Friday, 10 September 2010 17:53

New Orleans Saints’ Defense Holds Vikings, Favre While Brees, Pierre Thomas, Colston Rule

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staton1The Saints’ offense was held to 14 points, but the defending Super Bowl champion Saints won their opening game against the Vikings in front of a national television audience and a crowd of 70,051 raucous Who Dats, Thursday night at the Superdome.

New Orleans basked in the national spotlight as the Saints, who may not be capable of another 510-point season and No. 1 offensive ranking again this season, but Gregg Williams' defense looked a lot better in Year 2 playing under the defensive coordinator.

"It was a big win," judged Saints coach Sean Payton. "We played a very good team tonight. I was proud of the way we came through and made enough plays to start the season 1-0. We've got a lot of things we'll be able to work on and clean up when we get to the video. I'm real pleased and proud of the way they started and finished that game especially against that team."

The hype for this game began almost as soon as the schedule was released in April. That meant there was almost no way the game could live it to its billing, and sure enough, that was the case.

"They beat us fair and square last year and the same tonight," said Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. "I’m sure everyone who watched this game would say that it was the fireworks that everyone thought it was going to be -- for either team."

The Saints defense didn't blitz Favre near as much as they did the NFC championship game, sacking him just once, and getting real pressure on him only a few other times.

"Nine points. Nine points," said Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis in a Saints locker room that was quite business-like. "That says it better than anything. We played good tonight, held them to nine points, and we're excited about it."

The Saints won the opening toss and drove 77 yards in five plays with Drew Brees hitting Devery Henderson for a 29-yard touchdown that came at the expense of cornerback Asher Allen.

The Vikings took a 9-7 lead into the locker room at halftime after a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell and a 20-yard touchdown catch by vocal tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. The field goal capped a 16-play drive that took 9 minutes, 25 seconds and was a textbook example of what the Vikings wanted to do in keeping the Saints off the field.

It was during the half that Payton made a key adjustment. The Saints had tried to take advantage of Vikings having only three healthy cornerbacks dressed by throwing the ball 21 times and running it only three in the first 30 minutes. The Vikings, meanwhile, had 17 rushing plays, 15 passes and controlled the ball for almost five more minutes than the Saints.

Adrian Peterson, the NFL's best running back, ran hard and displayed better ball security. He rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries in the first half, but Peterson and the entire offense never got anything like that in the second half.

Brees highlighted the Saints performance as he completed 27 of 36 attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown. Pierre Thomas had a team-best 71 yards on 19 carries.

"We aren't used to 14-9 victories, but we are used to winning," said Brees. “We like the ‘W."

Brees connected with nine different receivers led by Marques Colston's five catches for 62- yards. Reggie Bush chipped in with five for 33 yards and ran hard.

The Saints regained the lead with 6:13 left in the third quarter when Thomas ran up the middle for a one-yard touchdown. The Saints controlled the ball for 21:07 of the second half.

The Saints will play before another national television audience when they play at San Francisco on "Monday Night Football."

by Ed Staton

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