Knowledge is good.
It’s an apt — albeit fictional — quote from Emil Faber when it comes to preparing to face Sean Payton’s Saints offenses over the last 15 seasons.
Payton is a master at manipulation when it comes to personnel groupings — no coach uses more — and squeezing every last ounce out of every resource on his roster. As Bill Belichick pointed out, it’s not so much the volume of new plays Payton trots out week after week, it’s how he tinkers with his most reliable plays and how he pulls the trigger with his most reliable players.
Additionally, Payton’s offense operates at warp speed between plays, forcing opponents to keep the pace or be perpetually caught in the wrong defenses.
“They operate very quickly. They’re on and off the field. They’re in that little huddle,” said Belichick. “They’re up to the line and the ball’s snapped, and if you take time to break it all down, you can sort of figure out, ‘Yeah, well, this is why he’s in this set, and that’s why he’s doing this and that, and that’s what this guy does well, and that’s where he’s got in there,’ but it’s hard to do it during the game because it happens so fast, and then as soon as that play is over, he’s got somebody else in there and a whole other set of personnel, formations, motion, ball snap, and so it’s hard to stay ahead of Sean just because he operates so quickly with so many variables.”
Belichick’s encyclopedic knowledge and recall is invaluable when it comes to getting his staff and players ready for Payton’s multiple looks.
“There’s a lot of stuff, and then just the breadth of the offense from, you know, his time there … there’s a lot of volume, and if you watch a game, I think you look at it and say, ‘I’ve seen that play before. I’ve seen that play before, but it might’ve been two years ago, or it might have been eight games ago,’ so he’s got a pretty good breadth to his system, and he continually does things that they know how to do that they’re familiar with, but he dresses them up differently, or maybe it’s something that he hasn’t used in a while and you’re not preparing for it, but it’s something that’s really a part of their system, and it’s not really a new play for them,” said Belichick. “Again, he does a good job attacking defenses and matching things up that create problems for your defense, and so when you’re looking at film, you’re looking at what he’s done, but that was against somebody else’s defense, and it’s really hard to predict how he’s going to treat you and what matchups he’s really going to try to exploit.”
The Patriots have elevated linebacker Jahlani Tavai to the active roster for Sunday’s game … New England owns a 10-4 record over New Orleans in the all-time series that dates to 1972 when the Patriots took a 17-10 decision at Tulane Stadium … The last time the Saints visited Foxborough, the Patriots pulled off a 30-27 win on Oct. 13, 2013, when Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a 17-yard touchdown pass with just 10 seconds left. It was the first of two huge comebacks in New England that day as the Red Sox overcame a 5-0 deficit to beat the Tigers in an ALCS game at Fenway Park hours later … The Saints are 20-5 in road games since 2018, outscoring opponents, 698-471 … Belichick (22 seasons) and Payton (15) rank 1-2 as the current longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL … Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has a fumble or interception in 20 of his last 22 starts … According to Pro Football Focus, Damien Harris leads the NFL with 135 rushing yards after first contact, trailing only Titans locomotive Derrick Henry (201) … Per overthecap.com, the Patriots rank 30th in the NFL with a little more than $1.9 million in salary-cap space . . . The Patriots released OL Jake Eldrenkamp from the practice squad. Eldrenkamp, who had been released by the Colts on Aug. 31, signed with New England Sept. 22.