New Orleans Saints Defensive End Akiem Hicks
Conference Call with Local Media
Friday, October 31, 2014
Would this qualify as your team's best defensive game of the season?
"I feel like we definitely came out that way. We were firing on all cylinders and I feel like as a defensive unit we held it together and were able to come back after some not so favorable plays. I would say that this was an overall team effort."
Talk about the emotion after walking off the field yesterday with Sean Payton congratulating you guys individually outside of the locker room and how excited and emotional your whole team seemed to be with the win?
"Sean talks about this a lot. He talks about how when your team's in a groove and your team's in a rut. For a while there we were definitely in a rut. It seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel and we had to keep working and keep fighting towards our overall goal and we would come out and be on the better side of it. Last night we found ourselves coming out of this rut and the week before and the week before that getting better every day. Something else he talks about is sharpening our iron. Just through all the adversity and tough times we had at the beginning of the season and how we're going be better for it today. Yesterday it really seemed like that."
How much did it mean to you to have Sean standing their congratulating you guys individually?
"It's big. He's a very passionate guy. That's what you really love about our coaching staff. We have Joe Vitt, Sean Payton, Rob Ryan and all these guys are just so passionate about the game. You can see it when they come to us and we feel it. It's a special thing to have with our coaching staff."
You guys got a lot of big plays out of your secondary yesterday. What about what Keenan Lewis was able to do, primarily against Kelvin Benjamin?
"If you guys haven't been seeing it, he's been doing it for the past two years. He's one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the league. He was shutting down guys last year. He's been shutting down guys this entire year and yesterday everybody got to see what this guy is made of."
Cam Newton's a great talent, but could you talk about how as the game went on you were able to contain him some and make him make bad throws?
"It's the NFL. There are 32 great quarterbacks out there. We played one last week with Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton's just another great talent and that's something we put in our minds that we were going to stop him from going outside of the pocket so much and to make all these plays with his feet. He was able to get out there and that's what he does. He makes plays with his feet and he makes plays with his arm. We were just doing our best to limit these options for him."
Official team photos of the New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers game on Thursday, October, 30 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. ( New Orleans Saints photos)
You face another similar quarterback in Colin Kaepernick next. Is there a balance where you say you don't want to let a guy like that get outside but at the same time you want to be aggressive?
"It's a fine line and you have to maintain your discipline and not allow a quarterback that's great with his feet to get out there. I felt like as a quarterback that plays with their feet they sometimes get that mojo going if you let them get out of the pocket too much. You definitely want to limit that, but you have to play your style of defense."
They had a pretty inexperienced offensive line. It looked like in the first half you weren't able to get a lot of pressure, but in the second half without not much of a blitz you were able to get the pressure, you, Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette were getting to them on four-man rush. Can you discuss that?
"I disagree with you on that. I think there was consistent pressure throughout the game on the quarterback."
It seems like that some of the times Newton was able to get out of the pocket, really you got so much up the pressure up the middle so quickly it was hard for the other guys on the team to contain him on the outside?
"Do you know what I want to say? This is what I have to say. As a defensive line you want to rush as a unit. It's something that we focus on, everyone being on the same page. I'm just as guilty as another guy of not being on the same page, you just have to stick together and work as a unit and that's what we really have to focus on that's what we've done so far."
In the way things work out, it seems like you have a mini-bye week at the halfway point of the season. How do you sum up this first eight games now?
"We're at the halfway point and we're 4-4 and there's another guaranteed eight games where we have to go out there and perform and I just feel like we're on the right track right now. We just have to keep focused, enjoy these couple days off, let our bodies heal and come back and be ready to continue the path that we're on right now. I feel like that's for everybody and everybody feels that way. We just have to come out and keep performing the way we've been performing and right the mistakes we've made and correct the things we have to correct. All these things sound cliché, but we have to stay on this track, finishing…finishing every day, every practice and just being ready to perform the way we've been performing so far."
Do you think you've had a season's worth of adversity packed into these eight games so far?
"I completely agree with that. I would say if you lose a certain number of games on the last series, last drive or last play or a walk off field goal, I have to tell you that's more than enough for me and I think some other guys feel the same way. Now it's our turn."
You know how good you feel about this defense. Do you feel like against Cam Newton you guys met your expectations or exceeded them?
"I have to say I feel like there's still another level we can push ourselves to. There are certain times when he was able to break our contain and get out of the pocket and move around. You don't want to be that. You don't want to be the defense that gives up the big play. There's still another level to get to and we haven't reached the point we want to be at."
Like most defensive players, do you feel that a shutout is not what you want, are you being picky or are you saying that what you guys have in the locker room, you can do this?
"Any one of the other 31 NFL teams should be able to get out there and put up some points. Just like you said, being a stingy-minded defensive person, you don't want to give up anything, especially when you think you can do something better, that's your mindset, not giving up anything."
Coach Payton discussed with the media the unfairness of having to go out on a short week and go on the road for a Thursday night game after a Sunday night game. How much of that was talked about during the week or did you just use that as more incentive to get yourself ready for the game?
"It was something we had to push through it. It was more adversity we had to go through, playing a Sunday night game and turning around and playing on Thursday night. It was something Sean made clear of that, we can't make that an excuse. That's not going to hold us back or let us say that's why we couldn't do that or "darn, we could have done better if we were put in a particular situation." You need to go out and perform the next week. That's what we did."
Two weeks ago you were coming off a difficult loss with a tough game coming up. Now your in first place in the division after an 18-point win over your primary challenger at this time. How quickly can things change in this league?
"Things have changed pretty fast. Sometimes when you going through it not fast enough, but when you come out of it on the other side you say to yourself wow we accomplished that in a few weeks time and now we're in the position that we're in. You just have to be knowledgeable of how things can turn in your favor, but they can also turn the other way, so just to make sure that we keep our minds in the right place and focus on the next goal."
We had talked earlier in the year if there was a perception if the team wasn't frustrated or angry with their start. I detected some tension last week and it was mainly because you were ultra-focused on Carolina. I just wonder if you guys detected that and were able to channel that into your preparations and come out the way you did?
"Once your back's against the wall, it's how you're going to get out of there. How you're going to get out of the rut you're in and how you're going to get to where you want to be. I feel like that's something that our team has done. When we're done, there's a will to get back up. That's something I respect about our team. We're a unit, offensively, defensively and on special teams, the coaching staff, there's no complacency. That's what we were ready to do and we were ready to do it in any way possible."
New Orleans Saints Guard Ben Grubbs
Friday, October 31, 2014
Mark Ingram has said a couple of times that he likes to carry the ball so much because it gives him a better idea of where his blockers are going to be. How true is that? Is that different from some other running backs that you have blocked for?
"I think it's true for every back. As the game progresses, I know me as a left guard, I'm more familiar with how the guy in front of me is going to play. The first run play that we ran during the game there could be a mistake on that play, but throughout the game as professionals it is our responsibility to correct the mistakes that we make and the second time, capsulize all of the information that you capture from the first mistake. I think that's one thing that we've been doing, we've been getting multiple chances to see the same defense and make the corrections as needed. While we're making those corrections we are also talking to the running backs on the sideline, even in the huddle, and just say 'hey Mark, this may hit outside, my guy is playing me tight.' I think it's just something that Mark has learned throughout his career being a running back, that as the game progresses it is his responsibility to familiarize himself with the defense and the personnel that is in the game."
Talk about the emotion after everything you all went through the first eight games and then to have Sean Payton waiting to greet everybody. What did you feel?
"I felt togetherness. When you go through something as tough as losing on walkoff field goals and then losing on the last possession of the game in Detroit, that does something to you. It can be positive, it can have a positive effect on you or a negative effect on you. One thing that Coach Payton has done a great job with was just continuing to encourage us and tell us we're really close, we are a good team, we just have to correct the mistakes that we have. I think one of our problems was just making the mistakes at the wrong time. You're not going to have a perfect game, and that's something that he stressed, you're not going to have a perfect game but you want to minimize as many mistakes as possible and we were just making mistakes in the crucial part of the game and it cost us. But he didn't lose hope and we just followed his leadership and the leaders that we have on the team, the captains that we have, the veterans that we have, myself included, we just kept the faith and we believed and I think that was the most important thing."
Do you see any common thread of the past three performance by the team? Do you see anything similar? Where does that stack up with the expectation level of this team?
"I'm confident in saying this, as the offensive line goes, the team goes. I've heard that slogan several different times with different teams. I know that if the offensive line can control the line of scrimmage and control the game, manage the game, be as balanced as you can be, it gives that team a really good shot at winning. I would even go farther to say that during pregame when we call it up as an o-line and d-line and Jahri Evans gives his speech, every week he says that game is going to be won in the trenches and you see that. In the games that we won, even in Detroit, I would say that the d-line and o-line played well throughout the game, but it just came down to those last possessions where the offense in our four-minute drive couldn't capitalize on the opportunities that were given to us and when the defense broke down at the end. I really think that if the offensive line and defensive line control the trenches it gives that team a huge chance at winning that game."
Tim Lelito started two games at guard for Jahri Evans last year and then two games for Jonathan Goodwin at center this year. What can you say about the job Tim has done stepping into that role in this situation?
"Tim is doing what is expected of him. He has stepped in to an important role. A second-year guy playing center in the offense that we have is not easy, but he's done a great job. He's prepared each and every week. Even though he wasn't starting, he prepared as a starter, and I think that had helped him tremendously because when his name was called there wasn't any letdown. The ship continued to sail and we continued to do well on offense."
Do you feel that you've had a season's worth of adversity in the first eight games? Does that better prepare you for the second half of the season?
"It's going to make you or break you. I think if you continue to chip away at that rock, something that Coach Payton brought to us on Tuesday, just chip away at that rock, you never know when that rock is going to break. You never know which hit will make that big impact but you can say all of the hits were of importance and you continue to chip away at that rock. Even though the games that we lost were heartbreaking, and it was hard to come to work that next day, we got up and we came to work and when we were there we put all of our focus and energy on winning the next game. And then we come up again with another heartbreaker and we continue to do that. That's why I love sports, love football, because it teaches you so much. You can apply these lessons, these life lessons, to the real world, to life, and it would better you as an individual because when you go through what we've been through, and what a lot of teams go through each and every year, it's easy to lay down, it's easy to say 'man this is hard, I don't want to exert all this energy and then come up short again.' It leaves you vulnerable. You don't want to put yourself out there but we did it, we did and we came up with a big win against Green Bay and we came away with our first road win against Carolina and I do believe that this is the start of something for the New Orleans Saints."
It seems like that message really resonated with you guys…
"Yeah, because it was applicable. We were able to really put ourselves in that character's life. We had our sledgehammers on our back and we were chipping away. There were high expectations coming into the season and when you start out 0-2 you look around like 'what's going on?' We put in the work, we worked hard. When you work and don't get the results that you're expecting to get, you're kind of like 'what's next? Is there hope?' When Coach Payton speaks to us every Monday after a game, he has done a great job, like I said, of encouraging us and making sure that he points out the positives and not dwell on the negatives. When you dwell on the past it leaves you depressed so as long as you're looking toward the future there is hope and that's what he brought to the table."
How good of a position do you feel that you are in being in first place in the division and defeating your primary challenger by 18 points on the road?
"I think it's a good start but we are by no means where we need to be, and every time we turn on the game film we are seeing mistakes that are easily corrected. So I think the question is how fast can we make these corrections and improve on a weekly basis, how fast can we do that? How good can we be? We still are rising to the top, I don't think we have arrived yet. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, coming back to the (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) and playing the (San Francisco) 49ers, that's going to be a tough task but we are up for the challenge. We are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for us."
You have the weekend off, are you going to take the kids out for Halloween tonight and then watch the game in Oxford, Miss. this weekend?
"Yeah, that's on my agenda. I'm sitting next to my two-month old right now looking at him sleep, so it's I'm going to enjoy this time off. I'm going to be a full-time parent and husband and just enjoy this time away and I guess I will be looking at that Ole Miss-Auburn game. It's going to be a good matchup."
Any predictions on that one?
"They are playing at Ole Miss. I predict that we will win. I haven't watched Ole Miss that much so I don't know what they bring to the table. I know our defense is a little shaky and I know our offense can put up points. I think it's going to be a high-scoring game, 38-31."