New Orleans Saints beat Minnesota Vikings by 14-9 score in NFL season opener

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 2010; 1:13 AM

NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Saints didn't pile up too many style points, but they did get their bid for a proper encore to last season's stirring Super Bowl title off to a victorious start.

Their defense held Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in check, and the Saints did just enough on offense to escape with a 14-9 win in the NFL's season-opening game Thursday night at the Superdome.

"Regardless of how you win, we're at a spot now where I think our players expect to win," Saints Coach Sean Payton said.

Quarterback Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Devery Henderson on the Saints' opening drive, and tailback Pierre Thomas ran for a third-quarter touchdown.

But that was about it on offense for the Saints. Brees completed 27 of 36 passes for 237 yards and didn't throw an interception. He completed passes to nine receivers. But the Saints sputtered on offense for long stretches and, after their early touchdown, were more workmanlike than explosive. Tailback Reggie Bush had a quiet night and place kicker Garrett Hartley, who beat the Vikings with an overtime field goal in last season's NFC championship game, missed a pair of field goal attempts.

"A win is a win," Brees said. "I felt like we won this game in a different way than we've won in the past. We showed a lot about our team, even if it wasn't always pretty."

Hartley's kicking misadventures kept the Vikings within striking distance, but Favre and the Minnesota offense couldn't produce enough to get a win. Favre threw a touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the final minute of the first half to give the Vikings a 9-7 lead at the intermission. But they were shut out in the second half.

"You can attribute it to whatever," Favre said. "People will call it rusty. It falls back on me. Those guys run the routes. I have to make the throws. I didn't make enough of them. I know we're better. Plays were there to be made."

Saints defensive end Will Smith said that Favre "looked a little uncomfortable in the pocket" Thursday.

"Last year we heard a lot about how they lost the [NFC title] game," Smith said. "We had to come out and make a statement about how we won the game last year, and we won the game tonight."

Favre connected on 15 of 27 passes for 171 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception. Tailback Adrian Peterson rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries. Place kicker Ryan Longwell provided a first-half field goal but had an extra point blocked.

Favre and the Vikings returned to the building where they lost the conference championship game after Favre threw a costly interception late in regulation. That game was a severe test of Favre's remarkable durability, as he was roughed up by repeated rugged hits by Saints defenders and emerged with an ankle injury aggravated to the point that he underwent offseason surgery.

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