Any time the Falcons and the Saints face off, you can bet on a good game. Factor in that the rival teams are kicking off the 2013 season that way, and it's sure to be a heated battle. Both teams spent this week are preparing for their matchup, but there's no better way to prepare than to hear what your opponent has to say.
Saints head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees spoke to the Atlanta media on Wednesday, and they both expressed the overall idea that the Falcons are a tough team to face.
Payton pointed out the Falcons' "outstanding" team speed along with how well they run the ball. Meanwhile, Brees praised how well coached the Falcons are along with their great team discipline.
Brees also commented on Falcons rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant, saying he's a tough force with great talent. Trufant is just one of the new faces they'll have to go against, but the same goes for the Falcons, as the Saints brought in several new players as well.
Bringing in new players is just one of the changes the Saints underwent this season, along with their revamped defense — they hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and changed to a 3-4 formation — and Payton being back to coach after a suspension last season.
Of being away from the Saints and the league altogether last year, Payton admitted it was frustrating and that coming into this season he knew that there were a lot of areas that needed improvement.
"We have a lot of things that we have to be better at than a year ago," he said. "There are a lot of things beginning in the spring that we've been working on trying to improve. That just gives you a chance to win. If we can't do that then we really don't have that opportunity like you'd like."
Despite the time away, Brees said that once Payton returned in the spring it felt like no time had passed and that the conversation went straight to football.
There were moments last season, however, when his absence was felt and Brees had to step up where Payton's leadership was missing, especially with some of the young guys. Still, regardless whether Payton is there or not, Brees always feels like a leader, especially when it comes to the offense.
"As far as my leadership ability and my approach from last year to this year, really its very much the same," Brees said. "When I'm on the field, that's my offense, that's my huddle. I'm in charge of those guys. Sean Payton's not out there, that's my job. I take the same approach regardless, from a leadership standpoint. If something needs to be said, I'll be there to say it."
Regarding Sunday's game, Payton commented that although it is a great rivalry, the fact that it's a division game makes it even more important. They also both noted that the outcome is frequently decided late in the fourth quarter, so every play counts.
"Every time we play these guys over the last 10 years, it's always been a battle and it's always come down to the wire," Brees said. "And that's just what we expect from these guys. They're a very good football team."