You know this game meant something. Not your ordinary Week 1 affair. Saints fans take each game seriously.
Tailgaters were setting up shop surrounding the Superdome at dawn, and one pregame cookout even doubled as a wedding. Some government offices, businesses and schools were shut down. Dedication.
Defense Still Wins Championships.
It was Tracy Porter who put the icing on the cake securing Super Bowl XLIV for the city of New Orleans. In The NFC title game, the defense forced five turnovers, while battering and bruising #4 seemingly each time he dropped back to throw. Yet again it was Gregg Williams’ terrorizing troops that made the difference, as they made their presence felt Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings, holding Favre and friends to just 253 yards of total offense in a well-fought 14-9 triumph in front of 70,051 ruckus fans. The Superdome is not only home to one of the most high-flying aerial shows and best QB’s in the league, but it also features one of the more overlooked and rock-solid defenses to boast and brag about.
You wouldn’t believe it, but the Saints actually trailed 9-7 at halftime. No worries, right? The last time that happened, it was February in Miami. You know the rest of the story. Drew Brees only needed to engineer two scoring drives, one to start the game, and one to open up the offense on its first possession in the second half. It was anything fancy, running Pierre Thomas 17 times, controlling the clock for 21:07 of the second half. Other than that, the defense took care of everything else. It was simple game plan mixed with plain execution according to head coach Sean Payton: “Just trying to do a good job of keeping the ball in front of us. We felt like we had a pretty good plan and support. I thought defensively we did a very good job of holding against the run and still taking some of the downfield throws away. I thought our players tackled really well.”
The 14 points scored were the fewest by the Saints in a victorious cause since Payton started calling shots in 2006, and the fewest in a win under Payton’s watch since his debut taking down Cleveland 19-14 in the 2006 opener. “We’re not used to 14-9 victories, but we’re used to winning”, summed up precisely precise by Drew Brees. No Darren Sharper, no problem, Malcolm Jenkins filled his shoes quite nicely. Whether it was Jenkins filling in for one of their biggest playmakers on defense or leadership and production from a reliable source like Jonathan Vilma (4 tackles, interception, or contributions (7 tackles, 1 for loss) from a surprise source Jo-Lonn Dunbar (replacing Scott Fujita), they made sure to “beat” the Vikings this time around.
Picking up where they left off.
“Last year we heard a lot about how they lost the game and defensively we kind of took that a little personal. We wanted to come out and make a statement. I think we came out and played the way we wanted to play and held them to nine points. We made a statement. We won the game last year and we won the game today,” from a fired up Will Smith, who was quite adamant about coming to play and he wasn’t about to let the Vikings offense get going. If this is a sign of things to come, consider the NFC on notice. This team looks really good, and even when the offense doesn’t play its best, it still wins.
Its when you know you truly have a great team. The fact that the Saints won a game they are not accustomed to winning says a lot about their focus and poise. The defense was determined to prove that the offense isn’t the only way to win a game and Smith knows it takes just that kind of effort. “We know we can’t rely on one group. We can’t rely on special teams, we can’t rely on offense and we can’t rely on defense. Somebody’s going to make a play when we need to make a play to win the game. I don’t think we turned that corner and anybody doubted that we were not going to lose that game.”
They said there would be a “Super Bowl Hangover”. Well, they didn’t cover the point spread of a touchdown. Whoever said Brees couldn’t even come close continuing at that same rapid pace, was right. Some said they wouldn’t catch as many breaks. Garrett Hartley missed two field goals. Now what? Oh, I also heard that the defense would be suspect without Darren Sharper…Anything else?
Imagine that, doubters. Nonetheless, make no bones about it, you can hear “When The Saints Go Marching In” and its not only when Brees leads the gang anymore but also when Vilma leads the group on defense that you can hear them marching onto the field. The Saints are marching in tune of the defense, and the defense of the Lombardi Trophy.
The NFL better take notice “When The Saints Go Marching In” because they are marching in high gear to the tune of a balanced attack.