Now Drew Brees and the unbeaten Saints canstop talking about emulating Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The way Brees carved up Bill Belichick's defense in the mostlopsided loss New England endured all year, New Orleans can restassured of its elite status in the NFL, while the Patriots mustfigure out what went wrong.
"There's obviously a big gap between us," Brady said. "Itwasn't nearly as competitive as we all were expecting."
Brees threw for a season-high 371 yards and five touchdowns, andthe Saints improved to 11-0 for the first time in franchise historywith their 38-17 win over New England on Monday night.
Indianapolis is unbeaten, too, making it the first time in NFLhistory that two teams won their first 11 games in the same season.
Brees stressed that one regular-season win guarantees nothingfor a Saints franchise still trying to make its first Super Bowl.
Yet Brees and head coach Sean Payton have talked about followingthe Patriots' model for success ever since joining the Saintstogether in 2006, and the quarterback could not deny that routingthem power could give New Orleans a psychological edge it did nothave before.
"It only counts for one win on the stat sheet, but emotionally,those types of wins can mean a little more," Brees said. "Anytimeyou can win, and win that way, it builds confidence for you."
While New England's 2007 team is the only one to run the tablein a 16-game regular season, the 2009 Patriots (7-4) have had theirchances to stop the Colts and Saints from trying to do the same.
Only three weeks earlier, New England had the Colts on theropes, only to lose by a point in the final seconds. That loss willbe remembered for Belichick's attempt to keep Peyton Manning offthe field by going for a first down, rather than punt, on fourthdown deep in Patriots territory late in the fourth quarter.
Against the Saints, the Patriots were so worried about theirinability to keep pace with Brees they went for it on fourth andfour from the New Orleans 10 in the third quarter. Brady's pass for
Randy Moss along the sideline was broken up by Mike McKenzie.
"We needed more than a field goal the way that game wasgoing," Belichick said.
McKenzie's performance was an example of how things are goingright this season for a franchise long beset by bad luck or plainbad play. The 12th-year cornerback broke his right kneecap a yearago, finished the season on injured reserve and then was cut.Because of recent injuries in their new defensive backfield, theSaints brought McKenzie back last week. In the first half, heintercepted Brady when the Patriots had a 7-3 lead and in Saintsterritory, threatening to tack on more.
"This group is very special," McKenzie said. "I feel honoredjust to have the opportunity to go out there and play with theseguys."
Brees was not intercepted and his TD passes went to fivedifferent players - 18 yards to Pierre Thomas, 75 yards to DeveryHenderson, 38 yards to Robert Meachem, 2 yards Darnell Dinkins and20 yards to Marques Colston. In doing so, the Pro Bowl quarterbackkept New Orleans on pace to narrowly eclipse the single-seasonscoring record of 589 points New England set in 2007.
He also became the first quarterback to throw for five TDs in agame against the Patriots since Belichick, a defensive guru fordecades in the NFL, took over as head coach in 2000.
Brady was making his first appearance in the Louisiana Superdomesince leading the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title inFebruary 2002. This time he became the Patriots' career passingleader, eclipsing Drew Bledsoe's mark of 29,657 yards in the thirdquarter, but will have few other fond memories of his latest visit.He was intercepted twice, sacked once, hit as he threw severaltimes and pulled from the game in the fourth quarter after DarrenSharper's interception.
The Saints were leading by three TDs by then, en route to theirninth double-digit win of the season.
"They were better than we were in every phase," Belichicksaid. "I don't know how to put it any other way. ... They wereobviously the better team."
NOTES: The Saints have 22 interceptions this season, which leadsthe NFL. Sharper has eight. ... New England lost a regular-seasongame in New Orleans for the first time after winning its previousfour. ... Saints CB Chris McAlister, signed two weeks ago, playedfor the first time since having surgery on his right knee a yearago. ... The Saints said cornerback Randall Gay had a leg injurybut were not more specific.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times