NEW ORLEANS It obviously was personal Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It clearly was more than just another game for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
How else could one explain why Payton thoroughly embarrassed Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the alleged mastermind of the infamous Bounty scandal that rocked the Saints franchise in 2012.
On this day, the points and yards were Bounty-ful for the Black and Gold (5-6), who routed the defensive-minded Rams 49-21 and kept pace with the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons (7-4).
Never miss a local story.
Sunday’s beat-down marked the first meeting between the two men who drew unprecedented season-long suspensions from the league office for their roles in the alleged scheme that rewarded Saints players with money for injuring opposing players.
And while the two coaches who conspired to help the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV in the 2009 season took the high road before and after the game, Payton made it abundantly clear that he holds no soft spot in his heart for Williams.
That was never more evident than early in the fourth quarter with the Saints holding a commanding 42-21 lead. On third-and-3 at midfield, a tendency presented itself and Payton pushed the right button, calling for a flea-flicker from wide receiver Willie Snead to running back Tim Hightower that resulted in a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
“We got the right look and the timing was right,’’ Payton explained.
Overall, the Saints amassed 555 yards and scored seven touchdowns against an overmatched Rams defensive unit coached by Williams that had been yielding a meager 318.3 yards and 18.7 points per game.
Payton’s offense led by quarterback Drew Brees (4 TD passes, no INTs, 139.6 passer rating) and running back Mark Ingram (167 yards from scrimmage, 2 TDs) obliterated those numbers and crushed Williams’ ego in the process.
Twice in the first half the Saints went on fourth down inside the Rams’ 10 and twice scored touchdowns, both times triggering animated celebrations from Payton.
“Boom! Boom!’’ Payton shouted, thrusting a closed right fist downward after Ingram scored on fourth-and-goal from the Rams’ 10 with 9:38 remaining in the second quarter.
Payton repeated his antics after Brees scored on his patented QB-leap on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 7:46 remaining in the second quarter.
Payton one upped himself early in the fourth quarter, doing four “Booms!’’ after Brees and Ingram connected on a 21-yard screen pass for a touchdown that extended the Saints lead to 35-21.
It came on third-and-17 and badly exposed Williams’ blitzing defense as Ingram took advantage of good downfield blocking and scored untouched.
On the Rams sideline, veteran head coach Jeff Fisher intently listened to a red-faced Williams explain why he called for all-out pressure from the wrong side of the field.
On the Saints sideline, a beaming Payton reveled in the moment.
“Sean had much, much fervor coming into this game,’’ Saints defensive end Cam Jordan said.
And it showed.