Hit on Drew Brees awakens sleeping-giant Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- The moral of the story is either "Don't make Drew Brees angry" or "Don't hand Drew Brees a free opportunity to put you away."

The Minnesota Vikings did both on Sunday when Captain Munnerlyn's unnecessary roughness penalty gave New Orleans' sagging offense new life late in the third quarter of the Saints' 20-9 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

On third-and-13 from the Saints' 32-yard-line, Munnerlyn upended Brees and slammed the quarterback shoulders-first into the turf on a sack, with an assist from safety Robert Blanton. Brees -- who referenced Munnerlyn's hit as a "straight Hulk Hogan 1985 Wrestlemania suplex" -- immediately got up shouting and shoving Blanton.

"Right when it happens, you're angry," Brees said. "So you show a little emotion, and it gets the guys revved up. And that after that, it's 'All right, fellas, we've gotta stick it to 'em.'"

The Vikings woke a sleeping giant -- in more ways than one.

Instead of punting for the fifth straight possession, the Saints went on to score a touchdown.

That touchdown helped the Saints (1-2) finally cement their first victory of the season.

"We really hit a cold spell there, and anything like that can light a spark," Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief said of the hit. "Certainly, if you want to fire this team up, that's the guy to go after."

Brees' initial response was fiery, to say the least. A few minutes later, his ultimate reply was an 18-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston, which capped a 12-play, 90-yard drive.

"More so than anything, you're angry that we'd had that kind of lull we had in the second, third quarters," Brees said. "You need to create some fire, you need to create momentum, stuff that guys can feed off of. And it comes in different forms."

Munnerlyn later claimed he didn't agree with the penalty. After all, he didn't launch at Brees' head or hit him late. But since it took so long for Munnerlyn to lift Brees and finish the tackle, it did look like a theatrical pro-wrestling takedown that is almost guaranteed to draw a flag.

That flag cost the Vikings a lot more than just 15 yards.

"We talk a lot about that: Something you can't do is give teams an open door. And it's on us to take advantage of it," said Strief, who was then asked if Brees is one of the best in the NFL at taking advantage of an open door.

"Drew's pretty good at pretty much everything," Strief said of his quarterback, who finished 27-of-35 for 293 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Saints' victory never should have required that assist from the Vikings. Brees sure looked like his future-Hall-of-Fame self while completing his first nine passes and leading New Orleans to touchdowns on its first two drives for an early 13-0 lead.

Then came the midgame slump. It might have been a good thing for the Saints, in a sense, to prove they could handle the adversity and close out a game the way they did -- given that's exactly where they went wrong in Weeks 1 and 2, when they lost leads in the final seconds.

Coach Sean Payton said the way the Saints finished was a positive for both the offense and a New Orleans defense that was downright dominant over the final 25 minutes.

"That's probably gonna serve us well as the year goes on," Strief said. "There was certainly a huge awareness at the end of that game of the situation and what we needed to do to close it out. I was proud of us for that."