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Given that the Atlanta Falcons entered the Superdome on Sunday with the league's best record and a five-game lead over the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints, it's understandable that the visitors would have come in brimming with confidence.
However, Atlanta hasn't had a whole lot of success against its chief division rival in recent years (2-10 coming into Sunday's game since 2006, the year Sean Payton took over as the Saints' coach), and some New Orleans players felt the visitors' swagger was unwarranted.
A few hours after the Saints (4-5) pulled out a 31-27 victory over the Falcons (8-1) with a pair of late defensive stands, veteran New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle displayed some bravado of his own, referring to his vanquished opponent as "our little brothers."
Shanle said the tension between the two teams began in pregame warm-ups, when several Falcons players began taunting ex-Atlanta linebacker Curtis Lofton, who joined the Saints as a free agent last March.
"They were talking [expletive] to our guy Curtis Lofton," Shanle told Y! Sports on Sunday night. "I couldn't even understand them. They were just walking all over our drills trying to mess with him. [Linebacker Jonathan] Vilma went and told their coach it was classless and they didn't even say anything. It set the tone for the day. It was classless and they got what they deserved."
Reeling from an offseason pay-for-injure scandal and Payton's season-long suspension, the Saints lost their first four games and seemed headed for a disastrous season. New Orleans has now won four of its last five games and, with a road victory against the Raiders next Sunday, could get back into the wild-card mix.
Either way, Shanle and his teammates were determined to send a message to the Falcons, who they'll face again at the Georgia Dome on Thursday, Nov. 29.
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"Everybody was ready to let Atlanta know we still own them despite how our year has gone," Shanle said. "It was awesome, man. They thought we were supposed to be scared of them. We're now 11-2 since we got here in '06 against them.
"They're like our little brothers. Deep down they know they can't mess with us even when we are having a down year."
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