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Fleur-de-Links Wednesday, December 29: Happy Birthday Sean Payton!!

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If Ace of Cakes is not available to make a Dome Cake for Payton like this one made for the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center', maybe Dave can share some of his groom's cake with Coach.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)
If Ace of Cakes is not available to make a Dome Cake for Payton like this one made for the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center', maybe Dave can share some of his groom's cake with Coach. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)
Getty Images for USTA

We have a short week to work with in getting ready for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not much time for picture-taking or reminiscing, so just take a little pause to review the final links about the Falcons game and hubbub, and then get your mind on the road ahead, which leads to the Dome on Sunday.

Today is Sean Payton's birthday. I wonder how he'll spend it? You can weigh in with your best guess in the poll and then elaborate in the comments section. In other news: Jonathan Vilma was named the Saints Man of the Year, Drew Brees, Jahri Evans, and Carl Nicks made the Pro Bowl, and some folks are still bothered by the Saints LBs taking pictures on the Falcon Crest after the game.

The links will lead you to news and notes, Vilma's press conference transcript, videos, tweets, and audio channels. What are you waiting for??? JUMP!!!!

Buccaneers vs Saints coverage

Bucs Nation


LanceMoore16 Hope everyone is having a great evening. Its weird to be watching Tuesday night football. Good game tho

drewbrees Has there ever been an NFL game played on a Tuesday night? Trivia question

HeathEvans All I want for my B-Day is for all my followers & fans to go to & donate $1.00 Pls donate & pls spread the word! #fb

Official_Saints Happy Birthday to Head Coach Sean Payton!

LanceMoore16 Having a great day so far, hope everyone else is too! Show my boy @bgradkowski5 some love today. He's new to the tweet world.

Saints-Falcons: Upon Further Review

NFC South Week 16 decisive moment - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y. - On a night when he was passing the ball a lot like John Stockton at various times, Drew Brees got back to being a quarterback and let the basketball player on his team make the biggest catch of the night.

Sean Payton defends photo session - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y. - When he met with the New Orleans media Tuesday, Saints coach Sean Payton defended the actions of some of his players immediately after Monday night’s win in the Georgia Dome.

New Orleans Saints' postgame picture criticized |
Nakia's Notebook.

Falcons, Saints agree on one thing - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y. - The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons probably won't be posing for group pictures anytime soon, but their head coaches agree on something.

Saints Turn Tables On Dirty Birds - WWL - AM870 | FM105.3
Deke Bellavia

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons game is the highest-rated cable TV program of 2010 |
Mark Lorando - 'Monday Night Football' telecast was third most-watched cable telecast of all time.

Drew Brees shines brightest after dark moments |
Peter Finney - New Orleans Saints QB maintains focus at all times.

From the Saints Sideline

Saints Brimming With Confidence - WWL - AM870 | FM105.3
Kristian Garic

Despite playoff scenarios, Saints focused only on Buccaneers |
Allee-Walsh's Tuesday notebook.

2010 Falcons don't equal 2009 Saints |
Les East

After big victory, Saints can't relax |
Les East

Long wait worth while for Saints 'D' |
Sheldon Mickles

The New Orleans Saints are back in the playoffs |
Staff editorial.

From the Crow's Nest

NFL Didn't Do The Bucs Any Favors | Blogs
Ira Kaufman - Like they say in sports, it’s all about timing.

Bucs' playoff fate hinges on three NFC division rematches |
Ira Kaufman - Tampa Tribune - The arduous playoff path for the Buccaneers is now determined and the Atlanta Falcons didn't do Tampa Bay any favors Monday night by losing to the New Orleans Saints.

Development of young reserves fuels Bucs' winning record |
Joe Henderson - Tampa Tribune - When Raheem Morris coached defensive backs for the Buccaneers, he believed he should pay as much attention to the role players as he did the stars.

Sticky Hands |
Bucs Notebook: The Bucs have played two straight games in which neither team turned the ball over, which is extremely uncommon but at least speaks well of Josh Freeman.

Adjustments Ready as Benn Heads to I.R. |
Rookie WR Arrelious Benn will be placed on injured reserve following the season-ending knee injury he suffered Sunday against Seattle, and though the Bucs consider the loss "a crushing blow," they believe they have several other players ready to fill the void.

Freeman, Blount Nominated for Weekly NFL Awards |
The Bucs have rarely had a combined QB/RB performance as explosive as what Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount fashioned against Seattle on Sunday, and as a result the two players are up for the NFL’s Air and Ground Player of the Week awards, respectively.

Pro Bowl Publicity

Pro Bowl rosters |
List by position of AFC/NFC squads.

Three Saints Named To NFC Pro Bowl Squad |
Official release from New Orleans Saints Communication Department. Includes ABC-26 WGNO video clip.

Three Saints make Pro Bowl |
Sheldon Mickles

Three Saints earn Pro Bowl berths | | Eye on Black and Gold
Bradley Handwerger - Monday night, Drew Brees, Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans all played an integral part in helping the Saints come from behind to beat division rival Atlanta. A day later, all there learned more good news – they were voted into the Pro Bowl.

New Orleans Saints Drew Brees, Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks chosen for Pro Bowl |
Gene Guillot - Game will be Jan. 30 at Cowboys Stadium.

Buccaneers again shut out of NFL Pro Bowl |
Ira Kaufman - Tampa Tribune - Despite their surprising 9-6 record, Tampa Bay was shut out of the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season.

Three Bucs Named Pro Bowl Alternates |
QB Josh Freeman, T Donald Penn and TE Kellen Winslow are all potential 2010 all-stars after being named alternates to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, meaning they could play in the game if others at their positions pull out

NFC South Pro Bowl analysis - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y.

He's the Man!

Vilma named Saints' NFL Man of the Year |
Official release from New Orleans Saints.

Jonathan Vilma humbled by selection as New Orleans Saints' Man of the Year |
Nakia Hogan - His efforts on, off field are plenty.


Official NFC South playoff scenarios - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y. - We’ve got all the playoff scenarios over on our NFL Nation Blog, but I wanted to break out the NFC South here.

Bucs O-line wins weekly award - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y.

How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch - NFC South Blog -
Pat Y.

Saints have New Orleans buzzing with excitement | | Eye on Black and Gold
Bob Greene - The boys in black and gold are back in the playoffs, and New Orleans is abuzz.

"Dome Patrol" To be at Saints Hall of Fame Sunday |
Jackson, Johnson and Swilling to be at Superdome.

Saints can't relax, jockeying for playoff position | | Eye on Black and Gold
Associated Press - The New Orleans Saints are not taking it easy after clinching the opportunity to defend their Super Bowl title.

New England Patriots keep rolling, remain atop Power Rankings; New Orleans Saints move up to third |
Nakia Hogan - Now that the New England Patriots have clinched all they can during the regular season - the AFC East title and home-field advantage in the playoffs - Coach Bill Belichick is left with the one question befitting the No. 1 team in the NFL Power Rankings by The Times-Picayune. Will he rest his starters in the regular season finale?


Vilma recaps MNF win, talks about being named team's "Man of the Year"


In terms of ranking these goal line stands, which has been better and which has been more impressive? "We really haven't thought about it. We just feel like you're going to have to earn it. It's a matter of pride for us, especially from last year to this year improving on the goal line defense. We feel like this year we're way ahead of where we were last year. We take pride in what we do. It's not going to be easy to score against us, especially down at the goal line"

Did everything seem to go to form for you guys defensively yesterday? "Defensively, I did think we executed well. I thought that we did a better job of handling the game plan this time around than the first time around and it showed up. You see the third down stats. You see the rushing stats. You see their two biggest players, (Tony) Gonzalez and Roddy White in the passing game really didn't do too much. I feel like we did a good job of executing this time around."

Coming off of Ray Rice's game last week and containing Michael Turner this week, did you pat yourselves on the back after making improvement?
"We're definitely not patting ourselves on the back. It's expected of us. It's what we do. When you don't get the job done, it's a problem and we have to watch the film and correct it. When we get the job done, everyone's happy, but we're definitely not going to pat ourselves on the back and say great job. This is what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to tackle and stop the running game."

What are your thoughts on being the club's Man of the Year?
"My initial thoughts are that I'm honored and flattered. Asides from that I haven't had too much time to think about it the way the season's been going, but to be put in that category I'm definitely flattered."

Does it mean a lot given that a lot of players in the Saints locker room are active in the community?
"Yes. To get it out of this locker room you're exactly right. Charity events and foundations upon charity events that we attend and run, not only in the offseason but in-season, it's definitely an honor."

Sean Payton made a pretty big point about acquiring you and the cultural change you were able to put on the defense. Can you remember the day you were acquired and your initial thoughts about turning the page on your career?
"I actually remember the very first dinner I had over in Indianapolis with Gary Gibbs, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton and Joe Vitt, myself and my agent. The first thing they said was we want to bring you in not just to be a player, but a leader and a captain, to lead the defense. Since then, I've come here and told them I've been grateful to come here. I've been very thankful every time, not only myself, but the guys around here. When I got here, they had a group of guys that were talented, wanted to work and it was just a matter of the right direction, understanding what wins, what loses and never compromising that."

What kind of message did you think you sent out on a national stage last night? "We didn't really think about that, sending a message. The biggest thing was getting a playoff berth, clinching that. I think if you look at the game, how it played out and went down, going against one of the best teams in the NFC at their home, all the chips stacked against us, for us to go out there and put on a performance like we did, at the very least, it lets the other teams in the NFC know that if we have to travel, it's going to be a tough win for you. You're going to have to bring your game and play hard against us."

Do you think you may see this team down the road in January?
"I think so. They're in the playoffs. They're fighting with us this week coming up for that NFC (South) title, so you have teams like that, you understand they might have a setback just like we had a setback against Baltimore. They'll get things corrected. They're well-coached, a talented group. Once they get it corrected and get on their groove again, who knows? We'll see what happens."

Are you surprised they punted after their last offensive possession?
"Yes, I was surprised. You could see the rationale behind it. Their defense had been playing well all game, really gave up that one long drive. He's (Mike Smith) figuring we stop them, punt the ball and they'll get the ball at around the 50 with some time left. It didn't work out that way. It worked out in our favor."

As a player, is it more gratifying to win and get the playoff berth rather than watch Tampa lose the day before and clinch?
"Yes. This way, getting in, always winning to get in is always the best feeling. You lose and you're in, but you're kind of happy because you're in, but you feel like you've backed your way in. You never want that feeling, especially going into the dance. For us to win and win against a good opponent, that's huge."

What were your thoughts on Jo-Lonn Dunbar's play after he hadn't played much on defense for a stretch?
"Jo-Lonn is what I expected to answer your question. They guy comes in, works, watches film. Whether he's playing or not playing he doesn't change his attitude, demeanor, preparation. Once he knew he was getting the starting nod, it wasn't like he had all of a sudden upped his energy level or preparation and crammed right before the game. He was ready to go and it showed on the field."

This is the first time you've gone into week 17 with something at stake. How do you approach this?
"Just win and see what happens. Nothing will play itself out if we lose. If we lose, everything is what it would be. For us, let's win first, figure out what happens after this; let the mathematicians and NFL figure out who has the one seed and all that good stuff."

Have you been in a situation, where other games being played at the same time have something to do with where you would be seeded in the playoffs and do you find yourself peeking at the scoreboard during the game when you're not on the field?"One, I have been in that situation. My rookie year, I was in St. Louis. We had to win or a couple teams had to lose for us to get in the playoffs and we had saw on the jumbotron that somebody lost and we ended up going into the playoffs. The second part of your question, I don't want to look at other people's scores and figure out what's going on. That's going to take away from the game. We have a very good team. Let's not forget Tampa Bay is a nine-win team right now, very talented. Their quarterback is playing well. We definitely don't want to look at other scores and not concentrate on our game."

I know you guys are a confident team. If you are a Wild Card, does this performance give you an edge knowing you can play like that on the road? "We always had that edge. We always had that confidence. Like I said, we had a setback in Baltimore, beside that we had been pretty good on the road. We never really worried about that, playing well on the road. This game never really gave us that added confidence. We already had that. It was almost expected that if we go out there, play hard and execute and do what we have to do that we'll win."

What about specifically how you matched up against a team that you could be facing in their place in the postseason?
"It can help us, but at the same time, they beat us in our place. Let's say something happens, they lose to Carolina and we do get the one seed and play them at home, it's going to be the same questions, just in reverse saying we already beat them there. At the end of the day, it's a division opponent. We face them and see them a lot. We know them inside out. They know us inside out"

Marvin Mitchell had a big play and gets overshadowed. Can you talk about the play he's had this year?
"Marvin Mitchell has had a tremendous season, in my opinion his best season by far. Every time he steps onto the field, you give him four or five plays, he's going to make something happen, whether it's a caused fumble, a key tackle, rushing the quarterback. Marvin Mitchell might not get the attention because he doesn't have as many reps, but his impact during the game has been huge for us defensively throughout the season."

Are you surprised that these photos you've taken on fields has gotten some notoriety?
"I don't care. The only thing I'm surprised about is that they were so quick to put a negative spin on it. For us, it was a group of guys, we clinched a playoff berth. That's huge. Those are memories to have for years down the road. We wanted to take the picture. It had nothing to do with Atlanta, nothing to do with showing them up in their home stadium. It had nothing to do with that. It was us being happy, being in the playoffs. We wanted a picture, the same thing that we did in Dallas. We won the Thanksgiving game. I've never done that before. We took a picture of that. We won the Super Bowl, you take a picture. You have milestones in your career and you want to take pictures regardless of the stadium. I was just surprised of the negative spin they put on it. Other than that, I don't care."

Audio Action

Audio Gallery: Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris |
In this 7 minute, 43 second clip, coach talks about the Saints defense, RB LeGarrette Blount and the keys to Sunday's game in the Superdome. *This page includes audio files of press conferences, calls of the game, locker room interview, etc. You should check it out, audiophiles. This gets the HANSDAT SEAL OF APPROVAL*

Podcast: Revisiting New Orleans' victory - NFC South Blog -
Pat Yasinskas weighs in on New Orleans' win over Atlanta on "Monday Night Football."

V-Roll Roll Call

Video Gallery: Josh Freeman Press Conference 12/29/10 |
Page also includes other Bucs videos.

Video: Clayton's NFC South huddle - NFC South Blog -’s John Clayton breaks down the latest news in the NFC South.

Saints Vlog: December 28 -- Day after down and dirty in Atlanta |
Brian Allee-Walsh and Les East look back at win over Falcons and ahead to last weekend of regular season.