New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Monday, September 24, 2012
Opening Statement: “(It’s) not an easy day today, obviously. If I could just hit on a couple of things, it might be helpful going forward. (I’m) certainly disappointed in the loss but I will say that I’m encouraged about some of the things that went on there from a defensive point of view. Certainly, the turnovers were big so we were encouraged by that. The red zone defense, I thought the guys did a really good job down there and it was helpful. We didn’t allow a TD pass, and I know that sounds like ‘Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that’ but with what we were dealing with, I think there were only two pass plays that were over 20 yards. I thought that was pretty good. I felt, I think the guys felt good about the approach, what we did and how we played for 40 minutes. Now, it’s not a 40 minute game: it’s a 60 minute game. The way we went about it and forcing them to kick field goals and, again, playing good in the red zone, I thought was the right thing, 10-6 at halftime. I thought we had it right. I am not going to say it threw us all out of whack but it was something that we needed to recover from, the 91-yard touchdown run is not what you expect on any play, on any defensive call. If it’s a 15-yard run, it’s a 15-yard run you dust yourself off and you play defense. That one hurt. When you allow that, it makes it difficult. I do think that after that, they rebounded and battled. Yes, we bled a little bit after that and got them to kick field goals which I still think is encouraging, I really do with the way we played down in that red zone. We did get a three-and-out after that, I think after they had come up with a couple of field goals. What got tough and where I feel like we let the team down is they’ve got the ball at the end of the game, I think it was five minutes or something, somehow, someway you have find a way to get off the field, get the ball back to our offense, we are up by three, not let them tie it, etcetera. In there, I always revert back to, it was a 13-play drive and there was a third and a fourth down play, a third-and-ten and a four-and-five, and you have to convert those particular situations in a critical time in the game and we didn’t. Then, we go to overtime, we get the stop after seven plays. That was encouraging. I thought our guys got a little life there. We gave up a little bit of field position but we didn’t get them to punt the ball back. By then, it was the 85th to 92nd play, whatever we were playing, and I just thought we didn’t have a lot of juice there. There was a third-and-12 and a third-and-five there last drive. Having said all that, still disappointed but not discouraged. I think our guys will rally. I see a group of men that really poured their heart out yesterday in an attempt to win this football game. I think that people that cheer for us and everybody here should realize that. I credit them for that and yet, we came up short. Having said that, I will open it up and let you go ahead and fire away with questions.”
What happened with the back-to-back timeout calls at the end of the game?
“They did substitute. My understanding is we’re allowed to substitute in that situation. We got our guys coming off and on. We wanted somebody else to get back out there. We all take part of the blame for that. What shot through my mind, I don’t believe that the defense should use any timeouts, those are supposed to be for the offense. When I saw it happening, I knew that they were already in field goal range. What I didn’t want to have happen was I didn’t want to lose the game because we had ten men on the field and we couldn’t defend that next running play. I chose to call a timeout. At the instant I took it, I knew right after I took it that you can’t take back-to-back timeouts. When I hesitated to take it is because I didn’t want to use it up for the offense but then it was ‘let’s not lose the game here because have ten men, let’s take the timeout’ and then the reciprocal effect was the penalty and it gave up five yards. I think they got eight yards closer to the field goal. I am not sure he wouldn’t have made it anyway from the 34. No excuses, that shouldn’t happen and I will take the blame for that.”
“It is subjective, obviously. I think you could see it that way and, obviously, the officials didn’t. That’s how it is called. I will say this, there are a lot of holdings, it’s hard to call them all. There are still ten other guys and we have to find a way to get him on the ground. That is my take on it. Might it be a long running play? Yes, but not 91 yards.”
How do you solve the problems with the run defense?
“First of all, you don’t junk what you are doing. We believe in what we’re doing. I think the guys see some encouraging things there. We can go to some other things, we talked about it this morning. I believe, truly, just get better at what we are doing. One thing about that running back, and there are a bunch of them in this league, is if you give him a crack he can make you pay big time which is what he did. We had no problem with the way the game was being played up to that point. When I say up to that point, I just think we were doing the right things. We were getting them in third down, there were some tackles for losses. Did he have a couple of chunk, seven or eight? Good players are going to do that. On the back end of that, you could put nine guys down there and take away the run. It puts a lot of pressure on your corners. We didn’t give up that over-the-top. With trust in our offense and special teams and the whole team together, we thought that was the right approach and it was going to work. We knew they would get a few yards running the football.”
At what point do you consider making some lineup changes?
“We are always looking at it. We talked about it a little bit this morning. Even in this game, we had a bunch of guys rotating and playing at all of the positions. The corners were rotating, tackles, defensive ends were rotating. The only spots that didn’t really rotate in were the two safeties and the mike linebacker. We had injuries at linebacker that forced us to play guys that hadn’t really practiced at those positions but that happens in the league. We look at it all the time. We will talk again as the weeks goes on.”
“Yes. Akiem is doing a good job for us. He did play quite a bit yesterday. I would anticipate him playing more. In the interior, you can’t just go with two tackles and play the whole game. We all know that. There is going to have to be a rotation in there no matter what. He will be part of that rotation.”
With the run game, did some of your guys go double-gap? Was that part of the problem?
“Not so much double but it is a big reach zone stretch team and sometimes we got out of gaps and other guys had to cover up for them. It’s leaky yardage. It is not a double-team scheme, that is not that offense. That is not what they do.”
Is there a fine line between sticking with the guys you have and bringing other guys in and making adjustments?
“Right from the beginning, prior to going into the season, we knew that there would have to be rotation. I believe in that. I don’t think you can play defense in this league with just 11 guys. You have to go into the game saying 15, 16, 17 of those guys are going to play. If I look at the linebacker spot, just going into the game, we knew that five of them were going to play in certain situations. At defensive end, it was going to be three or four in the rotation, certainly at tackle. You are not going to get by in the league by just playing the same 11. If they put three wideouts in there, you have to take a guy out, it is a little bit different. I don’t see that as giving up on anybody. We only have 24 defensive players, or whatever it is, and about three of those go down in inactives and you have to use them all. You really do. I really believe that.”
Is there a page in your crisis management book to help you?
“I know we talked about it last week. The first thing is that there’s no magical statement, no magical wand, no one person pulls a team out of it, not a player, not a coach. I think you always end up having to do it together. I know one thing. If you don’t stick together, you really have no chance, so when we stick together, go back to the process and go back to work, that’s the best solution for anything. I know today is the day for doing what we’re doing here right now, but the longer and the more we replay yesterday, the further away we get from today’s opportunity. That will be a message to these players. That’s a part of being in this league. You have to move on. The next challenge is a pretty good one. We all know what we’re facing. We have to put it together and move on.”
You’ve been about a lot of defenses. What does it say when you are making a lot of big plays but giving up big plays in the running game?
“The only one that really sticks in my mind is the 91-yard run. He (Jamaal Charles) had another 40-yard run, there were two, that one and the one that came four or five plays later. Should that happen, no. Does it stick in my gut, yes. I do believe that particular run game and in the way we approached it, there were going to be a four and a five and a six and a seven (yard gains). But, I don’t think those when you look at the whole game, because I think we played well in the red zone, and because we came up with some big plays, I thought it would even itself out and help us win the football game. But when he snapped off the 91-yard touchdown run and we didn’t play as well in the fourth quarter as the first three, it certainly caused some of the issues in us losing a football game.”
Is it fair to say that you guys did a real good job of playing complementary football until the fourth quarter?
“I don’t see a lot of the offensive snaps honestly. But, I do know we (defense) were out there for a long time. That was just as much our fault being out there a long time as anybody else’s, because I still go back to the last drive in regulation and the last drive in overtime, where we had at least two third down plays in both those drives, where I just believe you have to win that down. If you win that down, they’re punting the football and anytime you get the ball back to
How much were you able to alter pressures on the quarterback yesterday compared to the first two weeks and did you see the results?
“They max protect quite a bit. They keep the five linemen in, the tight end and back in quite a bit in this game, so in some of those instances we didn’t feel like pounding our head against the wall was the right thing to do and leave the DBs hung out to dry. We picked our spots and I think a couple of those pressures or sacks came when we were only rushing four and they were being blocked by six. So I credit the guys that were working up there. I think you have to mix it up and pick your spots. They definitely went in there with a plan that they were not going to allow us their pressures. You could see it when they were doing it.”
Can you talk about the performance of
“We do production after each game. Junior’s been one of our most productive players on defense, so we have to keep getting him out there. He does some things very well. He’s an edge pass rusher and he’s one of those relentless guys that never stops and I think a lot of his production comes from that. I think he’s done a nice job.”
Can you talk about the challenge of facing Aaron Rodgers this week?
“I just had a chance to watch a half of football of one of their games before I came over here. We’re talking about one of the greats and one of the best in the league right now. They operate pretty well. Their coaches have been together a long time. I’ve faced them before. He’s seen our defense. There will be a little bit of that going on. It will be a great challenge. I know our guys once they dust this off, will go rest tomorrow and come back Wednesday, ready to face it.”
What makes Rodgers a great quarterback?
“To me, it’s a orchestration of the game and his decision-making during the down. He knows right where to go with the ball. You can throw certain things at him and I think he knows right away instantaneously that you’re doing this. On top of all that, he’s very accurate and he’s a heck of an athlete. Watch him run around. He can do anything. He’s not just a dropback passer. He’s a good football player. We all know that.”
Will you watch tonight’s game at all?
“I don’t know (if I’ll watch the broadcast). We’ll get it (coach’s copy) tomorrow. I’ll see it two times before the week’s out. I’ll be dug deep into some other stuff, so I don’t know if I’ll see the game. At some point I’ll see it.”