New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean PaytonPress ConferenceMonday December 13th, 2010
Opening Statement: Just a few notes. First, with Courtney Roby, the reports this morning were positive. He will go through what a player typically would that had a concussion, with the testing that will take place. He has some soreness in his neck. We will see where he is at this week. That news, like I mentioned yesterday, was good. Other than that, there is nothing really new to update in regards to injuries. We will just monitor some of the nicks that we had and we will report on Wednesday after we finish practicing. It was a good win and the players will be in today. You guys will have a chance to see them. We will go through some of the things that we thought that we needed to clean up and then move on to Baltimore.
If Roby can't play, who will handle kickoff return duties? That's a good question. I think we will look at a few guys. We will look at Robert (Meachem), Pierre (Thomas), and Devery (Henderson). We will look at some of the receivers who have worked back there. Possibly Julius Jones. That's one thing we have to answer and I don't know if we have it today. Yesterday, our plan was both Robert and Pierre depending on where we were at in the game. Those guys were going to handle it with him going down at the half.
Is this coming game a test that will show if you are playoff ready?
We have a lot of respect for Baltimore. We felt, coming in to this last quarter of the season, the uniqueness with these four opponents was that all four, many would argue, are going to play in the playoffs or at least are contending to play in the playoffs. We felt that it was going to be a competitive stretch. Clearly, with Baltimore, they are one of those teams that have been an elite AFC team, a team that plays extremely physically on defense. Offensively, they have the ability to run and throw. It's a real good challenge for us.
Going in to Baltimore, does it help to know that you played in cold weather conditions in Cincinnati two weeks ago? It will be another game where you deal with those. We will get some work outside and be prepared.
Are you curious about the Panthers and the Falcons playing twice within the last four weeks of the season?
No, I don't think that is so unusual. If you go back through the history of division play, just the way that the schedule works out, almost every year, there is a sequence of games in which you play an opponent and then two or three weeks later, you play them again. It's happened with us. I think that's just the logistics of the schedule.
You've never played a division opponent twice in the last four games of the season… The last four games, no. I meant within a four week time frame. If you just said, within a four week timeframe, that's happened. Just check the numbers. It is what it is. I don't think it's anything more than that. What they have tried to do was to play more divisional games at the end of the season to keep the race competitive. From a timing standpoint, I think that's just the nature of the scheduling. That's a pretty complex formula.
When, during the return, did Roby's injury occur?It was after he had gone to the ground. It was the second contact that you saw.
Did he take a knee to the head? It appears that way.
When you went out there, did you speak to him?No, I didn't speak. I was able to see him moving his legs and his arms. Without knowing for certainty, that's what I thought had happened. I felt better going out there and seeing him able to move. He was shaken up and disoriented to some degree. It was good to see the other aspects of the shape he was in.
How much did Chris Ivory's injury change your play calling? It changed it some. Pierre ended up taking some of those runs. Reggie took some of those runs. That was a necessity. There might be a run or two that you would lean towards or stay away from. I don't think it changed our ratio of run to pass though. Certainly, you are mindful of it. There are a handful of things that we think he does very well that either Reggie or Pierre (Thomas) were now going to do.
Pierre said he was surprised with his amount of carries. What are your thoughts on his number? I remember turning to him and saying, hey I just wanted to make sure you were feeling good. I knew that both he and Reggie were eager for that challenge. Both of them were in good shape when I approached them about it.
Back in April, you had said that you didn't want two cold-weather away games in December. But, do you think that because of the conditions in Cincinnati, the conditions won't be as jolting in Baltimore? Correct me if I'm wrong, but when we had this discussion last week, the big thing we look at with the schedule is the primetime games. I don't recall making a big deal. I know it was a big issue for you a week ago, but I don't remember fretting it. Let's not say that I fret the schedule when it came out, because that's what you said last week and that's absolutely false. When the schedule comes out, you look at it. You look at the time, the primetime games, and the travel after a primetime game. Those are the first things that you look at, then you look at where we play late in the year on the road. Certainly, you don't fret it. You prepare for it and you get ready for it. You practice outside and you do those things that get you ready to play whether you are inside or outside. I think we are a team that can handle either playing inside or outside.
Does it help that you played Cincinnati two weeks ago? I think that we are a team that is battle tested and we have been able to handle the elements whether it's been wind or cold weather. I think we look more closely at travel logistics in regards to Thursday games or Monday games then we do weather games. I think there is a confidence that comes with where your team is at. Chances are that if you are playing well outdoors, then you are probably playing pretty well. You are probably a better team. I am confident that we will be able to handle that. You go through that aspect of mentally and physically understanding how a game can change a little bit with regards to wind, temperatures, and so on. I think that we are better served having played that game then to come in to this game for the first time not having played a cold weather game. This is going to be a different opponent. It's a different opponent from the AFC North that plays in these elements. That's part of it. That's part of what we need to do.
Is it a tougher challenge to go on the road on Monday night?That's something that you pay close attention to. I think that would be something that can be a challenge. Any time you play on a Monday, we played San Francisco (49ers) out west, travel on a short week. Who do you have the next week? Those are all things that affect your practice schedule. It affects the rest and sleep of your players. That would be an example of something that we would look closely at.
Are you going to watch the game tonight as a staff?
No, we won't watch it as a staff. We will get the coach's tape in tomorrow morning. We will spend most of today on the prior games, which at this point in the year is a lot. I am sure we will watch the TV feed. I think the TV feed, sometimes, give you an aspect to the game that you don't get from the coach's tape whether its injuries or certain things in regards to personnel. It will probably be here and probably from the TV feed and tomorrow from the coach's feed.
What are your thoughts on the collapse of the top of the Metrodome? I know they have a history of repairing those domes that are held up by air. I think that everyone was fortunate that there were not a lot of people in there when it happened.
What do you think of Jonathan Vilma's performance so far this season? He is having a good year. He had probably one of his better games yesterday. He is very consistent. He is a guy who prepares very diligently. He is very competitive and he is the signal caller for our defense which involves a lot. He gets us in and out of a lot of packages. There are some liberties that he has when it comes to changing, based on the mannerisms of a quarterback or a run set or a pass set, what we are going to do defensively. He handles that well. He played very well yesterday.
Are there a lot of times where Vilma will change the defensive call and we just won't notice?
I think that sometimes it happens in games more than you would notice, but I think that sometimes, because of the game plan, it might not happen as much. It would depend on the opponent. I think that it's easier to see the changes on offense because our eyes are trained to go straight to the quarterback. It probably isn't as obvious because our eyes don't focus on the Mike Linebacker, necessarily, and his mannerism. It happens. Probably not to the extent that it happens with the quarterback, but nonetheless, with what we do defensively, he has done a great job with that. That goes back to all of last year, and the Super Bowl. You can look at it a second time and see what it is that he is trying to accomplish.
Yesterday, you played a team that was very good defensively in the first quarter, and you were able to jump out to a 14-0 lead. What contributes to that? It was a point of emphasis. We talked a lot about the Rams and some things were really noticeable. They are applying a lot more pressure to the quarterback this year. Just their rush and their pressures. Their sack numbers, their hurries, are way up. Their third down defense has been good. Their first quarter differential has been very good. It hasn't been as good in the fourth quarter. We felt like it was a team that has played well on both sides of the ball. All of those things factor in and the players executed well. Ultimately, we cleaned up some of the penalties, and credit the guys on offense and defense. I thought the way we covered the first kickoff was very encouraging. We had very good energy. We rallied to the ball, made the tackle inside the 20. You can see some things without watching the film. Those are kind of initial things. You put the tape on and I thought we handled some of the blitz looks pretty well and discouraged some of the pressures with a few different protections that we tinkered with early that I think changed the launch point for the quarterback and as a result, had some success. We moved in and out of a lot of different personnel early on. Three tight ends, one tight end, three running backs, no running backs. The personnel was constantly changing early to create indecision and to slow down any type of plan they might have.
How do you feel about the performance of your special teams? I thought they played well. We have got to keep working on the return aspect of it. Our coverage units were much improved. I thought a lot of guys stood out. Great efforts. We just met as a staff to go through grades and production of certain players. We are at that point in the season, which is a little unusual, where we have so many healthy inactives. There is competition for these snaps that we are talking about whether it's in coverage units, offensively, or defensively. A guy like Leigh Torrence stepped in and really was productive yesterday. I was encouraged and that's good as we hit the stretch here.
Why wasn't Thomas Morstead kicking off for a stretch of time?
We kind of go back and forth. If we are looking for more hang time and location, then that's probably something that Garrett (Hartley) does better. We have done that. Going back to Seattle, when we played one of the better returners in the league in Leon Washington, we wanted hang time. We wanted the ball in the air to give us the best chance the cover. That was the plan. With Thomas, it's more distance. It might not be the hang time or the location you want. They are different but we certainly have confidence in both of them kicking off because they both have strong legs. It's not a liability; I think it's an asset.
If you go in to this next game as the underdog in the spread, is that something that you will use as a coach? Maybe there are games where you are more aware of that. It's really changed in just the time I have been in the league. It used to be something that everyone talked about, the spread. It used to be a part of NFL broadcasts. Because its not, we aren't as informed and wouldn't know. We wouldn't look at it like they did ten years ago. Like they are a three and a half point favorite, we are being disrespected. You guys are faced with a challenge. You want injury information because the fan wants injury information because they want to know who to play and who not to play in fantasy football. I get that. That has kind of taken more attention to one aspect of it and away from the spread. Certainly, it exists somewhere but we aren't in tune with that. We know that we are playing a good team. A team that is playing with a lot of the same things at stake as we are. That's what we pay attention to. So that wouldn't something that we would reference, and that wouldn't be something that I be aware of today. Even tomorrow, really. At some point, someone might make note of it. It's really changed.
Do you use it as a motivational tool?
I don't know if that would be the direction you would ever go. It may have been eight years ago. I don't know if that is as important now, or paid attention to as much by the masses, as it used to be.
Do you have to motivate this team any differently now that you have had success?It's no different than a teacher. I think there are some weeks where you want to try to turn a certain switch. I think this team, to really elaborate on a veteran team, begins to take over and place itself and compete. They want to be successful themselves. They want that and aspire to have success. They understand what comes with that and the challenges of it. The challenges, week to week, in preparation. The good teams begin to take over and kind of maintain that expectation level themselves. Our job, as coaches, is to really pay attention to the areas, when we have success, that we need to improve on. Despite the fact that we won a game, there are some things that we didn't do as well as we would have liked to have done yesterday, then prepare what we think is the best plan to beat that next team. That might be different than the week prior. How do we win this game and this is how we have to go about doing it knowing that we may have to adjust during the course of a game. This is what we think we need to do to win this next game. You kind of take that approach, but you never stop trying to inspire, teach, or point to areas that you think will give you an advantage.
Where does this season fit in for Marques Colston? It's not completed yet. He's certainly playing at a very high level. Probably the last two thirds of it, you have seen a spike and you have seen him make some big plays. Yesterday was no exception. He is a big target. Not only outside in the base, but inside in the nickel. Yesterday is a good example of it, the second touchdown he catches on a third and long was an in traffic, cover two, touchdown by a big receiver making a play above his head. When you have that size, the target area for the quarterback is bigger. The guy is a little bit more open because of it. To answer your question, I think he is playing well. I think he would tell you we have three more important games coming up and it's good to see his progress. It's good to see that he has been healthy, relatively. At that position, sometimes you can go a couple of weeks with some nicks and miss a couple opportunities. He's been relatively healthy.
He was targeted 13 times yesterday. Was that planned or just how the game went? We'll have primary and secondary receivers and yet Drew, at times, is going to come to a different receiver because of coverage. Its one the things that he does such a good job with. A lot of it is predicated on coverage and progression. I don't know if he would have been primary 13 times yesterday, but he was primary on the first touchdown that he scored which was a little draw play fake to Reggie. He was primary on the second touchdown he scored and some of those conversions on third down. Every once in a while, he caught a ball and he was secondary. That happens.
After being so dominant, what were the points of emphasis coming out of yesterday's game?
I would say ball security still. You never want to get away from that because that is the one aspect that wins. When we put the tape on today, we are going to see some things that allow us to get corrected and help us, whether it's in the run game, on a certain protection. We had some drops yesterday. There were four, arguably five, drops offensively. Those are the things you want to get cleaned up. You are always searching for that perfect game. There was a stretch in the second quarter, where the Malcolm Jenkins interception for a touchdown gives us that separation. There was a stretch there where it could have been a 4 point game. I don't know what the difference would have been, but it could have been a close game at halftime. 14-9 or 14-13 possibly. That was a significant play. Just that consistency is what you are looking for. I thought the third down numbers were good. That was encouraging. Paying close attention to the red zone. Paying close attention to some of the things defensively we are trying to accomplish with the hurries and the pressure. I thought that aspect of the game was important yesterday with regards to what quarterback was going to be in duress and which one wasn't. I felt like that was something we were able to win and that led to a lot of the things we are discussing now, like the time that Drew (Brees) had and the pressure we were able to apply on their quarterback.
Are you going to bring back the local officials to practice? We probably will. You get in a routine and all of a sudden… I think the plan would be to bring them back Wednesday and probably Thursday and continue to do that.
When will Courtney Roby be released from the hospital?
I think today. I think he will go through some of the tests that are normally done when a player is concussed. We will receive a chance to see where those results are at and where he is at.