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Joe Vitt and Steve Spagnuolo Look for Saints to Finish 2012 Season Strong

Posted Dec 24, 2012

Joe Vitt

New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt

Press Conference

Monday, December 24, 2012

Watch Vitt's Press Conference 

Opening Statement: “I really don’t have much to add to what we said last night after the game. This was a heck of an effort by our football team. It is special when you go into overtime on the road and win a game. I think it was a great commitment on both sides of the ball to make plays when they had to be made. Our special teams came up big for us yesterday in kicking that field goal to win it for us. This is the last week coming up now. This is what we know for a fact, we have a chance to get better this week. We’ll reconvene with our team on Wednesday at 8:00 A.M. for our team meetings. We’re playing a division opponent in week 17 at our place and we’ll have a chance to have the best record in the NFC South at 4-2 in head-to-head competition so there is a lot to play for. We’re excited about that. I’d like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, especially our fans. Be safe.”

Can you talk about it being the last game, knowing this is a business, do you think…

“I’m not thinking about that now. We’ve have our mind on one thing and that’s winning this football game. We have no long-term strategic plans from a coaching standpoint. That’s for another day at another time. We’re looking forward to getting ready to install our gameplan on Wednesday, good practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and play the game on Sunday.”

Were you or anyone aware on Sunday when the Vikings won and the team had been eliminated from the playoff picture?

“No. All minds are focused on winning a football game, not looking at a scoreboard.”

Considering how the team has played recently, how do you think you could do if you were in the playoffs?

“Yeah, again, if. If my aunt had a beard she’d be my uncle. I am not going to sit here and deal with hypothetical questions. What we have a chance to do is play a divisional opponent this week at home and get better this week. Then we’ll let all of the pundits answer the hypothetical questions.”

Can you talk about why it’s important to be 8-8 instead of 7-9?

“Number one, they’re keeping score. That’s important. All of the guys that play on our football team, when they’re playing pop warner and high school ball and college ball they cross the white lines to win so it really doesn’t change much when you get to this point. They’re keeping score so it’s important. This team is a very prideful team, we’ve tried to get better every week. We want to have a great week of practice and give our best effort.”

When will you be able to enjoy Christmas and what does Christmas mean to you and your family?

“What do you want, a Christmas carol? We’re working. I’m not waiting for anybody with a white beard to come down a chimney and hand us a divisional championship now if that’s what you’re talking about. We came in after the game last night, (after we) flew back here and worked to get ahead a little bit. We’ll try to get our coaches out of here tonight early to have some dinner with their family. Listen, we’re getting ready for a game. When you get into this business, you say to yourself you’re not going to enjoy Thanksgiving. You’re not going to enjoy Christmas. You’re working through those things. You look forward to Easter in the springtime and, I guess, Arbor Day. That’s just the nature of our business, you have to work through those things. We, certainly, don’t want to let our fans down. We want to play very, very well this weekend and get better.”

How impressed were you with Jimmy Graham’s recovery of the fumble in overtime?

“Very impressed. You see his athleticism, he put it into a second gear and he did a good job of using his body to shield the defender from the ball. It’s kind of what we talk about here with a scoop and score, he was able to get his fingers underneath the ball and get it in and tuck it in. A huge play. A huge hustle play and then a huge athletic play.”

What is the thing that you’ve learned the most through this year?

“I think this, and that’s a good question, I think through this year whether you’re winning or whether you’re losing, the highs and lows of a coaching staff, you can’t let your frustration come through. On a daily basis you have to teach your team exactly what it needs to win a football game. On a daily basis you have to teach your football team what you can’t do in the National Football League if you want to win on a consistent basis. Really, anger and emotion and all of those other things that could come in to play, the players tune that stuff out. The players, what they want is valuable information that is going to help them win on Sunday. If you can present that information in an organized manner and put it into a manner that they can absorb it. I think patience has been a virtue this year, with our coaching staff as opposed to teaching our players, and then our players hanging in there and having the patience and the confidence to hang in there. Then accountability from the coaches to the players and the players to the coaches and one another. I just think the patience. Let’s get better every single day, let’s not look too far down the road and we can’t look in the past. This will be one of my all-time favorite teams. They’ve got great resolve.”

Can you expand on why it’s one of your all-time favorite teams?

“Just because of their resolve. I think the way this team has hung together, I think the way this coaching staff has hung together, from a coaching and player standpoint, just the ability to focus on every single day to get better. Every single day has a chance to come together closer as a team. We put it out there a couple of weeks ago, we brought the Super Bowl trophy out, we told our football team there are two types of Super Bowl winners: those that win and those that win one. Our goal is to win two and we’re working towards that goal right now. We can’t play for it this year but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to practice everyday and can’t get better. That means you still have the a think our players have really taken it to heart and it’s been fun to be around.”

How is Jabari Greer?

“Good. I’m going to get a report on him probably around two o’clock but I think good.”

Do you think there is a carry-over with what has happened in the past 12 games to next year?

“I think so. That 8-8 team that we had in 2008 here was also one of my favorite teams also. I thought that team was really poised to vie for a championship that year. Drew (Brees) had phenomenal numbers that year and we started to get real good balance in our offense. We lost 18 guys that year on IR (injured reserve) and as we came down and analyzed the season that was a season where we lost five games in the last two minutes by a total of 15 points. The team came together the next spring with a real resolve about finishing games and in 2009 we won a World Championship. I think how we finish the season, how we start the parameters and how we start our offseason affects everything that you do during the season. What you do in the offseason has a direct correlation to what you do during the season. I think that we’ve been able to build the past couple of weeks on the character that we have in the locker room.”

You talked about the anger and frustration and showed some after the loss to the Giants. How were you able to channel that to what this team has done the past two weeks?

“Listen, you have a 24-hour rule no matter what. So 24 hours after the game, about four o’clock in the afternoon, you’re putting it behind you and moving to the next game. The players demand that of us and we demand that of the players that it’s something you do. This is a game of heartbreak and setbacks and it’s how you respond to those things that really dictates who you are.”

Carolina has won four of their past five and beat you the first time. What do you expect from them?

“I think they’re going to come in here and play as hard as they can for as long as they can as smart as they can. I think it’s a football team that’s prideful. I think Ron Rivera is a prideful head coach, (he) was a prideful player in our league. I Sean McDermott is going to have the defense ready to play. The offense is being run through an athletic quarterback (Cam Newton) that can make plays with his arm and his legs. We know about their running backs, it’s an explosive ground game. They’re going to come here to win the game.”

Do you look forward to getting to the start of the offseason?

“No. There is a sense of depression that sets in with all of our coaches when the season comes to an end. We won a World Championship in 2009 and 24 hours later when we knew we weren’t going back to practice there is a little bit of depression. This is what we do. You wake up in the morning and you get to work and you’re getting ready your teaching plans and you’re install and gameplans and you’re interacting with players and then you’re out on the practice field trying to find ways to get better and watching them get better, post-practice meetings, those things don’t get boring to me. When that time is up, every coach in the National Football League is like this, you go through a little bit of a depression. Your life is changing now for the next four or five months and you’re working hard to get to that point where you have your players in your building full-time finding ways to win and finding ways to get better.”

Can you talk about Marques Colston’s consistency over the past seven years?

“I don’t know what I can say about Marques that I have not already said. He is like Drew. I think his numbers, his production, his durability, his accountability, the only thing that overshadows that is his character and the respect that he gets from his teammates. Everyday he is coming to work with a smile on his face and no matter how battered or bruised he is, he’s in practice. He doesn’t take time off. He doesn’t miss games. All he does, he takes it to heart the accountability that he has to his teammates and it takes it to heart the accountability he has to this game. He is special.”

Will the way you use your personnel in this last game be like last year?

“What did we do last year? You’re not sure. You’re just throwing this out and seeing what sticks, right? How did we play the game last year? What was the score in the second half? We played last year’s game to win. We started our starters and we played the game to win. It’s the same way we’re going to play it this year. The best players are going to play and we’re going to play the game to win. We’re not a farm team.

Steve Spagnuolo

New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

Media Availability

Monday, December 24, 2012

Watch Spagnuolo's Press Conference

Opening Statement: “Happy Holidays, first. Everybody else is in here working today so that’s a good thing. As normal, I’ll just give you a couple of quick hitters and then I’ll open it up. The first thing I would say is thank you to the offense and the kicking game. Drew (Brees) and the guys coming back like that was terrific and certainly Garrett (Hartley) knocking it through the uprights, we don’t ever take that for granted. Having said that, I would say this about the defensive guys. I’m very proud of the way they fought at the end. It’s not always easy to have a team come back, tie you, go in to overtime, we were certainly disappointed in that, yet they rallied in that first series. I think it was four plays and then we get off the field on a key third-and-three or whatever it was. That’s not lost on me. The other thing was there was a series of defense there, five straight series, where we played pretty good. The end of the half series is always tremendously important in my opinion. To go three-and-out in that one was really good. I don’t want our guys to lose sight of that. I know there was some disappointment on the defensive side in having even ended up in overtime. I still feel that myself. There are enough good things in there with what we did during the game that I think we should be proud of. We don’t want to give up the big pass plays, that’s not all on Patrick Robinson. We gave him a tough chore, covering number 88 (Dez Bryant) yesterday. I should have helped him more with some calls, rolling over there a little bit more. We did a little more of that in the second half. I was trying to mix it up early to give Tony Romo some different looks and I left Patrick out there on his own and that’s a tough duty against a really good football player. I don’t want people to think that Patrick let anybody down. I thought, overall, he did a really good job. There are two key third-and-three downs where he made plays. In the overtime, they go right to their guy and Patrick makes a play. Earlier in the game he does the same thing on a slant, they go right to 88. Those are huge in getting off the field. I tip my hat to Tony Romo. We said this last week that being a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is a tough duty with everything that comes with it and yet he’s got his football (team) down two touchdowns with four minutes and something left and he gets them back. Had we made one play somewhere along the way, defensively we’d feel a lot better. Really, people are going to look at it and say pass game (rush) should have knocked it down, get an interception or a sack but there are a couple of plays where I thought if we just tackled them in bounds, kept them in bounds, when they score at the end with 21 seconds they don’t have those 21 seconds. It’s the little detail things in those situations that I think we have to get a little bit better at. Having said that, there will probably be some other things that come up.”

In a perfect world, what would you have liked for Patrick Robinson and Johnny Patrick to put them in a better position to make a play?

“I’ll tell you, you look at the last two plays in regulation and we had their two best players doubled which is what you do. Now what that requires is somebody is one-on-one. Where do you have to get help? You have to get help from the pass rush and you have to defend it and cover it for a little while. The last play that they through on the fourth-and-ten was, and you watch it now, a perfect throw and catch. That’s tough to defend. Somewhere you get stuck on an island and you need a little bit of a pass rush or knockdowns, something, somebody to create a play, and that didn’t happen and they scored. All in all, those guys fought their butts off. Those guys went out there and fought.”

Did Patrick Robinson make the initial hit on the fumble?
“Curtis (Lofton) got it out. He was in there. He was down underneath in there. There was one other body, I think it was our defensive end, I can’t remember exactly who it was at the time, there were two or three guys in there and then Curtis ripped it out and made a nice play. That was big.”

Will you look back and grimace on the number of yards given up this season by the defense, especially with the amount of improvement over the past 12 weeks?

“It won’t take until after the season for me to grimace about it. I’m doing it now. I don’t have an answer for that. I wish I did. Somehow, someway, on long runs you have to get them down on the ground. We didn’t have a problem with that yesterday. It was a throw game. I don’t have an answer for that. It pains me. It pains our defensive guys. We know when we don’t give up big plays, we play pretty good defense. I’m going to do this for a second, I’m going to go back to Tampa Bay, not many big plays, played good defense and there are other games where we had that. Yesterday, it wasn’t the big runs but it was a couple of big passes. We’ll find ways to get that corrected.”

What do you think it says about the resolve of your defense to go out in overtime and get a stop?

“That’s a good point and that’s why I had it down. Probably when I said that earlier I was talking to myself because I lose sight of that. I was happy that we won the football game but I was crushed that it went to overtime. At that particular point in the game, with 4:46 and up two scores, it’s up to our defense to close it out and we didn’t do that. Yet, it’s not that easy to be the team that just got tied to go into overtime. To then have them win the coin toss and have to go right back out there and play and I agree with coach Vitt, I think it’s a direct reflection of the character and the resolve that those guys in that particular room. Then for our offense to get it, I think that says a lot about them too. In that instant, in the overtime, it was a team win. We won overtime as a team, I just wish it hadn’t gone to overtime.”

Where were you personally about a year ago when the Rams let you go?

“You got me with that question. Different than I am right now, we just won a football game. That’s not an easy thing to go through, I can just tell you that. God has a plan for everything. My wife and I rallied together and trusted in the lord and moved on and here I am and I’m grateful to be here.”

Some guys only get one shot, do you feel…

“I’m not worried about that right now. I’m worried about playing Carolina to be quite honest with you. That’s just how I function. I do.”

Coach Vitt talked about the 2008 team and the path to the Super owl in 2009. Could this be similar, could the short-term pain for long-term gain? Do you see the foundation being built on defense?

“Yeah. I definitely see a foundation defensively. I see the guys that were brought in a long time ago. I see guys being confident in the things that we’re doing. Now we do still get victimized by those long plays. You take those out of it, and you can’t do that in this business, we play pretty good defense against good offenses. That was a good offense yesterday. You talk about all kinds of weapons and we’re able to take one of the away, the running game a little bit, and yet they have enough people to go to. I agree with what you’re saying, I think that there is a foundation. We’re going to hang our hat on that. I know right now we’re officially eliminated from the playoffs so now we focus on a game. We want to win a game and get to that 8-8 and then build from there. I think that there is something there to be proud of. “

Were you playing prevent defense at the end there?

“That word is not in our vocabulary. However, two touchdowns down you’re trying to be smart in the way you’re playing. To be quite honest with you, in that drive what you’re saying is if we just don’t give up the big play. If you don’t and if you’re not risky. I wasn’t taking any risks in that one but we did give up the big play so we failed there. Now you’re scrambling, you’re one touchdown down. In hindsight, on the last drive, would I have pressured a little bit more? Maybe I would have. There were reasons why I didn’t and I thought they were the right reasons at the time but I would have liked the availability to do that.”

When Sean Payton gets back will you have a packet to explain what took place on your side of the ball?

“On every team in the NFL, all 32 teams, you’re going to self-scout and put together the whys and here are the solutions and here’s what we should do. We would do that anyway. That’s all part of offseason evaluation.”

What does Christmas mean for you? Is it a time where you can actually enjoy Christmas or is it just work?

“There will be some moments in there. Joe has been good, we’ll get our two hour block to enjoy the holiday or whatever it is. Christmas means a lot to me personally because of what it means. I am a strong Christian guy and so that’s important. I don’t think as Christians or in this holiday that should ever be lost anybody. We’ll celebrate that part of it, my wife and I, and then move on to Carolina.”

When you look at the Giants offense the past few weeks, do you have an explanation?

“No, I have none. That’s a good football team. I thought that when we played them and I still think  they are. I have enough worries of my own right now. I am always rooting for Tom (Coughlin) and his football team except when we play them or them getting beat helps us. I don’t know, I put that game behind us.”

Was there a point this season where you weren’t sure if the defense would turn itself around?

“I don’t think I ever felt that way. What I was a little unsure of was when it was going to happen. I really, again I’ll go back for a second and then we’ll move on, we went through a training camp where we re-located and there was a lack of continuity for a lot of different reasons. Then we played two unconventional offenses, and we’re getting ready to play one of them again now, so that was a hurdle to overcome. We didn’t do a good job doing that. We get to the Kansas City game, which was a little more conventional, and I thought for three quarters we played pretty good defense and then they got the big, long run. I don’t want to use this as an excuse but maybe had we faced something a little bit different early in the season we might have gotten in the swing of things. I will say this, it would have been easy for the guys to fold the tents, guys to pack it in, give up, not embrace it, but they never did that. Joe is right, dead-on, when he talks about  character and resolve in this team and certainly in the defensive players. That’s what they’ve built here and that’s why I’m proud to be a part of it. Would I like the record to be better right now? Yeah. Would I like the stats to be better? Yeah. I’m not big on stats anyway, it’s about wins and losses. We’ll find a way to win a game this week.”

How has Tom Johnson progressed?

“He had a key play in this game, I thought. That sack that he had from inside, an inside rush, was huge. They were right on the edge of field goal range but, certainly, when he got that it kind of knocked them out of it. He’s been very effective inside. Bill Johnson and Travis (Jones) do a good job with him. He’s progressed through the whole season and that’s why his playing time has been going up and up.”