Top Five Things To Watch For In The Vikings – Saints Game

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Kicker Garrett Hartley #5 of the New Orleans Saints successfully kicks a 40-yard game-winning field goal in overtime from the hold of Mark Brunell #11 against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

NFC Championship: Hartley Kicks The Winning Field Goal That Beats The Vikings 31-28 To Send Them To Their First Ever Super Bowl (Source: Yardbarker.com)

 I understand a quarterback’s going to get hit, people are going to get hit. It’s football. I don’t have any illusions about that. What I hate to see are late hits or attempts to hurt anybody. I don’t think there’s a place for that in the game.

Vikings head coach Brad Childress just can get around the fact that this team lost to the Saints in the NFC Championship game last season because of an abundance of turnover’s stemming from mental errors on his players behalf.

 It’s easy to hind behind the physicalness of the game as the Saints employed a take no prisoners attitude in disrupting Brett Favre, simply put the Vikings offensive line had no answers for a relentless Saints pass rush.

Favre was hit more times than a safety cone at a driver’s class which most Vikings fans perceived as dirty play on behalf of the Saints defensive players.

However Favre was hit whilst holding the football and any Saints player will tell you they had no intentions to purposefully hurt Favre, they were just playing the kind of football expected from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

It’s what Gregg Williams does and always has done, he did it with the Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans, attack attack attack. That’s the mentality he has instilled in the Saints defense. It obviously paid off helping the Saints win their first ever Super Bowl Championship.

Now with the highly anticipated rematch between the two teams just hours away Williams has not shy-ed away from saying he intends to employ the same aggressive blitzing scheme on Favre this time around as last.

Let the controvery begin.

There is more to this game than just how the defense will go after Brett Favre, here are five things to watch for when the Vikings take the field to face the Saints.

1. Can the Viking offensive line protect Brett Favre better than they did in the NFC Championship game?

It’s clear that the Vikings offensive line did not play very well last season. The Saints exposed them in the championship game getting to Favre with ease. Guard Steven Hutchinson is still not one hundred percent healthy and center John Sullivan needs to step up his game significantly over his performance last season if they intend to keep Favre off the ground and running back Adrian Peterson churning out the yardage. A task more easily said than done against the relentless and exotic blitzing scheme put together by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

2. How often will the Saints exploit a depleted Vikings secondary throughout the game?

The Vikings are in bad shape in their secondary and if the Saints are smart, and they are, they will utilize Drew Brees and the receiving core to take full advantage of the under achieving unit. Corner Chris Cook was slated to be one of the starters heading into the 2010 season but was lost to injury and will be replaced by former Eagle Lito Shepard. The likelihood that Shepard will be beat like a drum over and over is rather high. Safeties? They have none but Tyrell Johnson has been replaced in the starting lineup with Husain Abdullah, which is not a problem for Brees and company. The Saints can beat them with the big play, just watch.

3. Can the Saints offensive line eliminate the Vikings defensive line and keep Brees upright?

New Orleans offensive line is the best in the league, no question. If there was one weak point you would have to point out it would be young left tackle Jermon Bushrod who is entering his second year as the full time starter after the team traded away pro bowler Jammal Brown to the Redskins. Bushrod filled in for Brown last season while he was recovering from several different surgeries playing more than adequately. He was not often beat and fared well against some of the leagues better pass rushers but none the less can give up the occasional sack. Vikings DE Jared Allen will be head hunting for Brees and it will be Bushrod’s job to stop him.

4. Will the Saints stick to their Super Bowl winning script and maintain that elusive run/pass offensive balance?

Mike Bell, the Saints third running back, was allowed to leave in free agency and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Good luck to ya Bell. Ever since then the Saints have sought a replacement power back for short yardage and goal line situations. Undrafted rookie Chris Ivory made the final 53 man roster after an impressive preseason and by all indications looks to be the future power runner moving forward. However Ivory was hurt in the Saints final preseason game and is questionable to play against the Vikings. That leaves former Packer DeShawn Wynn as the primary back behind Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. Can Bush, Thomas and Wynn make the Viking defensive line look silly? We certainly hope so.

5. Darren Sharper has been replaced by Malcolm Jenkins, can he play up to Sharper’s 2009 form?

One of the bigger story lines entering the 2010 season for the Saints is the loss of free safety Darren Sharper who was placed on the PUP list after undergoing off-season knee surgery. Sharper played what was perhaps his best season as a pro last year when he co-lead the NFL with nine interceptions, three of which he returned for scores. Jenkins will have to step in and try and replace that production after making the switch from corner to safety at the start of the preseason. So far his play at free safety has impressed the Saints coaching staff and they honestly feel that they are losing nothing switching from Sharper to Jenkins. Tonight marks his first official start as a safety — will he turn in the performance everyone epxects or struggle as he will surely be tested by the Vikings offense.

Check out these other Saints/Vikings related articles……

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Tags: Brad Childress Brett Favre Drew Brees Jermon Bushrod Malcolm Jenkins Minnesota Vikings New Orleans Saints