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The View from Section 618

Some random thoughts and observations from the NFC Championship Game..

1. The Dome was definitely rocking all game long. Never have I ever seen such a louder crowd than the Superdome last night..from the entire stadium singing the last couple of lines of the Star Spangled Banner to the hoisting of the George S. Halas trophy. My voice and ears are still hurting.

Noise was a factor all game. At points throughout the game, the Vikings had problem communicating. Perhaps the biggest communication problem came as the Vikings drove downfield on their final drive of the fourth quarter. The Vikings got penalized for too many men on the field and were put out of field goal range, forcing a Brett Farve pass which was intercepted by Tracey Porter.

The crowd’s reaction to the game winning kick was something I will never forget. The crowd in either end zone had the best view of the kick, so they were the first to react, jumping in jubilation. From there, it seemed like there was a wave of people jumping starting in the end zone and ending at midfield from either side. It was a sight to behold.

Thank you Saints fans for making this a true Dome field advantage.

2. Take a quick look at some stats from Sunday’s game.

Total Yards
Vikings 475
Saints 257

Passing Yards
Vikings 310
Saints 189

Rushing Yards
Vikings 165
Saints 68

First Downs
Vikings 31
Saints 15

Time of Possesion
Viking 36:49
Saints 27:56 (23:11 in regulation, 4:45 in overtime)

So, judging by the stats, looks like the Vikings should have won a blowout. They held the Saints offense in check and moved the ball well themselves. But, they did not win. While the Vikings were the better team Sunday, they were also their own worst enemy, committing five critical turnovers. Giving the opposing defense some confidence and their powerful offense a short feild – not a formula for success.

The Vikings outgained the Saints by 218 yards, the largest differnce in yards gained in favor of the losing team.

3. The Vikings made too many mental mistakes. Five turnovers!?!?

The Vikings lost three fumbles and Brett Farve threw two interceptions. Adrian Peterson fumbled thrice, none more critical than the one right before halftime. After Reggie Bush fumbled the ball and the Vikings recovered at the nine, Farve and Peterson missed a simple exchange, resulting in a fumble recovered the Saints. Give the Saints credit though for swarming to the ball and trying to force turnovers. But, the Vikings should have secured the ball better.

The Vikings last offensive play was littered with mental mistakes. First, the “twelve men in the huddle” penalty, after a timeout, put them on the outter fringe of field goal range for Ryan Longwell. On the ensuing play, Farve threw an interception which ended the Vikings final drive. While the decision to throw the ball to Sidney Rice was not a bad decision, he held the ball too long before throwing the ball, allowing Tracey Porter to undercut the throw.

4. Has anyone seen Jared Allen?

Vikings fans were looking for a big day from Allen, as he looked to exploit the weak link in the Saints’ pass protection – OT Jermon Bushrod. But, Bushrod more than held his own against Allen, holding the All Pro DE to two tackles and no sacks.

Give Saints coach Sean Payton with devising a scheme to protect Brees’ blind side. While C Jonathan Goodwin and G Jahri Evans held their own against the Vikings’ “Williams Wall”, G Carl Nicks helped out Bushrod on Allen on occasion. TEs Dave Thomas also helped Bushrod in pass protecion. Add Drew Brees’ elusiveness in the pocket and the Vikings did not have a sack on Saints until the fourth quarter.

5. Was it me or was Sean Payton conservative on offense?

Of the 55 plays the Saints ran, 23 of those plays were runs. Pierre Thomas rushed 14 times for 61 yards. However, the rest of the team ran the ball 9times for just 7 yards. Reggie Bush had 7 of those runs, but was never able to get in the open field as a runner.

Drew Brees took very few chances downfield. His longest completion, a 38 yard pass to Pierre Thomas in the first quarter, came on a short screen in which Thomas showed his speed and elusiveness in the open field. The normally accurate quarterbackcompleted just 54.8 of his passes against the Vikings. However, Brees did make several key completions on third and long situations, including a big one in overtime which kept the Saints’ drive to the championship alive. Brees did not look like himself on several passes in the second half, throwing the ball with more wobble than usual.

You could hear grumblings and a few boos in the second half of the game after Payton decided to be more conservative. Why not air it out when you got the most accurate passer in the league playing ? Maybe Payton had his reasons – conserving his defense, ball control, etc.

But, the Saints did enough to win on this night.

6. The Saints were resilient all game, fighting and scrapping for every yard, point and turnover.

You have to be impressed with the way the Saints swarmed to the ball for most of the game. They swiped and attacked the ball all game, forcing those six fumbles. Gregg Williams has certainly brought a new attitude to this defense in the off season and it was on full dislpay.

They were resilient on their pursuit of Brett Farve. Even seldom used DE Jeff Charleston got a few hits on Farve. You could tell he was hurt coming out in the fourth quarter and it affected his moblilty in the pocket. While he made several great passes in the fourth quarter to keep the Vikings in the game, he was clearly rattled. Would a healthy Brett Farve ran for a few yards to set up a shorter field goal for the Vikings instead of throwing the interception on his last play of the game?

Give the Saints pass defense some credit as well. They were in the right position to make plays several times in the game. Jabari Greer did an admirable job holding Sidney Rice to just 43 yards recieving in the game, forcing Farve to look at his next options, particularly Bernard Berrian. The Saints did what they could to keep the ball out of Percy Harvin’s hands.

7. On a game in which everyone was talking about a great offenses and defenses, it was the special teams which won the game for the Saints.

After struggling all season with kick coverage, the Saints held their own. Thomas Morestead boomed kickoff after kickoff into the end zone for touchbacks, not allowing Vikings returner Percy Harvin run loose in the open field. Don’t forget that Morestead is also the team’s punter. He booted four of his seven punts inside the twenty while allowing just 15 return yards on three kicks. For the game, he averaged 51.3 yards per punt with plenty of hangtime to allow his unit to cover well. I think we realize know what Sean Payton saw in him when we “wasted” a fifth round draft pick on this guy.

And you can’t forget Garrett Hartley. He made the greatest kick in Saints playoff history. What impressed me with Hartley the most was his confidence. After Vikings Coach Brad Childress called a timeout to ice the kicker, you could see Hartley clapping his hands and smilong, as if to say he was not intimidated in the moment. And because of this calm, collected kicker, the Saints are in the Super Bowl!


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One Response to “The View from Section 618”

  1. Chef Dat says:

    I hope all the nerves are out of their system for the performance in Miami. Do you think our offense is ready to go back to the big passes and multiple run options (“pt cruiser,” bell, hamilton)?
    Any enjuries we should be worried about? How do you think the Colts will defend us and what should we be worried about?

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