Morning report: Pats, Saints best since '09

METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton insisted this week that his team is still behind the New England Patriots in terms of sheer volume of success.

“We just haven’t had the same amount of years,” said Payton, who took over as Saints coach in 2006, six years after Bill Belichick began his reign in New England. “There are a lot of postseason wins and regular-season wins we are behind.”

Over the past five years, however, the Saints and Patriots have emerged as virtual equals among the NFL’s elite.

The Patriots rank first in the league in regular-season wins in that span with 53, while the Saints are tied for second with 49. And they've had the league’s top two offenses.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Patriots rank first in points per game since 2009 (30.6), with the Saints at No. 2 (29.5). And the Saints rank first in yards per game (413.0) and third-down conversion rate (48.2 percent), with New England No. 2 in both categories (399.8 and 45.8 percent).

Two other edges the Saints have on the Patriots in that span: Super Bowl victories (1-0) and head-to-head wins (1-0). The Patriots actually haven’t beaten the Saints since they last played in Foxborough, Mass., in 2005.

Since they only play once every four years, the Patriots have actually gone longer without beating the Saints than any other team in the NFL.

Leaving early: For the second straight week, the Saints will leave on Friday ahead of a Sunday road game. Last week, the Saints left on Friday for Chicago to escape any possible conflicts with a looming tropical storm that was heading toward New Orleans. Payton said this time they’re leaving early because it’s a longer flight to the Northeast, more so than trying to mimic what worked last week. But certainly the victory over the Bears had to help inspire the altered travel schedule, at least a little bit.

Worth repeating: Saints quarterback Drew Brees was asked this week if he’s paid any attention to the hard times that have hit the rest of the NFC South while New Orleans is soaring overhead at 5-0. (Carolina is 1-3, Atlanta 1-4 and Tampa Bay 0-4.)

“We are very early in the season. There is a lot of football left to be played,” Brees said. “While we are happy to be 5-0, that doesn’t guarantee us anything for this week or the rest of the season. We know that you look around the league and the tide shifts and changes at any moment for teams and divisions and that sort of thing. All I know is that all I am worried about is us, and if we take care of business that whatever everybody else does won’t matter.”

Worth a click:

  • Check out this outstanding breakdown of Sunday’s matchup from ESPN analyst and former Patriots standout Tedy Bruschi with ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss. A lot of in-depth Xs-and-Os insight from Bruschi, especially on how the Patriots might approach covering Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles.

  • Interesting explanation from The Times-Picayune’s Jeff Duncan on the Saints’ rare decision to defer when they won the coin toss at Chicago on top of his weekly first-and-10 column.

  • In an article on the team's official website, John Deshazier dug up an interesting detail while writing about the Saints’ longtime admiration for the Patriots. As he wrote, Payton mentioned the Patriots as a model in his introductory press conference in 2006.