MIAMI — Scott Fujita, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, understands what his team is up against in Super Bowl XLIV tonight.
In no particular order, it's the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning, history, the oddsmakers, Peyton Manning, pro football's winningest team and, finally, Peyton Manning.
The Saints (15-3) are playing in the first Super Bowl in the franchise's 43-year history, and the Colts (16-2) are trying to win their second NFL championship in four years. Manning guided the Colts to a 29-17 over the NFC champion Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
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And now they're back, in the same stadium, where they'll play the Saints in the world's most watched sporting event.
"Our defense has been disrespected in the past," Fujita said. "I think Indianapolis' defense has been disrespected. But don't get it twisted. Our defense's success has a direct relationship with our success.
"We have a great locker room. No knuckleheads. No cancers. We have a great chemistry. I have a lot of confidence in this team."
Manning, the Colts' leader, is a second-generation NFL quarterback and perhaps the most prolific passer in NFL history. His father, Archie Manning, took one beating after another during his 12 seasons with the Saints from 1971-82. They didn't even keep sacks as a statistic for the bulk of the elder Manning's playing days, but opponents generally brought the heat.
And that's what Gregg Williams, the Saints' first-year defensive coordinator, plans to do tonight at Sun Life Stadium.
It's perhaps the biggest reason the Saints doubled their playoff victory total over the last month, first with a 45-14 drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoffs, and then a 31-28 victory over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings one week later in the conference title game.
Williams doesn't hide his intentions, and Manning doesn't shy away from them, either. The Saints recorded 35 sacks in the regular season, almost tripling their total from 2008, when former defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs was shown the door after an 8-8 campaign.
"(The Saints) are extremely active. They are around the football at all times," Manning said. "You really see them playing together, as a unit. They play a number of different guys in their substitution packages. You see a lot of team speed. You see guys flying to the ball."
Williams plays a high-risk, high-reward brand of defense, which gives up some big plays but makes plenty of their own. The Saints scored nine defensive touchdowns this season, three of them by veteran free safety Darren Sharper.
Williams generated plenty of headlines during the Super Bowl buildup, when in an interview with a Nashville radio station, he told former Titans safety Blaine Bishop that the Saints needed to deliver "some remember-me shots."
Everybody remembered that quote when the Saints and Colts got to town on Monday.
No big deal, at least in Fujita's estimation.
"That's why Gregg was brought here, to instill an attitude, a swagger," he said.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees has put up some amazing numbers of his own, completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. He wasn't overly effective against the Vikings two weeks ago, but delivered when the game was on the line and threw three TD passes.
Still, for the Saints to claim their first Super Bowl championship, they're going to have to get some production from their defense.
And that's just how Gregg Williams wants it.
"I don't think you can show up at the Super Bowl and expect to turn it on like a light switch," Williams said. "You can't say, 'Here we are now. We've got to play different.' I'm a certain way off the field, and these guys are a certain way in meetings, and in practice, and a certain way when they're not competing.
"But when we step on the field, of competition, that's what it is... I will encourage aggressiveness. You have to climb to that edge all the time."
The Saints try to complete that climb tonight.