Saints vs. Patriots in ... The Respect Bowl?
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NEW ORLEANS -- Bill Belichick and Bill Gates have more in common than their first name, the way Saints coach Sean Payton sees it.
"You have to pay attention to the Microsofts of the world if you're some day wanting to compete in that industry," Payton said this week as New Orleans prepared to host Belichick's New England Patriots.
• Game: New England Patriots (7-3) at New Orleans Saints (10-0).
• When: 8:20 p.m., tomorrow
• TV: ESPN.
"It's fairly common in business to look at groups or businesses that are having success and to pay attention to why teams are successful, and I think that exists in a lot of areas, not just football. New England's been one of those franchises. It's been one of those organizations that have found the right formula."
Payton has been talking about following New England's model ever since he landed his first head coaching job in New Orleans in 2006.
Now the Saints are 10-0 and threatening, along with Indianapolis, to become the only team to go 16-0 in a regular season since the 2007 Patriots. Fittingly, New England stands in New Orleans' way tomorrow night.
"I remember what kind of confidence we had taking the field as an undefeated team and knowing that if we played a good game it was going to be almost impossible for teams to beat us," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "But if you don't play well you do get beat, as evidenced by what happened in the Super Bowl that year."
New England (7-3) arguably needs to win this game more than New Orleans, which has a five-game lead in the NFC South Division with six games left. The only tight race the Saints are in right now is with Minnesota (9-1) for the top overall seed in the NFC.
The psychological dynamic coming into this game seems very much different from what the Patriots dealt with a week earlier against their division rivals, the New York Jets.
Earlier this season, Jets coach Rex Ryan famously said he would not "kiss the rings" of New England and its coach. When Payton and Belichick talk about each other, it's a lovefest.
Payton said Belichick is the best in the business right now, someone who'll certainly end up in the Hall of Fame, someone "you worry about outcoaching you on the coin toss."
Payton and Belichick have never faced each other as head coaches in a game that counted, but they have met.
When Payton's first season as an NFL head coach ended with a loss in the NFC championship, his consolation prize was a trip to Hawaii to coach the NFC in the Pro Bowl, which included a fishing trip with the AFC head coach. That happened to be Belichick, whose Patriots lost to Indianapolis in the AFC title game.
Belichick came away impressed by Payton.
"It was very insightful," Belichick said. "From where that franchise was when he got there and everything they've been through and how much they've had to overcome and rebuild, not just on the team, but in the community and so forth ... what they've been able to accomplish from the top right on down has been spectacular, really. They have a great football team. There's no ifs ands or buts about it."
Although the Patriots have faced the undefeated Colts, and lost, Belichick said he thought the Saints were playing the best football in the NFL this year.
"They really haven't been in a competitive game all year. They're basically running out the clock in the middle of the third quarter most of the time," Belichick said. "There were a couple scores that were really close at the end, but the games really weren't that close. They've just been dominant in all phases of the game: returning kicks, covering kicks, offensively, turning the ball over on defense -- 29 turnovers ... I don't think most teams get 29 turnovers in practice during the year. They're at 29 turnovers halfway through the season."
First Published November 29, 2009 12:00 am