— So the 2010 season is finally underway.
I returned from the game around 1AM after filing a story on Brett Favre and the Vikings' offense not-ready-for-primetime performance. But there was a lot more to discuss, so I wrote up ten final thoughts before passing out like the dude in the Favre jersey I walked past near my hotel. After making sure they still made sense in the light of day, here goes:
1. New Orleans threw off the Vikings with their decision to play three down lineman and drop eight into coverage often, especially in the first half.
"This was set up as a big blitz game, and the blitz was very, very very infrequent," Brad Childress said.
Bernard Berrian: "The looks that they gave us, we couldn't adjust." He said they saw "way" more cover two looks than expected.
2. The Vikings had 65 total yards of offense in the second half on five drives. Two first downs.
3. The Vikings all talked after the game how Favre had great protection. Really? Alex Brown, Sedrick Ellis, and Will Smith all hurried throws even with the Saints dropping eight defenders on many plays. Maybe you guys watching the TV feed has a better feeling here.
Even if Favre had great protection, he often hurried throws before the pressure got there. Especially after safety Roman Harper's hit to Favre's midsection on his interception. The ghosts of Gregg Williams blitzes past.
4. How long of a leash does a Super Bowl hero have? Saints kicker Garrett Hartley has earned some patience, but he probably has less than you think after missing two field goals on Thursday.
This isn't a seven-year veteran. It's a "fat, punk kicker" that has faced questions before about his attitude. Kris Brown and Shayne Graham are out there. It's something to keep an eye on if the misses continue.
5. The Saints have serious flaws on defense, but the secondary can be one of the league's best. The play of cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter will free up coordinator Gregg Williams to be creative. Malcom Jenkins looked like he belonged at free safety. Roman Harper had a great game.
6. The Saints' offense made too many mistakes, but there was some reason for optimism. Drew Brees connected with eight different receivers in the first quarter. Having Lance Moore healthy gives this team another weapon. They are so tough to defend.
7. It was a strong offensive line performance for the Saints. Carl Nicks, Jonathan Goodwin, and Jahri Evans paved the way for New Orleans' touchdown drive to open the second half. Jermon Bushrod kept Jared Allen quiet, with a lot of help from chipping Saints. (I used my binoculars to watch this matchup most of the game.)
8. After all the pregame concern, the Vikings secondary held up pretty well. Drew Brees couldn't find open receivers even when he had time for stretches of the game. The Saints only scored twice on 11 drives, including four three-and-outs. (Although the clock-killing drive to end the game was better than a score.)
9. I wrote at length about Favre's struggles, but he made a handful of fantastic individual plays in the first half. His passes up the seam to Visanthe Shiancoe on the touchdown drive were beauties, but his third-and-11 throw to Shiancoe with pressure in his face early in the quarter helped settle the game down.
The Vikings were at risk of being blown out, and the Vikings wound up going on a long field goal drive to cut the score to 7-3.
10. The Vikings did not hang their heads in the locker room after the game. They were very confident in their ability to bounce back and really seemed to keep the loss in perspective.
11. The Saints crowd had a blast, but didn't seem to know what to make of such a defensive struggle. They are used to style points. The Saints won many different type of games last year as well, but nothing quite like this. This was the lowest the Saints have scored in a win in the Sean Payton era. It was a quick reminder that we're in a whole new year. It bodes well for New Orleans they could win this type of game.