MINNEAPOLIS — Atlanta owner Arthur Blank deflected a question about the Falcons complaining to the NFL about some of the barbs the Saints and the Superdome threw at them in this season's Christmas Eve showdown.

Blank chose instead to praise both the Saints and the crowd at the Superdome, saying that he thinks the rivalry between the two teams is always strong. 

"It's a very tough place to win, and that's because of the fans," Blank said on the red carpet at the NFL Honors awards show on Saturday night. "Whenever we went down there to play, it was tough."

New Orleans and Atlanta split the two rivalry games this season, both teams winning at home. 

Blank praised Sean Payton and the way the Saints have rebuilt their team around quarterback Drew Brees, producing an NFC South title this year.

"They've got great fans, obviously a great young football team again," Blank said. "They've got a quarterback, I'm not sure who'll play longer, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. ... I've always had a good relationship with Tom Benson and Gayle now."

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.

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