Eyes on Next Game, Not the Prize

Open holes for backs, protect the QB in the backfield are what one would call a ‘dirty job', and it fits Mike Karney's pragmatic personality like a glove. As the ex-Sun Devil fullback and the Saints approach their NFC championship game in Chicago, there's no talk about the dream season that can be with a Superbowl appearance, but rather a focus on the challenge that lies ahead this weekend.

"You can celebrate after the game, maybe a little the next day and then you have to just wash it out of your mind and get ready for next week," Mike Karney told Devils Digest. "But that playoff win against the Eagles (last week in the NFC divisional playoffs) was huge for the organization, the city and it was great for the fans to celebrate."

Speaking of the Saints' followers, the fullback claims that this rabid bunch truly kicked into a never seen before gear last week. "Those fans didn't sit down the whole game – it was like the student section at ASU," he said laughing. "It was loud even in warm-ups. It was just as loud as the Monday night game (and the 2006 home opener) against Atlanta, but fans eventually sat down at that game. My parents said everyone was standing that night against the Eagles. That just shows you how great these fans are. It was the loudest game I ever played in."

Karney who hails from Kent, Wash. admitted that he rooted for his childhood favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, to beat the Chicago Bears in the NFC divisional playoff game. A Seahawks win would mean another home game for Karney in the Superdome, but he quickly got over that disappointment. "It doesn't matter," he claimed. "We have to play somebody, somewhere, sometime to get where we really want to go to and get an opportunity to win the world championship."

Being too tight or too lose before such a game, are matters that may concern the media and fans but not the players. Thus far, Karney believes that he and the team have found the right emotional balance as they practice for their biggest game of the year. "We're doing a good job of enjoying this thing, but also a good job being focused," he explained. "There's obviously a lot of media coverage and all those questions…but we're handling it very well. We handled it well going in to the Eagles game. We're just going about the same way that we did before that game."

The weather in Chicago on Sunday (which right now calls for snow showers and a high of 31 degrees), has been by the far the leading query that the fullback and his teammates have had to field all week. Once again, the matter-of-fact type f person that is Mike Karney has the perfect reply. "We're not paying the weather, we're not playing the field – we're playing the Chicago Bears," he noted. "Football is football. I don't care if it's a blizzard or frozen tundra – we're still out there playing a football game. We need to play and execute to win this game no matter what."

There surely was no lack of execution on the part of Karney and the ball carrier he usually opens running lanes, Deuce McAllister, last weekend. In a 27-24 victory, McAllister dashed for 143 yards on only 21 carries, and Karney's contribution didn't go unnoticed. "He and I got a game ball," said the fullback. "I was just proud that when he and Reggie (Bush) we're in there running the ball, I was in there too making a little room for them to get going. I was happy with my performance and I was happy for our team win."

Duplicating the 208 total rushing yards effort from New Orleans' last outing, will naturally go a long way in a climate such as Chicago's. "When you play football in the cold season you have to establish the run," said Karney. "My motto is ‘throw to score, run to win.' If you're able to run the ball effectively, it makes the play calling easier, because now you can throw more on play action. Establishing the run is vital. We were able to do it against Philadelphia and it set up big plays for us. We just have to do the same against the Chicago Bears."

The Superbowl is the ultimate goal for any NFL team, and is the greatest motivator for any gridiron squad as they go for through the rigors of the season. It can also be the greatest detractor for those that can't concentrate their efforts where they should be – on the game that will decide if they will get to enjoy playing in the Superbowl to begin with. "We know as players, as coaches, that your focus is always on the next game," said Karney. "This isn't a double-elimination or best of ten games. You lose – you're done. We know that all our minds, our power; our focus has to be on this game to move forward. We will do it and we are doing it. We're going into a tough situation on the road, but it's another great situation for the Saints to show the national audience that we're a team to reckon with. If we put our best foot forward, I think we'll come out with a win."

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