game at the start of the second half due to the injury, which had initially been diagnosed as a rib contusion prior to an MRI, which revealed the full extent of the damage. Brees has also been battling through an injury to his throwing shoulder, which has limited his practice time in recent weeks.
Jameis Winston replaced Brees in Sunday's win, completing 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards. New Orleans defeated San Francisco despite finishing with less than 250 yards of total offense. The Saints forced four turnovers in the victory, turning two muffed punts into touchdowns.
New Orleans hosts Atlanta in Week 11 before hitting the road for three straight weeks, with contests against Denver, Atlanta and Philadelphia. At 7-2, the Saints sit atop the NFC South with ownership of a tiebreaker over Tampa Bay (7-3) in their back pocket.
It remains to be seen who would get the start if Brees is ruled out as Saints coach Sean Payton would not speculate on a replacement or offer any updates on Brees' status when talking to reporters Monday.
"There's none though," Payton said. "In other words Wednesday is our first day we are required to do that. To be fair to the process lets stick with that. I'll make sure on Wednesday we kinda list [Brees'] practice status and everything else."