(The Sports Xchange) – New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton would never admit it, but this was intensely personal.
It is no secret there is not much love between Payton and his former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who directed a take-no-prisoners defense in 2009 en route to the Saints’ Super Bowl championship over the Indianapolis Colts.
In routing the visiting Los Angeles Rams 49-21 on Sunday, an animated Payton responded to the Saints’ cascade of seven touchdowns by pumping his fists, glaring across the field at Williams and mouthing some colorful taunts in his direction.
The Saints’ domination, which put them back in the NFC playoff picture at 5-6, was sweet payback for Payton, who was suspended by the NFL for the entire 2012 season because of the bounty program the league said Williams ran from inside the Saints locker room.
The NFL said Payton did not stop the bounty program, which promised cash for big hits on opponents, after it came to light.
Asked about his sideline gyrations and staredowns with Williams, Payton said: “I was a little excited. It’s an important win for us.”
Against a Williams defense that had allowed 18.7 points and 318.3 yards a game, the Saints compiled 555 yards in total offense and 27 first downs.
Drew Brees completed 28 of 36 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns, and Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower shredded a Rams’ rush defense for 209 yards on the ground.
But the billboard signal that this was something out of the ordinary came midway through the fourth quarter, with the Saints leading 42-21.
On third-and-3 from midfield, Brees threw a backwards lateral to wide receiver Willie Snead, a high school quarterback, who then wheeled and threw a 50-yard strike across the field to wide open running back Tim Hightower.
That made it 49-21 with 1:15 left. It was the first time since Payton took over the Saints in 2006 that a non-quarterback threw a touchdown pass for New Orleans.
“Listen, I’m not going to completely avoid the fact that Gregg Williams is their defensive coordinator and there’s a history there,” Brees said.
“The bottom line is he is one of the better defensive coordinators in the league. The last four games they’ve allowed less than 17 points in each game. We knew the challenge coming in as an offense.”
Payton said the Snead-to-Hightower connection was nothing more nefarious than exploiting the Rams’ defensive “tendencies.”
“It had been installed earlier in the week and just came up at the right time,” Payton said.
(Editing by Larry Fine)