FOXBOROUGH — It loomed as a milestone matchup.
Tom Brady would have a chance to tie Drew Brees’ NFL record of 54 consecutive regular-season games with a touchdown pass. Both teams would go into it without a loss.
That scenario disappeared when New England lost to Cincinnati 13-6. But the game between the Patriots and New Orleans Saints on Sunday still brings together two of the best.
“You talk about one of the most functional organizations that truly know how to win and have a winning formula, you would say the New England Patriots,” Brees said. “I’d like to think that we’re that type of organization, as well.”
Brady matched Brees in the weekly game of praising an opponent.
“They’re one of the best football teams in the league, so it’s going to be a good challenge for us,” he said.
But there have been slipups.
Brady is having one of his worst seasons. And both teams have struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone.
Still, the collective record for these two franchises in 2013 is 9-1.
The Saints were 7-9 last season while coach Sean Payton served a suspension for what the NFL said was his failure to heed a league directive to stop a bounty program administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Payton’s return has sparked New Orleans (5-0), particularly on offense where it is ranked fourth in the NFL.
“Sean does a real good job of keeping the defense off-balance,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “They really attack pretty much every inch of the field. They run toss plays and screens. They like to get the ball outside. They have a good inside running game. They throw the ball.”
Shockingly, throwing the ball has been a problem for Brady and the Patriots (4-1). They didn’t re-sign their top two wide receivers from last year, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Aaron Hernandez is in jail facing murder charges, and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski missed the first five games after forearm and back surgeries. He appeared closer to returning Sunday.