Packers, Saints put aside NFL-generated adversity

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Talk about a grudge match.

The New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers have one thing in common going into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field: Members of

both teams feel they've recently been wronged by the NFL, and haven't been shy about speaking out.

The Saints (0-3) are struggling in the wake

of league-issued punishments for their bounty scandal in the offseason,

while

the Packers (1-2) still are seething about a blown call by the

NFL's replacement officials that cost them a game at Seattle

on Monday night. The regular officials are returning after

striking a deal with the league, but resentment remains for the

Packers.

"I'm for any kind of emotion as long as it's channeled properly," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So, if you want to talk

about chips on your shoulder, whatever. The only emotion I don't care about is self-pity. We're not the victim. Nothing is

guaranteed to you. The game of football is not perfect."

Venting about those issues and using them as

motivation is one thing. Using them as an excuse is another, and both

teams have

problems that go beyond any resentment they might harbor toward

the league. Saints quarterback Drew Brees acknowledges that

teams must balance using external slights as motivation with the

idea of simply moving on.

"When something happens that you really feel

like is out of your control, it's hard not to want to get angry," Brees

said.

"And you drive yourself nuts doing that. But in the end, you

really just need to be able to compartmentalize it and truly

just worry about the things you can control. For us, despite

what's happened this offseason and the circumstances that we've

been put under, all we can worry about is the guys that we do have

in the locker room, as coaches and players, the scheme

that we're running, trusting in, trusting in our preparation, and

then going out there and finding a way to go win games."

That hasn't happened yet.

The Saints are winless, struggling in

transition to a new scheme on defense and out of synch on offense. It's

not clear how

much of that can be traced to an offseason filled with turmoil, or

suspensions issued to coach Sean Payton, general manager

Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach and linebackers coach Joe

Vitt.

That's a huge loss of leadership, but interim coach Aaron Kromer said the Saints are trying not to focus on those challenges.

"We've ignored them," Kromer said. "We've

done the best job we can of keeping the main thing the main thing, and

so we don't

talk about our challenges. We just keep moving on and talk about

what we need to do to win a football game and be better individually

and as a team.

On defense, the Saints have largely left their blitz-happy ways behind during a transition to new defensive coordinator Steve

Spagnuolo. Through three games, they're giving up an eye-popping 215 yards rushing per game, most in the league.

And the Saints' offense hasn't lived up to expectations from last season, getting inconsistent play from their receivers.

Still, Brees has a touchdown pass in 46 straight regular season games and could tie Johnny Unitas' record of 47 on Sunday.

Saints guard Jahri Evans acknowledges that both teams' resentment toward the league makes for an interesting storyline.

"If you look at it from that standpoint,

yeah," Evans said. "I think it's going to be a very interesting game

this week and

we're going to see two dominant teams playing like they're used to

playing and it's going to be fun. I think that we're going

to be in the mode like, 'Hey, we need to get a win.' And those

guys are going to be in the mode like, 'Hey, we just got robbed

last week.' But hopefully they're upset and it (negatively)

affects the way they play."

The Packers are playing better on defense

than they did last year — they are allowing an NFL-best 125.3 yards

passing per

game and are tied for second in the league with 12 sacks through

three games — but are trying to figure out why their typically

high-octane offense also has been sputtering.

Green Bay has only four offensive touchdowns all season, and the Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times on Monday.

"We've got to find our identity a little, quickly here this week, and start to get back to the way we're used to playing,"

Rodgers said.

McCarthy would rather have his team focus on its own issues than Monday's refereeing debacle.

"Our experience the last couple of days has

been different, unique," McCarthy said. "You can't deny that or throw it

off to

the side. I think it would be foolish. As far as my comments and

my direction with the team it's the same as it always is.

They know exactly how I feel about everything that has happened

and everything about the path forward that we're taking. So,

I feel like we're all on the same page and we're worried about one

thing and that's New Orleans."

Brees doesn't expect the Packers to be distracted.

"I hope so, but no," Brees said. "I doubt it. They're a great organization. They're extremely well-coached. They're used to

success so they know how to handle tough situations. I'm sure that's been talked about and addressed just like we're doing

it in our own way here underneath the circumstances that we're in."