There are many potential storylines on which to focus from the Vikings' heart-breaking loss to the Saints in the NFC title game as the teams get set for a rematch to open the season on Thursday night at the Superdome.
In its 31-28 overtime defeat to the eventual Super Bowl champions, Minnesota accumulated 475 yards of total offense. This included 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson.
The only issue was that Peterson fumbled twice, and could have been charged with a third that resulted in a key turnover late in the first half, as the Vikings finished with three lost fumbles and two interceptions.
Then there was the 12-men in the huddle penalty late in the fourth quarter as the Vikings were driving with hopes of taking the lead. That led to Brett Favre's ill-timed pass into the middle of the field which was picked off by Saints cornerback Tracy Porter.
All of this, however, seems to have been overshadowed by the beating that Favre took at the hands of a Saints defense that is led by coordinator Gregg Williams.
It became evident rather quickly that if the 40-year-old Favre was going to remain on the field that day he was going to pay the price. New Orleans was assessed two 15-yard penalties for hits on Favre and defensive linemen Bobby McCray ($20,000) and Anthony Hargrove ($5,000) were both fined by the NFL.
A high-low hit on Favre in the third quarter left him with a damaged ankle and resulted in an interception. Only later did it result in an NFL executive admitting a penalty should have wiped out the pick.
Vikings coach Brad Childress has said on more than one occasion of late that he didn't like the Saints approach. "What I hate to see are late hits or attempts to hurt anybody," Childress said. "I don't think there's a place for that in the game."
Williams isn't expected to change his strategy this time around, although officials undoubtedly will be looking for any late hits this time. What's interesting is that while Favre was, and will be again, the target of Williams' blitzes, he isn't bothered by what happened.
"I've heard that," Favre said when asked if he felt he was mistreated. "Going home (to Mississippi), everyone was like, ‘I thought that was this and that.' Had it been us doing that to Drew (Brees), we wouldn't probably feel that way.
"They would be getting those questions. It's football. If you're able to get the opposing quarterback out. ... Are there cheap hits that happen occasionally? In every game. The ones on the quarterback are more obvious. To answer your question, no, I didn't feel that way."
Favre is being smart in that, if nothing else, he isn't allowing himself to be caught up in the drama of what happened last January. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen seems to be on the same page when it comes to how the Vikings defense will approach Brees.
"We were hitting him last year, we were making him move last year," Allen said when asked about getting potential payback. "We were doing it a little more on the legal side so to speak. It's obviously the last game we played and it's the first game we're playing this year. Is there going to be some of that bad blood spillover? Most likely.
"But if you get caught up in worrying about that you're going to lose the game. The ultimate goal is to win the game. So whatever it is that we have to do, we've got to do. We have a punishment mindset on this defense. Whoever has the ball we're trying to punish them. That never changes for us but I'm not going to get caught up in like the high school drama. A kid from another school comes to a new school and you try to beat him up."
SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 18-7, and have won the past four regular-season meetings. The NFL scheduled this as its Thursday night opener after the Saints edged the Vikings, 31-28, in overtime of the NFC title game last season. New Orleans went on to beat Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.
Gregg Williams has his own wall
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