Six days after watching Marshall Faulk run through them and around them for 220 yards in a 26-21 St. Louis victory, the New Orleans Saints limited the NFL’s most valuable player to 24 yards on 14 carries Saturday, with no gain longer than four yards.
“I think the defensive mind-set was that all we had to do was to stop Marshall,” New Orleans Coach Jim Haslett said after his team’s 31-28 wild-card victory. “That was the No. 1 thing [because wide receiver] Isaac [Bruce] really hasn’t hurt us all season.”
Saint defensive tackle La’Roi Glover put the mission more succinctly: “We had to get to No. 28 and take him out of the game.”
Ram Coach Mike Martz said the Saints’ defense “played the running game on the edge much better than they did the first time. We just weren’t able to get the ball outside as easily as before. Once we got away from that, we [had to start] throwing the ball.”
Ram defensive tackle D’Marco Farr, on Az-Zahir Hakim’s muffed punt late in the fourth quarter: “He has made so many big plays for us. We’re not going to condemn him on one play. He did his best. And [the Saints] made the play.”
Ram cornerback Dexter McCleon said the damage was done long before Hakim’s gaffe.
“He didn’t lose the game for us,” McCleon said. “We shouldn’t have been in that situation. We gave [the Saints] a couple plays earlier in the game that gave them confidence. We should have won this one early.”
Most inspirational: Saint defensive tackle Norman Hand had the right words for the occasion as he addressed his teammates before the game.
“I told them I wasn’t ready to go home to South Carolina,” Hand said. “I told the fellas, ‘I’m going to Minnesota, with or without you.’ ”