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Senior NFL Columnist

Monday Musings: Falcons still remember Drew Brees insult

-- Less than a year ago, the Atlanta Falcons went to the Superdome and were blown out by the New Orleans Saints. In that game, the Saints put quarterback Drew Brees back in the game to allow him to break the single-season record for passing yards, even though he had one more home game the next week to do it. That angered Falcons players and coaches. They remember. As I made my way through the locker room on Sunday night after the Falcons beat the Cowboys, I asked players about it. They say it will be brought up this week for sure. They also remember when the Saints danced on their logo two years ago at the Georgia Dome after beating them in a key Monday night game. "All of that stuff is right here," one player said, pointing to his head. The Saints are down, but this is still a hot rivalry. The Falcons' ultimate insult would be to win the Super Bowl on the Saints' field.

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-- I don't believe Sean Payton will leave the Saints. Why? That's his team. He is the one who built it into a contender. So even if he can get out of his deal, which is still a big if, I don't think he leaves to go to Dallas. There is something to be said of a team being yours. The Saints are his team. He and Drew Brees work together. The Cowboys job is enticing, and Payton's ex-wife and kids now live there, but I think in the end Payton will go back to what he knows, his team. The other thing is, in New Orleans, he doesn't have Jerry Jones butting in when it comes to decisions. Payton works well with Mickey Loomis. The Cowboys might be America's Team, but the Saints are Payton's team. That matters. I think it will when it comes to any potential decision. Then again, Bill Parcells jumped from team to team for the money. Who did Payton learn his coaching lessons from the most?

-- The Falcons were impressed with the Cowboys during Sunday night's tough game. "That's not a 3-5 team," one player said. In other words, how are they?

-- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin owes his defensive players some time off. They bailed him out against the Giants. The Steelers had a fourth-and-1 inside the Giants' 5 trailing by three in the fourth quarter. Instead of taking the points or going for it with his offense, Tomlin called for a fake field goal that was stuffed. But his defense forced a three-and-out, and his offense went down and scored the game-winning touchdown. Tomlin even admitted after the game that his defense bailed him out. That was a strange call. Kick the field goal and tie the score, or run the ball behind your powerful interior line.

-- Andrew Luck is special. The kid throws for 433 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions to lift the Colts past the Dolphins. It's tough to run on Miami, so the Colts beat them through the air. Luck has a nice veteran target in Reggie Wayne, but he's also getting a lot out of rookie T.Y. Hilton, a tiny speedster from Florida International University. It helps that Luck puts the ball where it needs to be. The Colts will be a contender for a long, long time. This is Peyton Manning II.

-- Bengals right tackle Andre Smith was abused by Von Miller on Sunday. Smith has made progress as a player but had a major regress against the Broncos. Miller had three tackles for loss -- three sacks -- against Cincinnati. He was impressive.

-- Speaking of the Denver defense, I love corner Chris Harris. He is normally the nickel corner, but he is starting with Tracy Porter out with issues related to seizures. Harris is playing a nice version of corner opposite Champ Bailey. It must be nice to have good cover players and good pass rushers.

-- Does any team in the league do a better job at getting a defense to go one way and then throwing back to the other way than the Texans? They did it on their opening score on Sunday against the Bills, when Matt Schaub hit Owen Daniels for a touchdown.

-- Wow. Wow. Wow. Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin was sensational against the Raiders, rushing for 251 and four scores. Martin had touchdown runs of 70, 67, 45 and one yard in the victory. His ability to run the ball has really helped Josh Freeman and that passing game. The Bucs are making big strides. They will not be an easy out for any team. But watch out in 2013. They are building something special there.

-- Aaron Rodgers now has 25 touchdown passes. Still think he's in a slump?

-- Bucs rookie linebacker Lavonte David had 16 tackles against the Raiders. He might be the best rookie defensive player in the league.

-- Jack Del Rio is doing a nice job with his defense in Denver. It helps that he has two speed rushers in Miller and Elvis Dumervil and his team is playing with the lead, but he is doing a good job. Having a nice group of cover corners helps as well.

-- The Broncos have outscored their opponents by 80 points in the fourth quarter. That's impressive.

-- The Robert Griffin III vs. Cam Newton game didn't produce the fireworks that we expected. Both were solid -- not special. But neither turned the ball over, which is key for young quarterbacks.

-- Packers receiver Randall Cobb had two touchdown catches against the Cardinals and is getting better by the week. When the Packers get Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings healthy, they will be even more explosive in the passing game. Just what the league needs, right?

-- Do the Bears even need to do anything on offense with all the defensive and special-teams scores they are getting? One thing about them: When they get a team down, they go for the throat. That is a good sign.

-- Bears corner Charles Tillman forced four fumbles. Do you know how hard that is for a corner? He is having a great season.

-- So Andre Johnson can still get 100 yards in a game? He had 111 against the Bills this week. That's a good sign for the Texans moving forward. Some scouts say he's slowing down, but the second half will tell.

-- Did Christian Ponder really throw for 63 yards? Has he been figured out?

-- People say I can't admit I am wrong. Well, here goes: Marshawn Lynch is a much better runner this season than I expected. Guy is running hard.

 
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