Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Can you talk about the cause for the disparity between your third down numbers at home and on the road? Is it just the crowd noise?
“You probably have to look at the down and distances too. Have we had more third and long situations? Obviously those percentages would be lower than medium. I don’t know the exact statistic between third and medium and third and long at home and away. Certainly one of the challenges in playing away from home is the communication, especially on third down.”
Are there things you do to combat it?
“We’re always fine-tuning it, but a lot of it is communication, making sure we have the right guys out there, making sure I’m getting the play call with plenty of time in order to communicate that and get up to the ball and see what the defense is doing and get the ball snapped, so I think we try to play fast and with great tempo, third down included.”
You have mentioned that the last two times in St. Louis, they have played very well and that the crowd has been great. How do you combat that?
“We played there two times, in ’09 and then ’11. In ’09 we got out of there with a win and then in ’11 we thought we had a pretty good team and we got beat pretty good. We just know the challenge of playing in that venue (Edward Jones Dome). They play very well at home. I saw their previous home game this year against Seattle, (and) they played them very tough. Chicago, (they) put up big numbers (against) them. I just know the environment we’re walking into and how their defense kind of thrives on that as we look at their defense, their pass rush, we try to neutralize that. They do a great job of taking the ball away. In a lot of cases, because of their pass rush quarterbacks have to get rid of the ball earlier than they want or (they cause) sacks or fumbles and other things like that. We just have to make sure we are very cognizant of that.”
Is that a trap game? Do you believe in that term?
“No, I don’t. This is a very good football team we are about to play, especially over the last six weeks and I know they’re coming off a tough loss at Arizona. I know they’re well-coached and they’re going to be ready to play us based upon the track record there and what’s on stake.”
Have you reminded some of the younger players what a challenge the 2011 game was?
“I think we’ve talked about it quite a bit, what a challenge it will be. Throw the records out the window, these are two tough football teams playing each other in a tough venue. It gives them an advantage to play in a venue like that just like it gives us an advantage in the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome, so we’re going to have to play our best.”
The St. Louis loss did give you a starting point for an eight game winning streak last time though didn’t it?
“Yes, we won eight straight after that, but still, you’d rather not have to get dropped like that in order to (go on a streak). Listen, we had a tough loss at Seattle and responded very well against Carolina and now have to continue that roll as we go up against St. Louis.”
How has it been having a week of a normal schedule after what seems like a month of abnormal schedules?
“Yes, it’s been crazy. We’ve had four out of five prime time games. Monday night, Thursday night, Sunday night, you name it. It’s nice to get back into the normal routine of a normal Sunday gameweek, although this time’s been switched to 3:25. Those are good things. It means people want to see you play and you are playing for a lot, so we take that as a compliment. Certainly (you use) no excuses and adjust the schedule accordingly, but it is nice to have a full week to prepare, get your rest and do your best.”
When you look at the Rams defense, what can you grab ahold of in terms of scheme?
“Their whole defensive front, including their defensive ends, (Chris) Long and (Robert) Quinn have done a great year all long of getting pressure on the quarterback. They are a great tandem, one of the best in the league. They have some young talent in the secondary, a lot of young guys, but they play with good instincts and they have good ball skills. The linebackers are led by James Laurinitis, who is an extremely smart, tough guy. You can see him running the show out there, getting everyone lined up, making the checks, (and) all that stuff. You know he’s an extremely tough guy. You put all those things together and it makes a pretty formidable defense.”
With the High School Football Championships coming up in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome tomorrow, what were your memories of winning one at Austin Westlake High School in the 1990’s?
“That whole road to the state finals my senior year was awesome. First of all the venues you got to play in. Our first two rounds were at Southwest Texas (State, now Texas State) in San Marcos and the university both of my grandparents went to school. So you go there and play against San Antonio schools and then if you are fortunate enough to win there you then have to play in the South Texas game, so we had to go down and play Victoria in South Texas and then we played in the Alamodome against San Antonio Churchill, the best team in San Antonio. Then you went to the Astrodome to play Aldine, which was like an NFL roster no joke if you look man for man, heights, weights, talents, it’s unbelievable. We found a way to beat them and beat Alibene Cooper at Texas Stadium in the finals. When you think about it you’re playing in college and pro stadiums drawing between 20,000 and 40,000 people. That’s what it was all about.”
Is that still a special place for you?
“No doubt. We were 16-0. That’s hard to do, especially 5A in the state of Texas. I still talk to a lot of those guys and have great relationships with them.”
Did you enjoy the purity of it?
“You never know what’s going to happen. We weren’t a team that had a bunch of guys (going) to (play in) college. I didn’t start getting recruited until the fourth or fifth round of the playoffs that year. That was the first time I had actually been contacted by schools to go on official visits with the thought of a scholarship offer to play in college. Most of my team was that way. Just a lot of hard-working guys, well-coached that had the same goals, trying to win a state championship. That’s as pure as you get. Once you win it, it’s the greatest thing in the world because you don’t have expectations beyond that. I didn’t think I’d play in the NFL, so that’s what makes it so special too.”
Are you aware that you’ve thrown only one interception in the last five games and is there anything that’s helped you protect the football so well?
“I’m just trying to be as efficient as I can be. I try to be very cognizant of that, understanding the value of protecting the football. If you look at us statistically, we’re undefeated when we don’t turn the ball over. Just that stat along will help you win just about every game and so I think our whole team has done a very good job of it offensively. I think we make a big emphasis of it throughout the week. I personally understand the importance of it.”
With only eight for the season, that’s a pretty good ratio?
“We like to throw strikes.”
Is it fair to say that your offense is more unpredictable than the typical NFL offense and are there keys to making it like that?
“I think the difficult thing, each and every week our gameplans, while you have your concepts, you’re changing formations, personnel groups, a lot of things. It becomes a completely different gameplan to memorize from week to week and you’re finding ways to incorporate each guy into what you’re doing and looking at tendencies and strengths. You have a lot of playmakers you want to get the ball to and get opportunities to, that way every time you go into a game they know they might have a chance. It’s a lot to manage, but Sean (Payton) and his coaching staff do a great job and I try to manage my part. We just have a lot of really unselfish guys who have bought in, know how good we can be as a group and take a lot of pride in that.
Not saying that guys aren’t unselfish, but sometimes guys want the ball and to make an impact. Has it always been peaches and creams?
“No, we’ve had moments. We’ll go three or four weeks and Marques (Colston) or Lance (Moore) haven’t gotten enough balls, or Jimmy (Graham) or (Darren) Sproles, where we have to figure out a way to get them more balls. There are times where you say we’re not taking advantage of this aspect of the offense enough for this player. There have been times like that. That’s why you self-scout. You’re always evaluating yourself and your tendencies and you want to be as hard to gameplan for as possible. You want a defense to (wonder) what do we key on? All this stuff looks the same. We’re spreading all over the place.”
So Marques talks?
“Marques never voices his displeasure, you just see it. He’s only had a couple catches the last few weeks, you have to get him the ball (discussing an example situation).”
Was the last game your offensive line’s best game of the season in terms of pass protection?
“I think they’ve done a great job collectively the whole season, but I don’t know if want to start singling out games. They’ve had many great games this year. The Dallas game with over 250 yards rushing, 625 yards of total offense and 40 first downs. That was all those guys. There have been a lot of ones like that. But last week, taking into consideration the short week and all they did, I thought they did a great job.”
Are guys a little bit looser or more relaxed at this point this year than last year, because you just need to win this game to get a playoff spot?
“We try to be loose and relaxed, yet focused at the same time, there’s always a balance there. We just know how important these games are down the stretch, not only for the win loss record and wanting to win the division down the stretch, but you want to play your best football at the end of the year going into the playoffs, because those are the teams that have the most success.”
13 games into the season are you still surprised you have the longest touchdown run?
“How many yards?”
“When you’re such a rare athlete (laughter), you kind of expect those things sometimes. We’ve had quite a few two, three, four yard touchdown runs I imagine. We’ve had some big gains, they just haven’t gotten in the end zone yet.”
A 38-yard run in the last game by
Darren Sproles was the longest run of the year.
“We have to find a way to get him into the end zone next time.”
On the broadcast the other night, a broadcaster said that you said Sean Payton has even more attention to detail. Can you discuss it?
“I’ve made that comment a few times. I think after being out a year, not leaving anything to chance. If something needs to be said, he wants to comment on something, he wants to make sure it’s communicated properly, he certainly doesn’t waste that opportunity. On many occasions, I feel like everyday he’s trying to share that wisdom with all of us and I certainly think it’s been a great benefit.”