It’s not like he’ll have time to reminisce this week, but New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will take a step back in time Saturday night when his team meets the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC wild card game.
Payton grew up in the Philadelphia area before his family moved to the Chicago suburbs when he entered high school, and he later spent his first two seasons as an NFL assistant on the Eagles’ staff in 1997 and ’98.
It’ll be just the fifth time Payton has gone against the Eagles since taking the Saints job in 2006, but it happened twice a year when he was with the New York Giants (1999-2002) and Dallas Cowboys (2003-05) after leaving Philadelphia.
“I have family, friends, a lot of different people back there that I am familiar with,” Payton said Monday. “To have a chance to begin an NFL career there was exciting. It seems like so long ago.
“We had a ton of very good football coaches during the two years I was there,” he added. “A lot of those coaches have gone on to have great careers.”
To realize just what the Saints defense has meant to the team’s success in an 11-5 season, all you have to do is look at the number of points allowed in the second half of their 16 games.
The Saints yielded 105 points after halftime — 46 in the third period and 59 in the fourth — after the Tampa Bay Bucs managed just one field goal against them in Sunday’s regular-season finale.
The 105 points ranked second in the league to the 101 second-half points surrendered by the Seattle Seahawks, who led the NFL in scoring defense and fewest yards allowed.
The 46 points the Saints gave up in the third quarter was fourth in the league (San Francisco led with 36) and the 59 in the fourth period ranked third (Kansas City led with 54).
When the Saints won 11 games this season, it marked the fourth consecutive year under Payton that they had double-digit wins.
The Saints finished 13-3 in 2009 and 2011 and were 11-5 in both 2010 and 2013.
Add in a 4-2 playoff record in that four-year span and Payton, who was suspended for the entire 2012 season, has a 52-18 record for a winning percentage of .743 going into Saturday night’s game.
By comparison, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a winning percentage of .736 with a 64-23 record since the start of the 2009 season.
Beating the odds?
According to Bovada Las Vegas, the Saints are the ninth choice to win Super Bowl XLVIII. They’re 22 to 1 to win it all — ahead of Kansas City (25-1), Indianapolis (28-1) and San Diego (40-1).
Denver and Seattle are the co-favorites (11-4), followed by San Francisco (7-1), New England (9-1), Carolina (10-1), Green Bay (14-1), and Cincinnati and Philadelphia (16-1).