Joe Horn said it. "I don't see it as a rivalry. In a rivalry you go back and forth. I win one, you win one. We've beaten them three of the last four. They've got to do better than that to be our rivals."
That's what Horn had to say to the media as Jim Haslett's Saints were preparing to play the "Greatest Show on Turf" (St. Louis Rams) on Monday Night Football in 2001. Turns out, he was right....it wasn't a rivalry. The Rams made an example of the Saints on that Monday night for the whole world to see. The Rams sent a message that night. They showed everyone that the Saints were not a true rival. They were just a division opponent who always got their chest up and played their best games against them. Why? Because the Rams we're top dog and the Saints desperately wanted to be them, that's why.
Their message to the rest of the NFL after taking a year off with a terrible defense was "The Rams are BACK! And, we're going to the Super Bowl". Their message to the Saints that night was a lot simpler and a little more personal.....
"It's been nice fellas, but we've got bigger fish to fry."
Back in the late 80's and early 90's, no team played the San Francisco 49ers any tougher than Jim Mora's Saints. The games were usually close battles (at least that's the way Saints fans like to remember them) with Mora's Saints getting their share of victories. During Mora's 11 seasons with the Saints, they split the season series with the 49ers six times and the 49ers failed to make it to the Super Bowl in each of those seasons. The 49ers won three Super Bowls during the Jim Mora era and they swept the season series with the Saints each time. Only twice did they not win a Super Bowl after sweeping the Saints and that was when they lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champions Cowboys and Packers in 1992 and 1996.
The message the 49ers sent each year whenever they swept the Saints was clear. The 49ers were making a serious run at a championship and they didn't have the time or inclination to lollygag around with their "rival" inside the division.
They had bigger fish to fry.
And so it is today. The Saints are the top dogs in the division. They have the championship hardware just like the 49ers and Rams did when the Saints were chasing them. And, just like the 49ers and Rams, the Saints are in the midst of making a serious run at another Lombardi Trophy.
So, just like their former "Top Dog" division rivals of the past, the Saints need go ahead and put these guys aside and move on to bigger and better things. You know, like beating Green Bay at Lambeau Field and going back to the Super Bowl.
The table has been set and everything is in place. Drew Brees is having a record setting year, the offense is clicking better than ever (without the turnovers), and the defense has been very competitive down the stretch (which is all you can ask of chicken salad made from chicken s***).
It's all right there, if they really want it. All they have to do is go out and TAKE it. Just like any team that plans on winning a championship.
Don't get me wrong; as much as I hate to say it, the Falcons are a good football team. They play the Saints tougher than any other team in the league. Shoot, just like Joe Horn's attitude about the Rams, the Falcons don't even believe that the Saints are the better team. They really believe that the Saints are just holding down their spot for them until they come get it (that is sooo cute).
But, just like the 49ers and Rams, the Saints are making a run at another championship and they need to smack them back into reality. They need to show the Falcons that they are nothing more than a division opponent who always gets their chest up and plays their best games against them. Why? Because the Saints are top dog and the Falcons desperately want to be them, that's why.
On Monday night, the Saints need to go out there and send a clear message to the rest of the NFL (after taking a year off) that "The Saints are BACK and going to the Super Bowl." They also need to send a just as clear but slightly more personal message to the Falcons......
"It's been nice fellas, but we've got bigger fish to fry".