American Football: Saints show few signs of super hangover

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The Independent Online

The New Orleans Saints opened their Super Bowl title defence with a 14-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings that epitomised head coach Sean Payton's "back to business" mantra.

To celebrate the team's first NFL triumph, the opening night was marked with a rock concert in the city's Jackson Square and television viewers were treated to lengthy build-up. However, despite all the razzmatazz, inside the Louisiana Superdome, it was all about getting that first win.

It was clear though that the Saints were not going to be overawed by their first game since their emotional victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Miami in February.

"Anytime you're in a game like that where there are festivities and everything beforehand, you have got to remain calm," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.

The occasion carried extra spice given that it was a win over the Vikings in New Orleans that clinched a berth in the Super Bowl and, while the game did not live up to high expectations, for Brees and company it was clearly "sweet to repeat".

"We talked about it all week long and obviously it was extremely exciting to prepare for a game like this," said Brees, who noted the improved display from a defence that struggled against the Vikings in last season's 31-28 overtime win. "Our defence took it personal. We gave up a lot of yards but we got some turnovers. Coming into this game we knew we would have to play better and obviously the defence played very, very well," he added.

Tight-end Jeremy Shockey added: "It's good but it's just one game. I know the fans have been waiting for this since Miami and I'm glad we got the win. The fans were great, they helped us out and made them jump offside a few times."

The only disappointed face in the Saints locker room belonged to kicker Garrett Hartley, whose overtime field goal sealed last season's Super Bowl triumph. This time he had a harder time of things, missing two field goals – mistakes which could well have proved costly.

"Things like that are inexcusable at this level," he lamented. "I just need to go back to my technique and understand what I did wrong. I need to come out next Monday night against the 49ers and put some points on the board."