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Rematch all about the game this time around

    ATLANTA — U2 and Green Day won’t be in the house. The commissioner has other plans. The coin toss will be handled by the referee, not an ex-president.
    This time, it’s about the game — or, more specifically, two teams desperate for a win.
    The Atlanta Falcons host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday without all the emotional baggage that accompanied their first meeting. In Week 3, the NFC South rivals faced each other at the reopening of the Superdome, a night of celebration in a city still trying to pick itself up from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
    U2 teamed up with Green Day for a rousing pregame concert. Former President George Bush flipped the coin at midfield. New commissioner Roger Goodell and his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, were both on hand at the renovated stadium, the symbol of so much misery just a year earlier.
    Not surprisingly, the fired-up Saints jumped out to a quick lead and routed the Falcons 23-3, an outcome that seemed inevitable before the teams even kicked off.
    Ever since, Atlanta had the rematch marked on its calendar.
    ‘‘Now, it’s just getting back to football,’’ running back Warrick Dunn said. ‘‘It’s not really about the hurricane or being back in New Orleans. We’ve gotten past that. It’s about winning football games.’’
    The Falcons (5-5) sure could use a win. With three straight losses, they’ve gone from a team that looked like a serious NFC contender to one that is falling apart at the most crucial time of the season — just like it did a year ago.
    But Atlanta won’t get much sympathy from the Saints (6-4), who have lost three of four to fall into a first-place tie with Carolina.
    ‘‘Everybody’s disappointed,’’ linebacker Scott Fujita said. ‘‘At the same time, though, everything is in front of us. We’ve got the (third)-best record in the NFC, obviously tied with a bunch of other teams, but everything’s out there in front of us.’’
    Indeed, both teams are still right in the thick of crowded NFC playoff race. The Chicago Bears (9-1) have pulled away from everyone else, but the Saints are among five teams with four losses, while the Falcons are joined at .500 by two other teams.
    With only five postseason spots available (assuming the Bears don’t fall apart), look for things to start shaking out this week.
    ‘‘We’re fortunate,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘But do you really want to live on the edge all the time? You want to separate yourself from the others, stand up a little bit.’’
    The Saints have a ready explanation for their struggles over the last month.
    ‘‘The common thread has been the turnovers,’’ coach Sean Payton said. ‘‘We have to clean up the turnovers and get it corrected, because that’s one thing that will get you beat.’’

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