Vikings running back Adrian Peterson guaranteed victory for his team before their rematch against the Saints last night in the Superdome, obviously expecting different results. This game had quite a different feel from last years NFC Championship Game but the end result was inevitably the same: Victory for the Saints. That's what's important.
Saints fans should be pleased with the way their teams defense played. As time expired and the offense lined up in victory formation, Gregg Williams was getting lots of hugs and congratulations on the sidelines. And it also appears we have a reliable running game to applaud. One concern of mine going into the season was the Saints ability to run the ball late in the game when they've got the lead. My fears were laid to rest last night as the Saints offense ate up the final five-and-a-half minutes of the game. It may not have been the prettiest win, it may not have been the most exciting but they were able to do what they needed to do.
Let's just get into my detailed, first-hand observations after the jump, shall we?
- This is something only fans who have attended a game at the Superdome in person would appreciate but there is nothing like the feeling of the cool air conditioning blowing out through the doors as you wait outside in the crowd and the heat to get inside.
- There were a surprising amount of Vikings fans in attire and in attendance.
- Like other choreographed moments in recent Superdome history (Deuce McAllister return in 2009 playoffs), the championship banner dropping was slightly anti-climactic and could have been made a bigger deal. Before the game, it was hidden behind a Verizon banner (don't get me started on that) and revealed with no warning while a Lombardi Trophy-adorned float carrying the Benson family and a singing Harry Connick rolled down the field. I thought for sure there would be some sort of speech accompanied with a formal introduction of the banner. Maybe this is all part of a plan? Perhaps the Saints have made a conscious decision not to let it all go to their heads and have chosen not to unnecessarily glorify themselves.
- A couple of fans jumped the gun on Drew's Who Dat chant signal.
- The Saints offense came out with guns blazing, scoring at will in just five plays on their first drive. Everyone in the building was riding high and I think a friendly text message to my phone at the time said it best..."It's like 2009 never ended."
- That first Morstead kick out of the end zone was ridiculous.
- Who was that guy kicking field goals for the Saints last night because he certainly didn't look like the same kid who had ice water in his veins during last years playoffs, including overtime in the NFC Championship Game. Just as Ralph asked on our post-game podcast: Is it time to start getting concerned?
- Heath Evans had a quiet game from a statistics standpoint but did a great job away from the ball with some superb blocking. It's nice to have him back in the mix.
- I think it's fairly obvious that in it's most basic form, the Saints game plan included passing the ball a lot in the first half, loosening up the Vikings defense, then switching it up by running the ball a lot in the second. It worked so I'd say that was a nice piece of coaching on Sean Payton's part.
- The halftime entertainment was actually a short ceremony honoring Rickey Jackson and awarding him his NFL Hall of Fame ring.
- The dropped passes by Saints wide receivers last night was maddening. Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and even Lance Moore all failed to come through at key moments. I guess the good news is that the Saints still managed to come away with a win even without being able to count on some of their most trustworthy playmakers.
- Brett Favre looked rusty. I guess that's what happens when you miss most of your teams off-season training activities.
- Even when the Saints were losing, never did it feel like the game was out of their grasp and never did it seem like fans were getting nervous that the Saints wouldn't inevitably pull it out. Personally, I've got a higher level of trust in this team that is completely opposite of past feelings. I like it.
- It looked like the Saints defense would line up in the 3-4 on Vikings first downs, with Hargrove, Ellis and Smith on the line while Dunbar and Mitchell joined Vilma and Shanle at linebacker. Just more diverse play calling from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
- The unsung hero of last night's game could very well have been Jermon Bushrod. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was a non-factor on the night.
- One thing is for sure: Vikings fans can't accuse the Saints defense of hitting Favre too hard or too often. The Saints barely got a whiff of him compared to the NFCCG, save for Sedrick Ellis and Roman Harper.
- While we're on the subject, I honestly haven't seen much this entire season from Alex Brown thus far. Not that the bar has been set incredibly high by Charles Grant before him, but are the Saints that much better off? Maybe just in their wallet.
- If Vilma was hampered by his groin injury, I didn't notice. He looked fine and obviously had the interception. We can all take a deep breath about that.
- I've got to give credit to Malcolm Jenkins at this point. He's been pretty good filling in for Darren Sharper thus far this season. He may not be running back interceptions for six points but he's also not embarrassing himself out there and pissing off fans. High five for that. He impressed me with his one near interception.
- Interestingly enough, Roman Harper was part of the offensive victory formation at the end of the game.