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Payton's Monday Recap

Posted Dec 12, 2011

Payton recaps the Titans game, talks about securing a playoff spot and facing rookie quarterbacks

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Monday, December 12, 2011

Watch Payton's Presser

Opening Statement:
“The players are in today with film and workouts.  I said this after the game yesterday, I thought there were a lot of good things in the win.  There were certainly things we could clean up on like penalties and some of the mistakes, but it’s always a lot easier to do when you have a win like that on the road.  We kind of point in a couple days our energies and efforts towards Minnesota.  I think we came out of the game fairly healthy.  We’ll have more on our injuries Wednesday after practice.”

Can you talk about making the playoffs this year and what it means to have another goal checked off your list?
“You want to play well enough during the year to get into the postseason.  We have high goals and high aspirations.  Certainly that’s one of them.  With three games left though, there’s still a lot at stake in regards to positioning yourself for the playoffs.  I think that’s where the focus has been.  We always start with making the playoffs and winning your division and then putting yourself in the best position to play well in the playoffs.”

The turnover numbers haven’t been the same as in the Super Bowl year, but the defensive play has been similar in that they’re coming up with big plays when you need them.  Can you talk about that?
“It’s significant.  It really comes down to one play, almost like a two-point play to win or lose the game.  The play before was a good play by Tracy (Porter) on a blitz coverage we were in.  You always get mindful or somewhat nervous when a player like (Jake) Locker is out of the pocket and looking to create a play.  I thought we did a good job in coverage with our scramble drill and the rules that we use.  I do think opportunistic-wise at the stretch when we had the bye we really challenged our team to do a better job with the turnovers both offensively protecting the football and defensively taking it away.  It’s been a point of emphasis for us and will continue to be in these remaining three games and into the postseason.”

It seems like the defense really gets up for the ultimate challenge like in Atlanta and then in Tennessee.  Have you seen that this year?
“Absolutely, I think what you look for from your team is that when the game is on the line, you want players who want to be in that position and certainly our players on defense feel that way.  Those have been big stops that you’re talking about.  You don’t know how each game is going to unfold, whether it sits with a key stop or whether you have to come up with a key drive late in the game.  It could be a number of things that you’re looking for.  You prepare to be ready for those moments.”

How much did the defensive strategy change when Jake Locker came in?
“It changed a little.  I think the type of quarterback we saw with (Matt) Hasselbeck is different than Jake in that one of them with his experience, Matt does a great job from the pocket and is a guy that has been in this league and has won a lot of football games.  With Locker, you have a younger player who is a threat to run and is more mobile.  He made some big plays from the pocket, but they’re different.  I don’t know that it changed necessarily what we were calling, but certainly when that injury took place the emphasis of trying to contain and keep him in the pocket and avoid some of the scrambles as best we could was something that I know was discussed at halftime and even prior to that.”

What went into the decision to keep Jimmy Graham playing?
“There was no decision to keep him playing.  Basically, an hour before the game we turn in our inactives.  We had an additional spot with Sedrick (Ellis’) hamstring.  We thought Sedrick was going to be able to play, and then during pregame it was aggravated and it didn’t feel strong enough where he or the doctors or ourselves felt like he was going to play and play well on it.  With that additional spot, we just discussed a few different options and ended up going the tight end route with (Michael) Higgins.  That was just coincidence.  Ten minutes later, Jimmy irritated his back during warm-ups and came in and got treatment.  It was really just a rush to get him to where it was calmed down enough to where he could function.  Fortunately, the doctors and trainers were able to do that.  I think early on in that first quarter, you could see it wasn’t one hundred percent and then gradually as the game went on he felt more and more comfortable.  Today he’s getting treatment and really that’s it.  But it was one of those and anybody that’s had back pains or occasionally stepped the wrong way, I would equate it to that.  We were lucky that he was able to bounce back.”

Can you put in perspective the program you’re building here with three postseason bids in a row and three consecutive double-digit win seasons?
“I think there’s a time when we’ll look back and reflect on it.  I think we’re right in the middle of trying to do something and accomplishing something that’s more than one season or one playoff appearance.  It’s hard to do.  It’s hard to win in this league.  It’s hard to win on the road in this league.  I think one of the bigger challenges teams face in this league is that consistency of year-in and year-out being a functional organization that can win and can handle change.  I think tha’s something that is a work in progress.  We still have a lot of goals and expectations that are ahead of us, but it’s exciting to be in the postseason contention and to have these opportunities.  It’s really why you work so hard in the offseason and you’re preparation.  The players put in the time in the weight room and all the extra hours that go into preparation.  The coaches, the scouts, the front office and everyone involved in the building is to win and to win and to win.  Really in our industry, that’s what is most important and if you don’t then you’re not around long.  I think a handful of things happened yesterday that were positive in that the team we’re chasing now lost a game, our division with Atlanta stayed par with us with their win and then with the Chicago loss that secured a playoff spot.  You’re at that point with four games left yesterday and now three games left, so much is happening and being settles.  It always seems to be exciting in December in our league.  It’s exciting to be in the discussion.”

Can you talk about the type of team it takes to overcome penalties and not quite getting into a rhythm but still beating a team on the road that’s in a playoff hunt?
“The trick is finding a way to win.  We’ve had some good performances of late.  We did some real good things against Detroit and we did some real good things against the Giants.  When maybe you aren’t as sharp and you’re still able to battle back and come up with enough plays to win a game on the road against a good football team who has played real well, that’s encouraging.  I think there are some things you can draw from that and build from that.  I said yesterday to the players, it’s kind of a gut-check win.  As the course of the season unfolds, you do develop character and you develop an expectation and a confidence and that does not carry over from last year’s team or the team before.  You have to find a way sometimes in a game where you don’t play as well to still come up with the most important statistic and that’s the win.  I think yesterday we were able to do that.  There’s a lot we have to work on and clean up and I think our players understand that and we’ll begin that process.  It’s hard to win on the road in this league, and when you’re able to do that especially this late in the year with these games mattering and meaning so much, it’s encouraging.”

How much do you pay attention to games like the 49ers and what they mean for you?
“I think typically if you asked it would be plane ride discussion on the way home.  I think our whole league would be focused as to what happened today.  There are always a couple games that are more important.  They’re usually divisional games or games within the NFC for us.  I think that discussion all begins to happen in December.  I could tell you we don’t pay any attention to it, and that wouldn’t be true.  But it doesn’t really begin to take place until December.  We do by the time Wednesday comes around though refocus as to what’s most important and that is how we play and then get those scores leaving the locker room or when the game is over.”

Did you read the report about whistles being blown from your sideline?
“I was asked that question this morning, so I thought I was going to get asked that in this press conference.  I have three theories on the whistle, and I think I have the answer.  There is a high school field nearby and they were playing a game while our game was going on, so I thought maybe it was the high school whistle we heard.  We weren’t in Memphis.  We were in Nashville and I saw a guy dressed in black that looked like Johnny Cash so I thought maybe he was blowing a whistle in the crowd.  But I really think Whistle Monster who’s really famous in these parts.  He’s a famous Who Dat Saints fan.  So high school football games, Johnny Cash, and Whistle Monster – and I’m going to go with Whistle Monster.  He was there helping us out anyway he could, and he got a little press here so I think that’s my answer.”

Do you find yourself watching Tim Tebow a little more with the success he’s had?
“I think it’s great for our game.  Personally, I’m excited about it because I’m close friends with John Fox and Dennis Allen, so we have some ties to that staff.  Joe Vitt’s son-in-law is the quarterbacks coach for that staff.  There are a bunch of ties to the Broncos.  To see them doing well and to see Tim Tebow doing well I think is good for our game.  Each week, it’s changed the opponent and the script ends up being the same.  It’s a great example of a belief in not only one player, but a belief in a team because they’re playing better on defense and they’re rushing the football well and certainly Tim’s been a big contribution to that.  It’s a team that’s been playing with a lot of belief and a lot of energy and I feel like as they go into each game they feel like they have a chance to win if they don’t make those mistakes.  I think it’s exciting.”

Do you find yourself going home to check those scores or highlights?
“No, it seems like in the AFC like we were just talking about earlier, I’m not going to have to check on the score because I’m probably going to read it or see it.  It’s going to be covered, but it’s exciting and our league is exciting that way.  I think every year there is one of 32 or more than one of 32 great stories that unfold and I think that’s what makes our game so much better than everyone else’s.”

With the success you’ve had here in New Orleans, there’s been a rise in expectations among fans and people around here.  Are those expectations good?
“Absolutely, I think that was the goal six years ago of changing a culture and changing a mindset and changing what guys like Whistle Monster think of their team.  The expectation level is high and the stakes are high and we embrace that.”

Can you talk about how Brian de la Puente and Cameron Jordan have done?
“We’ve had some good young players and guys that we’ve acquired that have played big roles for us this year.  De la Puente is a smart player.  From the mental aspect of doing his job, he’s really jumped in and handled it well.  He’s quick, he’s a guy that can get on his block and sustain leverage and has really fit in and handled that starter’s role well.  Cam Jordan as a rookie has provided us strength.  He’s a powerful player at end.  He plays the position often times in the base defense that isn’t necessarily conducive to sacks, but certainly is a guy that has given us both the run and the pass defensive stops that we’re looking for.  He’s just gotten better each week.”

How does the defensive game plan change going up against rookie quarterbacks?
“I think it depends on the quarterback you’re seeing.  Going back to the question that was asked earlier about when Hasselbeck goes down with an injury and (Jake) Locker enters, we just had to make sure we were prepared that he was a guy that can move and run and can beat you with his feet.  The containment becomes an important part of your pass rush and not allowing him outside of the pocket.  Those are some little things.  It would be more style of play.  With a rookie, Certainly Gregg (Williams) might feel more comfortable at blitzing a guy like Locker knowing that Hasselbeck might have seen a certain pressure 38 times in his career, whereas a younger quarterback may have only seen it a few times in training camp.  It depends on who you’re playing.”

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