NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The Vikings score a lot. The Saints score even more.
Should be a fun NFC championship game in the Superdome on Sunday night for offense-minded players and fans. Not so much for defenders trying to catch Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Reggie Bush and Marques Colston.
New Orleans (14-3) went for 510 points this season, 40 more than runner-up Minnesota (13-4) in the scoring derby. The Saints got 45 in routing Arizona last week, and the Vikings scored 34 in romping past Dallas.
Taking your eyes off the field might be a huge mistake.
“Obviously they are going to do some things and they are going to do it well,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said of the Saints. “They are not the highest scoring offense for no reason. They are going to come out and put some points up. They are going to move the ball and we just have to bend, but not break.
“That’s what we did against Dallas. We gave them some things early on and we were just able to get off the field at the right time. If we can do that we will give ourselves a chance. It is easier said than done.”
Not that either side is planning for a track meet, although both teams have game-breaking potential on every play.
“I saw some statistics and our game last week would be an example,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “A couple of statistics that always end up lying if you go back through this thing are penalties and time of possession. They just don’t tell the whole story.
“So, to hang on to those two, would you like to be able to possess the ball? You would, and score at the end. Do you want to get in a shootout. That’s never your intention, no?”
But it’s hardly a bad alternative when you have Brett Favre and Drew Brees chucking the ball. Or Peterson and Bush toting it. Or Rice, Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin – depending on his recovery from migraines – Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem catching it.
In the divisional round, the Vikings and Saints combined for seven touchdown passes, 481 yards through the air, 280 yards rushing, an 83-yard punt return (by Bush) and two lopsided victories.
To think the NFC title matchup will be a defensive stalemate is heresy.
“We definitely want to start fast and we want to put points up on the board,” Saints All-Pro guard Jahri Evans said, “but you definitely don’t want to be in a shootout. You want to be successful and get the job done early and just sustain it throughout the game. We have weapons and we know they have weapons, too.”
Such as the 40-year-old Favre playing like he’s in his prime. And Rice, who caught three touchdown passes against the Cowboys. And Harvin, a threat on kick returns as well as from scrimmage. And Peterson …
“He’s the top guy, if you ask me,” said Saints safety Darren Sharper of Peterson. Both were All-Pros this season, one year after Sharper was Peterson’s teammate in Minnesota. “The best running back in the league because of all the things he can do. Whatever you want a running back to be – you want a running back to have size, you want him to have speed, elusiveness, toughness – he has all those attributes.”
Guess what. The Saints have someone similar in Bush now that he’s fully recovered from knee surgery that slowed him during portions of the regular season. Bush was a Cardinals-killer last week. He could be a Vikings conqueror on Sunday.
“He’s a matchup problem, obviously,” Greenway said. “He’s a guy that can run good routes, but yet you can put him in a situation out of the backfield and he can run the ball, too. He runs draws well, screens well. He’ll be a challenge, no doubt about it. …
“We saw Reggie last year in the same scenario. He’s tough … he’s rolling now; they want to give him the ball and get him going.”
Both sides want to get going quickly or risk falling too far behind. True, both offenses are skilled enough to rally from significant deficits. But a team can’t come back when the other side doesn’t stop reaching the end zone.