FLOWERY BRANCH — The Big Easy is not Falcons wide receiver Roddy White’s favorite city.
“I don’t like nothing about the Saints,” White said. “The colors. The city. Nothing. But they’ve got some good food, though. Other than the food, nothing.”
He’s tweeted about New Orleans negatively in the past and later apologized.
He also dislikes New Orleans in part because the Falcons are 2-5 on his visits to play the Saints, and he knows the team’s archrivals would love to knock off the undefeated Falcons (8-0) when they play at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“This would make their whole entire month of November if they can mess up our record,” White said. “We know that. You don’t have to get people up for this game in the locker room. We all know what this game is about. We all know that we have to go out there and get after it.”
The Falcons’ previous visit didn’t end so well. The Saints routed the Falcons 45-16 on Dec. 26 and left quarterback Drew Brees in the game in the fourth quarter so that he could surpass Dan Marino for the record for most yards passing in a single season.
“It wasn’t our intent to run the score up,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “It was our intent to get the record out of the way so that we could move on to new business, but I think (Falcons coach) Mike (Smith) knows (suspended Saints coach) Sean (Payton) well enough and Sean knows Mike well enough that that’s not what we are in the business of, embarrassing people and running scores up. That’s not what we do.”
But that’s what they did. They ran up the score and got the record.
Now, the Falcons are riding high and the Saints, who have had to endure a rough season in the wake of being found by the NFL to have an organized pay-for-play bounty system, are 3-5 with their playoff hopes on life support at the midway point of the season.
“The Saints are a team that we really want to beat,” running back Michael Turner said.
While the Falcons hold the overall regular-season lead in the series 45-40, the Saints have dominated the series lately. They’ve won the past three, six of the past seven and 10 of the past 12.
The Falcons most recently won both of the regular-season NFC South meetings in 2005.
“I don’t know if it’s a rivalry because they’ve beat us like the last three of four times,” White said. “You actually have to win for it to be a rivalry, and we have not done that the last few times. Hopefully, we can get down there and get us a ‘W’ this time.”
The battles have been close, last season’s blowout notwithstanding. Of the other seven games under Smith, two have gone to overtime and six have been decided by one score.
“They have won the division two out of the last three years,” White said. “We won it the other year. For the last couple of years, it’s been us and them down to the wire. I think that’s what it is and the dislike for each other.”
The Falcons like playing in the Superdome and are entertained by the Saints’ fans.
“At that stadium, it’s just that the people dress up in all kinds of costumes,” White said. “They come out there partying like it’s a club or something. That’s the other thing I like, their fans really get into the game.”
Turner has a memorable costume.
“I just remember the nuns coming out with the beads and stuff,” Turner said. “But I don’t think those were really nuns.”
The Saints lost their first four games, but seem to have found their way. They’ve won three of their past four and were impressive in a 28-13 win over the Eagles this week on “Monday Night Football.”
They blitzed Eagles quarterback Michael Vick relentlessly and sacked him seven times.
“It’s a whole different ballgame,” Vitt said when asked if they planned to blitz as much against the Falcons. “We had to close down the edges against Michael Vick. Really, Matt is more of a pocket-type passer.”
The Saints will take some chances, but Ryan has been spectacular against the blitz.
“He’s smart and he’s accurate,” Vitt said. “He’s really blossomed under (offensive coordinator) Dirk Koetter and this offense. He knows where he wants to go with the ball. … We’re not only going to have to have a good rush to disrupt his rhythm, but we’re going to have to have the best coverage that we’ve had all year long.”
The Falcons expect a stiff challenge. They’d like to go to 9-0 and open a six-game lead in the division over the Saints with seven games to play.
“You don’t want them to sneak in and have to deal with those guys later on,” White said. “If we can go down there and get us a win, we can kind of put them on the outside looking in.”
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