Coach Sean Payton's team has played in the NFL's season-opening game two times in the past four seasons, and was on both sides of the fence as far as emotions go — losing the 2007 game at Indianapolis, which was celebrating a win in Super Bowl XLI, but beating Minnesota to start last season as the Saints opened defense of their Super Bowl XLV crown.
As a result, Payton and his players know what it will take to handle the emotions from both sides — as a champion playing at home in a meaningful game for the first time since winning and trying to stem the emotional tide from the other side of the field.
"To open the season in a prime-time game against last year's Super Bowl winner, and it happens to be in Lambeau Field, those are a lot of things that get your competitive juices flowing," Payton said. "It'll be a tough environment. It'll be a real good challenge.
"Then, really, you take into account that you're playing a team that won the Super Bowl last year. All those things we'll feel and see and recognize as being a big challenge."
The game, however, is much more than a tantalizing matchup of the two most recent Super Bowl champions.
The contest will feature two of the NFL's top defensive coordinators in the Packers' Dom Capers and the Saints' Gregg Williams going against two of the top play callers and innovative offensive minds in Payton and Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Because they're playing early in the season, especially since coaches and players couldn't get together until late July because of the lockout, Payton said the game will come down to whose fundamentally sound.
"It's going to come down to blocking and tackling. ... It's going to come down to protecting the football and the execution," Payton said. "That's typically what's going to win or lose games, especially a game like this that's on the schedule in early September.
"It's going to come down to the basic things," he added.
Still, Payton said both teams are going to have to make adjustments and important decisions on the fly because neither has unveiled much of its offense or defense in the preseason — with good reason.
"There are going to be things that we see that we haven't had a chance to necessarily card or practice against in the week and vice versa," Payton said. "Then, when you factor in personnel in both cases, there are new players for Green Bay involved in what they're doing and there are new players for us.
"In Week 5 or 6, there's a little more of a bio on each team, a personality as to what they like to do, who's doing what in situations. So early on in the season, and with each game this weekend, there's a little uncertainty. There will have to be some adjustments, and we're going to have to be ready for some things that look a little different."
— The Saints are 16-28 all-time in season openers with a franchise-best three straight victories going into Thursday night's game.
Payton is 4-1 in openers — beating Tampa Bay (2008), Detroit (2009) and Minnesota (2010).
— Payton, who talked during his daily news conference on Monday about the storied history of the Packers, smiled when a reporter asked him if he'd ever met legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
"No," a grinning Payton said, "but I've met his grandson."
Joe Lombardi, a grandson of the late Packers coach, is beginning his third season as the Saints quarterbacks coach and his fifth season overall as a member of Payton's staff.
— Saints rookie running back Mark Ingram, who wore No. 22 when he won the Heisman Trophy at Alabama in 2009, tried to get veteran cornerback Tracy Porter to let him wear that number but eventually gave up.
Ingram said the only other options at the start of training camp were Nos. 28, 32 or 34. He chose No. 28 because the number is special to him as he and his father, Mark Sr., were both the 28th overall pick the year they were drafted. Mark Sr. wore No. 82 for most of his NFL career.
"It has a deeper meaning than that, so I'm happy with the number," the younger Ingram said. "And it has a meaning to me, so that's good."
— Because Tracy Porter missed the first half of training camp while rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee, second-year pro Patrick Robinson could start the game at right cornerback in his place.
Robinson, a first-round pick in 2010, had a strong camp and showed major improvement from his rookie season while playing corner and as the nickel back.
Porter, a four-year veteran, also saw action at both spots, so defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will have the luxury of mixing and matching them depending on the situation. Meanwhile, receiver Lance Moore (groin) was sidelined for the first three practices of the week and will be questionable at best for the Packers game. Robert Meachem would move into Moore's role when the Saints go to a three-wide receiver set, which they do a lot.
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