Saints set to face Favre again

Saints head coach Sean Payton isn't worried about any lingering emotions from last season's NFC...

Saints head coach Sean Payton isn't worried about any lingering emotions from last season's NFC championship game against the Vikings as New Orleans gets set to face Minnesota Thursday. (JEFF HAYNES/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:30 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- It's summertime and in the Big Easy the fish aren't biting.

Not the New Orleans Saints anyway as they prepare to open the National Football League season Thursday evening against Brett Favre and the rest of the Minnesota Vikings.

The game will be a replay of last year's NFC championship which the Saints won in overtime by a 31-28 margin before marching on to Super Bowl victory over Indianapolis and everlasting fame.

Back in Minneapolis, the Vikings are attempting to wage a war of words as they are talking about how last season's game wasn't so much won by the Saints as they lost it, that they outplayed the Saints by a wide margin (the Vikings outgained them 475-257 in net yardage), and that New Orleans had deliberately taken a bunch of cheap shots at Favre in an effort to knock him from the game.

Mention that to the Saints and they smile politely and move on as if to say: 'Let the losers be the whiners, we got the rings.'

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton was asked if he worried about any of the above and he had a one word answer: "No."

In last year's NFC championship, the Saints employed an all-out attacking defence that consistently harassed Favre but in no way does Payton believe it's the one and only way to beat the Vikings.

"I thought we played with good energy and good effort," Payton recalled Monday at the Saints practice facility. "That game, I don't know if you could say it was any blueprint. Both teams battled hard and it came down to the very end and we made a play on an interception by Tracy (Porter).

"As we get into this season, both teams are different, the rosters are different. So I don't know if it's one specific thing you'd like to hang your hat on. I think week by week, being able to cause duress at the quarterback position is certainly imperative to being able to get off the field and being able to get the ball back offensively."

And in no way does Payton believe that Favre will be intimidated or have any lingering after-effects from the pounding he took in that game.

"In regards to Brett, I don't think there will be any," he said. "He's as good a competitor that this league has seen in I don't know how many years. Week to week, he's a guy who certainly moves on and with his experience level, little if not at all."

One certainty is that this city is getting revved up for the game and a concern that the Saints face is that they don't get caught up in all the emotion and excitement that will be found inside the Superdome and out.

"The first week of the regular season I don't think anybody is as calm as a cucumber," Payton said. "But I don't think there's added pressure either. I think the word would be added excitement. You get to the point where you're looking forward to getting the regular season started.

"But when you play this game, and the way the league has set it up the last five or six years, the Super Bowl winner playing at home on Thursday night, there's that added element of all the things that go on. There's an excitement level always the first game of the regular season and the challenge this week, with all the festivities that surround it, those are things we have to work through, prepare for and be able to handle."

All that plus Favre.

mike.rutsey@sunmedia.ca


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