Saints get back down to business with opening win

By Simon Evans

To celebrate the team's first NFL triumph, opening night was marked with a rock concert in the city's Jackson Square and television viewers were treated to lengthy build-up but inside the Louisiana Superdome, it was all about getting that first win.

The Saints took to the field to a deafening roar of fan chant "Who Dat?" and the 70,000 crowd made themselves heard whenever Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was set up for a snap with the 40-year-old saying it had been tough to make himself heard.

It was clear though that the Saints were not going to be overawed by their first game since their emotional victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Miami in February.

"Anytime you're in a game like that where there are festivities and everything beforehand, you have got to remain calm," Saints quarterback Drew Brees told reporters.

The occasion carried extra spice given that it was a win over the Vikings in New Orleans that clinched a berth in the Super Bowl and while it did not live up to high expectations, for Brees and company it was clearly "sweet to repeat."


"We talked about it all week long and obviously it was extremely exciting to prepare for a game like this," said Brees, who noted the improved display from a defense that struggled against the Vikings in last season's 31-28 overtime win.

"Our defense took it personal. We gave up a lot of yards but we got some turnovers. Coming into this game we knew we would have to play better and obviously the defense played very, very well," the quarterback added.

The venue, which five years ago housed the homeless victims of Hurricane Katrina,, was in the mood for a celebration but they wanted it to be for Thursday's win -- exactly the focus Payton had urged from his players.

"It's good but it's just one game," tight-end Jeremy Shockey said. "I know the fans have been waiting for this since Miami and I'm glad we got the win. The fans were great, they helped us out and made them jump offsides a few times," he added.

The only long face in the Saints locker room belonged to kicker Garrett Hartley, whose overtime field goal sealed the Super Bowl triumph.

This time Hartley had a hard time of things, missing two field goals --- mistakes which could have proved very costly.

"Things like that are inexcusable at this level," he lamented.

"I just need to go back to my technique and understand what I did wrong. I need to come out next Monday night against the 49ers and put some points on the board," he said.

(Editing by John O'Brien)