this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Who knows what evil lurks along the line of scrimmage? The Stinch knows. Indeed, if there is trash talk along the line, then veteran New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who will start his 65th consecutive game Thursday night ...
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|09-08-2010, 12:19 PM||#1|
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Who knows what evil lurks along the line of scrimmage?
The Stinch knows.
Indeed, if there is trash talk along the line, then veteran New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who will start his 65th consecutive game Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings at the Superdome, would know. The fact is, however, there's generally a lot less than fans might think.
With one notable exception.
"It's really pretty rare," he said. "Jared is one of the noisier guys we play."
That would be Jared Allen, Minnesota's dynamic defensive end.
Allen's 14 1/2 sacks last season were the second-most in the NFL, and he also became the only player other than Hall of Famer Reggie White to get more than 14 sacks in three consecutive seasons. And he isn't alone: Allen is simply the most glamorous member of a Vikings defense that led the league in 2009 with 48 sacks.
But Allen and the battle he and his cohorts will join with the Saints' offense aren't of particular significance because the Vikings have an elite pass rush. Rather, it's because of what the Saints' defensive line did to Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre last season.
In the NFC championship game last January at the Superdome, New Orleans' defenders repeatedly smashed Favre, hitting him high and low, just as he released the ball and even, in one case, well after he had handed it off.
That punishment sealed the Saints' defensive reputation, left Favre hobbled with an ankle injury that required offseason surgery and nearly ended his career. Within the Vikings' locker room and coaching offices, it triggered grumbling New Orleans delivered cheap shots that must be repaid.
That tone hasn't softened in Minnesota this week, with the notable exception of Favre, who described what he endured as "football." Coach Brad Childress has accused the Saints of flirting with dirty defensive play, and running back Adrian Peterson vowed Monday that vengeance is the Vikings' Ñ they shall repay.
All of which brings the circle to the Saints' offensive line. As Coach Sean Payton noted twice this week, Favre and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees are proven lethal: If they operate unabated, they are, at a minimum, going to make it difficult for a defense to leave the field, and ultimately, probably win.
Stinchcomb noted the irony embedded there, that the Saints' offensive line has to guard Brees even more because the other team's quarterback is so good. Calamity awaits teams that fall behind quarterbacks like Brees or Favre.
"In a game like that you can't get too far behind," Stinchcomb said. "If the quarterback on the other side is as dangerous as Brett Favre is, you don't want to play more than two touchdowns back, because your odds of being successful at the end of the day go down so much.
"So we understand that we need to manage the game, and if we can get a lead, that's so much better for us."
Similarly, the rule a team should never provide unearned support to a quality opponent will likely influence against any sort of blatant retaliation Thursday night, according to several Saints. Brees has laid out the equation: The Vikings won 13 games last season, and therefore are not stupid Ñ taking a cheap or savage shot at a quarterback draws fines and penalties that hurt your team and are therefore stupid Ñ the Vikings won't do such stupid things Thursday night.
At the same time, Brees said he is under no illusions that the Vikings don't want him to feel the pain long before Friday morning dawns. When the Vikings get a shot at Brees, he expects them to take it, as that represents another core principle of what, cue Favre "is football."
Stinchcomb and the other Saints offensive linemen brushed aside the notion they are under even more pressure to protect Brees given the tensions underneath.
"We always feel a certain amount of pressure because we don't like to see Drew hit," center Jonathan Goodwin said. "But there's no added pressure."
Said Stinchcomb: "No, no, no. We're professionals. We understand that each week there's a big onus on the fact we've got to keep Drew clean. He's the cornerstone of our whole organization. This week doesn't change a thing.
"Their front four does a great job of getting after the quarterback, and that's going to make our job somewhat tougher, but the description of what we do isn't different."
Although the Vikings might put special emphasis on Thursday night's game, the Saints' modus operandi this season is that every team they play will adopt the same approach.
"We understand we're going to be getting a team's best because we're the defending Super Bowl champions," Stinchcomb said. "That's every week. So our mind-set is we're going to give our best, so other teams have to prepare for the shot they're going to take from us, too."
Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, who did a superb job containing Allen in the NFC championship game, pointed to that very game as proof nothing untoward is likely. It's not as if the Vikings didn't see exactly what was unfolding during that game, and there's only one game that matters more than the conference championship. Given those facts, if the Vikings were going to do something stupid, they probably would have done it then, Bushrod said.
"But last game wasn't out of the ordinary, nothing crazy," he added. "Trash talking? I'm just going to go out there and fight, fight for everyone around me. Am I going out there worrying someone's going to say or do something? No, I'm just trying to get my job done."
That job performance isn't graded on sacks allowed, Saints linemen said. While sacks are a gaudy statistic, it's hits and pressures that most concern the wall in front of Brees. After all, the Saints did not sack Favre in the NFC championship, but no one in New Orleans' locker room doubts the punishment meted out to him as the game wore on made a difference.
Goodwin echoed Stinchcomb in saying the goal is keeping Brees "clean," and that is a line's real source of pride.
"The sack number is important, but the number that stands out the most is hits," Goodwin said. "Because at times, when the defensive line is hitting the quarterback, it can knock a quarterback off his game and cause some throws to be off-target and those are key. The sack is the number people hear about, but hits can do a lot of damage also."
That goal Ñ keeping Brees "clean" Ñ will not be easily met. Asked if the Vikings' lineup opposite him will have a giant chip in addition to pads on their shoulders, Saints guard Jahri Evans said they would.
"They might, I'm pretty sure they probably do," Evans said. "I'm pretty sure they feel like they've got to get to Drew and all that stuff, but we're going to go out there and play Saints football. That doesn't really matter much to us. We're not going to dwell on that other team. We know what our job is, and we're going to go out there and execute."