Sean Payton is over it.
He’s past last year’s Super Bowl title. It’s not that the New Orleans Saints coach wants to forget about winning it all, but he’s moved on.
That was last year. Now his sole focus is on the 2010 season, specifically this week’s game against the 49ers.
“When we play Monday in San Francisco, we know that’s a team that is going to be ready to play after a tough loss opening weekend,” Payton said in a Thursday afternoon conference call with the Bay Area media. “It’s a group that when you look at the course of last year, and you look at all of the numbers, they have really reflected their head coach.”
Quarterback Drew Brees echoed Payton’s thoughts.
The Saints opened their season last Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings, so Brees has had that much more time to study the 49ers defense. He has watched a lot of film from last year, and he believes Sunday’s performance in Seattle was more of an aberration than the norm.
But it’s not just last year’s game film that showed what type of defense the 49ers truly have. Numbers don’t lie, so Brees looked at the fact that the 49ers ranked in the top 10 in points allowed, rushing defense, sacks and turnovers in 2009 as a sign that he needs to be fully prepared for Monday’s primetime match up.
“We know the type of team San Francisco is and has been, certainly at home,” the reigning Super Bowl MVP said in his conference call. “I know they are a much better team than what they showed last week.
“You look at their personnel and you say this is a really good team, a team that’s right on the cusp, a team that obviously has high expectations for this year. We know that we have our work cut out for us and we’re going to have to play our best game.”
And while Brees only has to concern himself with the 49ers defense, Payton has to prepare for all three phases of the game.
Having coached Frank Gore in the 2006 Pro Bowl, Payton knows his defense will have its hands full trying to stop the 5-foot-9, 217-pound running back. Payton is also concerned with 49ers tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, who he said create mismatches all over the field.
“When you partner two tight ends that can run like that with a real talented running back, often times your play-action pass is one that puts a linebacker in that in-between (area),” Payton said.
Both coach and quarterback were asked if there is a different feel to the Saints 2010 season, if they feel like the hunted instead of the hunters.
To sum up their answers in a word: no.
They said opponents started gearing up for them last season when they got off to such a hot start, so they’re used to it by now.
The Saints know they will get their opponent’s best shot every week, and they expect nothing less than that when they face the 49ers on Monday night.
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