If there’s a figure in the National Football League that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has somewhat of a fixation on, it’s his opposite number in New England.
Well, not counting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, of course. Though you can bet Payton would never tease under a windbreaker an aquamarine t-shirt emblazoned with Bill Belichick sporting a clown nose.
In the case of the hoodied Patriots head coach it’s a matter of justifiable esteem and respect for Belichick, whose scowling countenance would be included on any Mount Rushmore of modern era NFL coaches.
In his post-Super Bowl XLIV airport bar story autobiography, Payton revealed that prior to the 2009 game against the Patriots in the Superdome the Saints head coach produced a video impersonating Belichick conducting a breakdown of the Saints.
It wasn’t done as satire but meant to impress upon the players what kind of football mind they’d be up against in that now legendary Monday Night Football match up.
The gimmick worked as the Saints got a statement win that evening, extending their 2009 season undefeated streak to 11.
Going into the Sunday afternoon game in Foxborough that 2009 win marked the only time Payton beat Belichick as the Patriots won the 2013 contest when Tom Brady capped an improbable come back with seconds left on the clock as Saints defensive end Junior Galette appeared to be locked up in a cobra clutch, one of several egregious no-calls and bad calls that came at the Saints’ expense by the officiating crew.
The Pats wouldn’t need the zebras’ assistance in 2017 as New England beat down the black and gold 36-20 to avenge their previous Superdome humiliation.
Though the Patriots no longer have Brady on their roster (though there were plenty of #12 jerseys in the stands, just as there were #9s by visiting Who Dats also pining for their own departed legendary quarterback) and New England is neither a divisional nor conference opponent, Payton had this date circled on his calendar when the schedule was sent over to Airline Drive.
Payton doubtlessly wanted this win to not just even the score literally but to claim a victory in Gillette Stadium, where he was thwarted by the referees eight years ago.
And that win would look very different from the 2009 victory.
That contest was an aerial display by Brees, who threw for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns, earning him a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
In contrast Jameis Winston threw for a more pedestrian 128 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a decidedly unBreesish one to Marquez Callaway in the end zone. Winston’s quarterback rating was 110.8.
It was the Saints’ defense and running back Alvin Kamara who won the day. The Saints defensive backs picked off New England’s 2021 first round draft selection 3 times and sacked Mac Jones twice. The Saints d line contained whatever running attack the Patriots bothered to attempt holding them to 49 yards on the ground.
Kamara had 89 rushing yards on his own. And further denoting the transition away from the Brees era, the Saints attained more rushing yards than passing yards for the second time in three games.
Until the Saints get their receivers off the injured list and Winston becomes more mentally comfortable, this is going to be the new formula for success for the Black and Gold.
While this isn’t the offensive mastermind Sean Payton’s preferred method for winning, at least he’s embraced the new reality in the 2021 season.
Oh one more thing, get well soon, Wil Lutz- after watching two failed field goals, the Who Dat Nation is missing you more than Mardi Gras.