New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV: Who Dat Dirty Defense?

Zach BergerCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Sedrick Ellis #98 of the New Orleans Saints looks on against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Saints registered zero sacks against the Vikings two weeks ago, but Brett Favre looked like he was hit by a train when the post-game interviews came around. That was because he spent the vast majority of the game on his back.

Gregg Williams can take the credit for that. His extremely aggressive schemes have haunted quarterbacks for over a decade, dating back to his first defensive coordinator position with the Titans in the late '90s.

With the Saints this year, Williams has ensured that the opposing quarterback feels the wrath of his defense. Nobody knows this better than Brett Favre.

Favre spent a good part of the NFC Championship matchup on the ground. This is usually a sign that the defense is simply getting good pressure, but that isn't the case when the defense can't even record a sack.

The Saints defense and Gregg Williams have been accused of "playing dirty." Everyone knows that the officials tend to let a little more than usual slide during postseason play, and the Saints have done all they can to take advantage of this.

Are these hits just or unjust? Should they be roughing the passer penalties, or are extremely aggressive defensive tactics fair game?

There is no cut-and-dry answer to these questions, but I'll try and make it easier for you to form an opinion.

The Saints clearly have no problem with getting a few penalties called on them as long as the message gets across. Williams blatantly stated that he'd be happy to take a few penalties as long as Peyton doesn't "get back up and play again."

"Dirty" defines the Saints defense. They are just as frightening to face as Rex Ryan's defense, but they achieve that fear in a different manner. Instead of attempting to shut down both the pass and rush game, they try to rattle the quarterback to throw him out of rhythm. But is it possible to rattle someone as good as Peyton Manning?

Peyton seems to be unfazed by anything. I often refer to him as one of the best offensive coordinators in the league because unlike most coordinators, he is able to see the defense from an on-field perspective and change the play call.

Just over a week ago, the Jets got to Peyton twice in the first quarter. There is a notion out there that the Jets defense racks up the sacks, but that isn't actually close to being true. They were a mediocre team in terms of hitting the QB, but  you can't question the fact that they were able to get enormous pressure.

Yet somehow the early sacks didn't get to Peyton for too long. After falling behind 17-6 late in the second quarter, Peyton seemed to figure out how to beat the Jets defense and connected on three straight passes to Austin Collie, cutting the lead to four with ease.

These Saints may play dirty. They may play unfair. They may hit the quarterback after the whistle. But even that might not be able to unnerve Peyton the Great.

When Super Bowl XLIV begins this coming Sunday, the chess game between Peyton and the Saints defense will begin. It is only a matter of time before Peyton figures out how to checkmate them. The only question is: how many points will the Saints be ahead when that time comes around?