|Saints destroy Cardinals 45-14 in NFL Divisional Playoffs
The Saints, scoring about every way they can, ran over the Arizona Cardinals 45-14 on Saturday before
69,623 raucous fans (only 526 Arizona fans were in the rollicking Superdome) and advanced to the
NFC Championship Game on Sunday at home
There were plenty of stars during the Saints' three-hour jubilation of touchdowns, but Reggie Bush
who ran for a 46-yard touchdown run, then added 83-yard punt return for an\other touchdown. Bush
was spectacular all afternoon with 5 rushed for 84 yards and 4 caches for 24 yards and 3 punt returns
for 109 yards, a combined 217 yards. The crowd chanted"Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!. It was his best
game as four seasons with the Saints. He has shown glimpses of greatness with the Saints, but not
enough for money the Saints are paying him.He will count $13 million against the salary cap next
"So much for being rusty," said Saints coach Sean Payton is his postgame discussion, "I'm pleased
with the way they played. I thought in all three phases that we a good job. That's a good team we
played. I'm just really proud of our team. I'm excited for our city. We've got a home game again."
" Bush said he's healthier that he's been in two years/ If Bush remains healthy and his gamebreaking
exploits continue in the next game or two, the Saints to do the unimaginable and win a Super Bowl.
"My injury was pretty extensive," said Bush. I don't know if people understood how extensive. He has
microfracture knee surgery last January. "Usually. it takes about a year to heal and it has been a while
since I felt this rested and this good. Coach Payton knows I have been nursing this injury,and our plan
was to get me ready for postseason. From there on, he would allow me to make big plays."
|Quoting the Saints and Vikings:
Sean Payton, on the game: "It's hard to talk about the significance of that group of guys in the locker
room and the significance of this win. I'm proud of them, I'm proud of our fans.I'm proud of the hard
work it took to get us to this spot. It's a pretty special feeling.
(on fourth down call in OT) :"I'm trying to think if that call, did we go for it? We weren't close enough for a
field goal. We called everyone over and said, 'hey, look we've come this far.' Pierre Thomas ran behind
those two guys and did a great job of getting the yard and a half we needed,"
(on the takeaways :I know this, we came up with the turnover margin pretty significantly, I think
five-to-one, so credit Minnesota at five-to-one and we win by a field goal. That's unusual.
(on Pierre Thomas) :He played hard. He battled.\, The screen play early in the game to answer their
touchdown was significant when they went up 7-0. It was kind of like last week. He made a bunch of
big plays. He's been a big part of what we've done so I'm happy with the way he played."
(on playing the Colts and Peyton Manning) "He's a special player. We had a chance to watch some of
his game today. The four best teams played today, and the first half of that game, we saw two AFC
teams playing their hearts out. It's a credit to Indianapolis and Peyton. It's been a while since the No. 1
seeds met and we are excited to be in this game and look forward to it,"
Vikings coach Brad Childress: "They fought themselves back into it. When you play a team of this
stature and turn the ball over five times it makes it hard. To be able get it back to where where we got it
back is a testament to these guys,
(on Brett Favre) "It was a gutty performance. He grinded it out, He did a nice job of competing. He
would be the first to tell you that he washes he had a couple of those throws back."
Cornerback Jabari Greer, on how it feels going to the Super Bowl: :We've put a lot of hard work since
the beginning of the season. It has been our goal and to see it unfold is happiness. It's really gratify
ting with all the hard work that we have put in."
Cornerback Tracy Porter, on causing the fumble:" These guys have a habit of fighting for extra yards
when they catch the ball. The ball is going to be out there. I knew he was going to try to break the tackle
and I just punched it out."
Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, on how far he has come in a year: "This is a story that people need
to hear. You just put it together one day at a time. A year ago I was sitting and praying that someone
would give me an opportunity. Now, I'm sitting here an NFC champion. I have a journal at home and I
am going to look at today's date a year ago and see where I was. I don't really know what to say right
now. It's fairytale. I don't want to wake up. I have one more game to go though."
Wide receiver Every Henderson, on his TD catch: "I have the option to run that route if he gets into
trouble. We practice it all of the time. Brees tells me to stay alive. It came open and I saw it, I broke the
route out." On what it means to be in the Super Bowl: "It feels great and its' a blessing We've worked
for it. We put together a good team. We stuck together and got there,"
Tackle Jon Stinchcomb, on how far the Saints have come since Katrina: "We really hit rock bottom that
year. This whole city went through a lot. It has been a long road. We all came together as a city and a
team. heading to Miami shows how far we've come."
Defensive end Will Smith, on pressuring Favre: "We got to hit him a lot. We thought that if we hit him a
lot that he would start making mistakes. A couple of balls that he threw should have been intercepted,
but we dropped them. We just wanted to keep coming after him and keep hitting him. We tried to make
feel uncomfortable as possible He got hurt and wasn't able to move like he did in the first half"
|Preparing for the game-winning kick
What were Payton's instructions to Hartley as he sent him in to kick? "I just old him there's a little fleur
de lis up there right between both uprights, and I said why don't see if you can hit this fleur de lis dead
center. We belong. You are here for a reason and you are going to hit it through, He has been real
consistent for us and it was a big kick."
Reggie Bush muffed a punt that the Vikings recovered. "I knew their punter was going to hit it deep and
there wasn't going to be too many balls that we're going to be returned. I felt like on that punt when I
saw him hit it I thought he shortchanged it and I guess one of their guys down the field fast enough
disrupt me catching the ball and once I caught it I thought I saw room and had space to make a move,
but I didn't. It was such a gut-wrenching feeling when it happens. I don't care what game you're playing
in even if its preseason. It's still a gut-wrenching feeling."
Bush isn't just running for next year's contract in the playoffs, he's also trying to pocket some extra cash
for this season. He will make $1 million more in bonus money if the Saints win the Super Bowl
($500,000 each for the NFC title game and Super Bowl).Bush already pocketed $300,000 for the win
New Orleans now is throwing a two-week party all on behalf of their beloved Saints going to their first
Super bowl in the 43-year history of the franchise. Mardi Gras might be a bit of a letdown this year.
This victory was for the fans, hardened by years of aggravation and frustrations and desperation,
cautiously embracing optimism during your life as a fan.
This is for you,who used to freeze in the winter ans sweat in the preseason at old Tulane Stadium
when you kept believing you would see a day like Sunday, even in the eras when believing that way
was hazardous to your health.
This is for Deuce McAllister, retired all-time team rusher, always a beacon of excellence, and for Billy
Kilmer, Bobby Hebert, Archie Manning and Doug Atkins.
This is for all the awful days and brutal nights that seemed to overrun the time since then. the Hail
Marys that beat us, the missed field goals, the poor coaching decisions, and the threat of Tom
Benson moving the francise to San Antonio.
This is for you. Enjoy the hell out of it, No matter what.
|Emotions of NFC Championship Win
Who Dats were laughing through tears, staring at a confetti blizzard on Sunday night in the Superdome
after the Saints held off the Vikings 31-28 in overtime in the NFC championship game to advance to
the Super Bowl 44 on Feb. 7.
"It's unbelievable," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees of the victory that advances the Saints to the
NFL's biggest show against the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans native Peyton
Manning. The Colts are 3 1/2-point favorites because of Manning.
"You can draw so many parallels between our team and our city. But, in reality, we probably lean on
each other, in order to survive and in order to get where we are now'
"The city is on its way to recovery, and in a lot of ways, it's come back better than ever. But as a team
we've used the strength and the resiliency of our fans. It feels so good to that we've given our fans a
championship. An NFC championship, but we've got another championship for them that we're going
after in two weeks."
"This win is for everybody in the city," said Saints coach Sean Payton, the first Saints coach to pull off a
renaissance. "This stadium used to have holes in it and used to be wet/ It's not wet anymore. This is
for the city of New Orleans."
Never mind that the Vikings out-gained the Saints 475-257 and had 16 more first downs.That the
Vikings were loose with the football, fumbling it away three times while gnarled old Brett Favre threw
two interceptions. This wasn't an aesthetic conquest, not when Brees struggled to throw down field,
but the defense kept making big plays, putting Brees in position to win in overtime.
Garrett Hartley's 40-yard field goal to decide the issue. He had a premonition the night before.
"I couldn't sleep and I called my dad at 2"30 in the morning," said Hartley, who missed the Saints' first
four games because of suspension by the NFL for using a banned substance, "I told him, 'Dad, I think
I'm gonna kick the game-winner, 42-yards by right hash mark. .'The first thing he said was, 'You should
be sleeping.' Then he said that I know what to do, I've been doing it my whole life."
Almost five minutes into the overtime, there was a ball spotted on the right hash mark, 40yards from
the uprights. "That was an amazing feeling, a very surreal thing, two yards away," said the kicker. "I've
never believed in stuff like that."
|Key plays in win Saints-Vikings Game
> Vikings take 7-0 lead on a 19-yard run by Adrian Peterson.
> The Saints tied it up at 7 when Pierre Thomas took a screen pass from Drew Brees 38 yards for a
> Brett Favre threw a 5-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead.
> Brees threw a 9-yard TD pass to Devery Henderson to even it at 14.
> Thomas ran in a 9-yard TD to give the Saints their first lead at 21-14.
> Peterson evened the score at 21 on a 1-yard run.
>Brees hit Reggie Bush on a 5-yard TD pass to make the Saints lead 28-21.
>Peterson scored from 1-yard to make to tie it at 28.