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Brees: "We Expect Our Best Performance in the Fourth Quarter"

Posted Oct 12, 2011

Brees talks about TE Jimmy Graham, the Saints success on third down and in the fourth quarter and facing the Buccaneers Sunday.

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Press Conference
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Watch Brees' Presser

Right now Jimmy Graham’s close to setting some big records for tight ends. Do you think he’s aware of that?
“I hope not. Jimmy’s just being Jimmy. He loves the game. He has fun doing it. He just wants to be a great player. He takes pride in his work ethic and not making mistakes. He’s a young player, so there are going to be growing pains at times, but he’s such a mentally tough individual. Whenever something bad happens, he immediately wants to fix it. He doesn’t go in the tank, which you can see a lot of young guys do. I’m most impressed with that, his ability to overcome adversity and fight through things that go through the course of a game, make adjustments. His communication level with me is awesome and I just have so much confidence in him.”

Are you surprised that teams sometimes leave him uncovered and don’t try to get a jam on him at the line of scrimmage a lot of times?
“They do. He’s a big physical guy. We try to be creative with what we do with him. We don’t put him in the same place too many times in a row. We’re splitting him out. He might be coming out of the backfield. He might be opened up. He might be in motion. We do a lot of things with him just to get him on the move and make it hard for people to track where he is.”

Have you seen via film study the effect he’s had on other opponents, potentially opening stuff up for different players?
“Sure, what’s interesting is when you play a team like the Green Bay Packers. Charles Woodson is their nickel. Against us throughout the course of the game, they put him on Jimmy or (Darren) Sproles. For the whole season, I think you see each team has a plan for who’s going to cover him in different situations whether it’s man coverage or zone or how we’re going to try to double-team a guy or at least take him away in certain situations. I think he still finds a way to throw it just because he’s such a big target. He’s really a smart player. I’m sure that as we go along here, just like any good player, or any good weapon, teams are going to try to take him away in certain ways, with certain people and certain schemes. We need to be able to beat them in other ways that we can, but also find some creative ways to get him some opportunities.”

Has this year been a situation at times where maybe you’ve used some other positions more extensively than the wide receivers?
“Yes, that’s been the nature of our offense ever since we’ve been here. I think you see it every game where there are nine or ten guys catching balls. Rarely do we have a guy who’s up in the ten-plus range. We have a lot of guys who are six, seven, eight catches, very productive. Every guy contributing on third down and the red zone. That’s what we do. It keeps defenses off balance when they try to game plan for us”

What are the key attributes of engineering the fourth quarter comeback and which of those did you utilize at Carolina?
“Part of the thing is knowing the situation and in our case, not only do we have to go out and score a touchdown because we’re down four points. That’s not going to do it. We have to go 80-plus yards. How much time is left? How many timeouts do we have? Too many times you get in situations where you can score too soon, so not only are you worried about getting down there, but then you’re worried about how much time is left when you do score points and so I think for me, anytime you get in that situation your just thinking about positive plays. You’re thinking about depending on how much time’s on the clock, do I need to take chances? Or in that case we didn’t’? With seven minutes left we didn’t need to take inordinate chances. It’s just about converting third downs, moving the ball, keeping the clock running, putting yourself in the position to win it in the end with a touchdown. A lot of it is very calm, cool, collected. There might be a breakdown here and there. Let’s just make sure that what happens is an incompletion or something that gets us back to the line of scrimmage and into a negative play.”

What makes it so tough to convert third down plays against Tampa Bay?
“They’re pretty good in the secondary with their coverage. Its’ man with two safeties, getting after the passer a little bit, chasing him to get the ball out sooner than he wants, so I think a combination of those things. When you look at what it takes to be good on third down, first of all you want to try to get teams in third and longs and second you want to have a good pass rush that’s making the quarterback uncomfortable, forcing him to get the ball out quicker than he wants in tight coverage, so that’s something that they’ve been pretty good at..”

Based on what happened  to Tampa last week, in general what is a more dangerous opponent, a good team that comes in or or a team that comes in after a characteristically bad performance?
“I know this. I know their coach gets those guys playing and playing hard. They have a good scheme every game and I look at that game last week as an aberration for them. That’s not the type of team they are. It’s just one of those days. I’m sure in their mind they can’t get back on the field fast enough, because I think we’ve all been in situations where you have a tough loss for whatever reason, you don’t play well and you just want to get back on the field and right the wrong. The fact that it’s that situation, also that it’s a divisional game, they’re one of the contenders in this division. I know that the games between us the last few years have been back and forth. The fact we’re going to their place, that it’s a divisional game early in the season, they’re coming off a tough loss are reasons why we’re going to get their absolute best performance and they’re going to be ready for us and we’ll be ready for them.”

Can you talk about how much you value the third down conversion rate statistic?
“It’s the first stat I look at typically when I flip open the stat book at the end of the game. I look at third downs. I look at red zone efficiency. I look at time of possession. Even in my mind I know the numbers. Rushing, completion percentage, just because a lot of times that will tell you a lot about efficiency, who’s efficient, who’s catching balls…Yes, when you talk about the key statistics, third down’s the first thing I look at and then red zone and time of possession will also tell you a  lot about how your day went.”

Were you surprised about that stat Sunday?
“I wasn’t surprised at how many we converted. I was surprised we had 17 of them. That’s a lot. Typically you maybe have 10 to 12. 17, you run 73 plays and have that many third downs, that’s little over one of every four snaps as a third down. That tells me we had a lot of methodical drives, not a lot of big plays. I think we came out of the game with only five big plays, but I think it says about our ability to mix the run and the pass, execute, not getting into many bad situations, being in third and manageable situations and if you’re about 70 percent on third down in a game, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

Talking about some first and fourth quarter performances on offense, is being clutch what you stress more than anything?
“Yes we and every other teams talk about starting fast and finishing strong. So it’s great when you can go down the opening drive and score a touchdown. It’s a big momentum-give for your team. It makes you feel good about your plan and the openers and you went right down the field and scored and obviously in the fourth quarter, there are times where despite whatever’s happened in the first three quarters, this is a time when you want to be at your best and this is the moment where football games are won and lost. Obviously we want to be on the winning end of those. We expect our best performance in that quarter.”

How is it that you guys keep your calm and confidence in a drive like the last one of the game at Carolina?
“You really have to zero in and make it about one play, one play, one at a time; because the fact is in that situation if you can’t execute that play, there might not be another play. Each play’s just as important. You also understand that each one of us are going to be called upon to make that play at some point at the end and whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, we’re all ready to be the ones to make that play. We practice it, we talk it, preach it, prepare it and that’s why we feel like we’ve been pretty good in that situation.”

Have you been thinking about the possibility of getting a two-game lead in the division?
“Sure, that’s relevant. We don’t talk about that. We talk about it being a divisional opponent on the road.”

Would a two-game lead be big?
“Yes, that’s a big deal, especially at this point in the season. We would love to have that. For a lot of reasons, we want to win this game. Obviously when you look at how it affects our standing and division, we never get too comfortable just because you can get up; you can also get knocked right down to size. We understand the importance of this game.”

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