**New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton** **Tuesday, January 12, 2010**
"First, a couple of practice squad transactions to announce; we signed offensive lineman Na'Shan Goddard – he'll wear jersey 75. He was with the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad. And we signed cornerback Glenn Sharpe to our practice squad. He'll wear jersey number 29. He was with Atlanta. We released from the practice squad cornerback Darrick Brown. Those are all practice squad transactions. Tomorrow we'll discuss injuries; nothing today in regards to that. Most of the focal point in today's practice was our base, first and second downs."
What is your initial reaction to what you saw from Arizona on Sunday?
"It was obviously an exciting game. You never know how games will unfold and that one took shape in a way where Green Bay was coming from behind and you saw a lot of big plays from both teams. It was obviously and entertaining game to watch."
How pleased have you been with the play of your starting cornerbacks and how do you assess this matchup with them against the Arizona receivers?
"There are a number of different matchups, but it's good to have those guys taking snaps and working. We have a few different combination coverages in regards to who might play in the nickel and possibly dime packages, but overall when healthy, that's a strength of ours."
Is it somewhat ironic to see Beanie Wells playing so well for the Cardinals when you had such an interest in him?
"He is a guy that we had researched real well and you're always happy for a player like that. You feel good about your evaluation when you see a player that's doing as well as he is. (Brian) Cushing is another player that we really had high grades on and he had a great year for Houston. With Mickey (Loomis) and the scouting department, we always try to go back and see how these guys are doing – not just in year one, but as they progress as NFL players and compare it to the grades that we had on them. That's always important."
Does Wells also make them a much more dangerous team?
"He's a good running back, so he gives them a presence at the running back position which is important at this time of the year. When you look at what they did a year ago, they were able to run the football along with throwing the ball efficiently. I think that's important, especially in the postseason."
How important is it for your defense to make Kurt Warner feel uncomfortable in the pocket?
"There are a few things statistically, if you look at the past weekend's games – and not just this year. The turnover statistic is important and protecting the quarterback is important. When you look at the teams that played this past weekend in the Wild Card round, it's obviously an important part of the plan, making sure that your quarterback has time and you're able to affect the opposing team's quarterback. I think that was a key statistic in every one of the games that we just saw."
How big of a logistical edge do you have in having had a week off compared to the Cardinals having to travel to play on Saturday after a Sunday game?
"At this time of the year, players understand that they're going to have the whole offseason to rest so at this point of the season teams recover and get ready very well. I think you can see from the results last year where a number of teams that had to play and then play again versus teams that rested had success. I think it comes down to the execution and I think both teams will certainly be ready to play."
Is the notion of that advantage overblown?
"Maybe a little bit. You look and all season long teams play Monday night games and then come back and play Sunday; teams play on Thursday after a Sunday. That's just the way the schedule shakes out with television and the postseason is no different. I think that teams become adept at adjusting to the schedule put forth. That's something that each year when the schedule comes out you're always looking down to see how many oddball games you might have in regards to Monday night, Thursday night, Saturday night, etc."
What has Drew Brees' demeanor been like after being able to get back on the field following some time off?
"He has a great routine and he works extremely hard in his preparation. We had a handful of good practices through the weekend where you start with three teams going into the weekend and then after the Dallas win over Philadelphia it narrowed to two, so in his case he has been watching a lot of film and really doing all the things that make him a special quarterback. I think that there's a process that he likes to follow and he's very diligent in regards to his preparation."
What are the qualities that he has that will suit him the best for the postseason?
"Number one, he's a winner. That has followed him wherever he has been. He's very accurate; he's someone who is going to prepare and cover really every play that could possibly be called in the game. He'll have a grasp for it in regards to what he's seeing and what he wants to do with the football. When you look at that position, every time they handle the ball there are decisions that they make and one great trait that he has is that he's a great decision-maker. I think this week of preparation will be no different for him in that he'll work tirelessly on all the details of the gameplan as we get ready."
How confident are you that you're going to be able to play your best football after not having won a game in so long?
"I'm pretty confident and I think our players will be. Like I said last week, we'll be ready. Really everyone starts off 0-0 right here. I thought today's work was outstanding and I think our players will be ready."
Did you bring in a guy like Darren Sharper with an eye toward situations like these?
"His experience certainly is a plus, having been in a number of these games. The key with a player like that at his age is the health standpoint and he has been able to stay healthy this year. He has had an outstanding season. When you get into games like this and you look at your roster, there are a number of guys that played in this game three years ago against Philadelphia and then on to the NFC Championship game and then there are a number of guys who haven't. I think they are used to playing in big games and as we went through the season we had a number of big games, and I made the comment on more than one occasion that there were going to be other big games and here we are. I think our players understand the process of the work week and how important that is and guys like Darren Sharper understand the tempo of playoff football and I think that's very important."
How much does the "chess match" increase at this time of year?
"I don't know that it increases. I think each week within the regular season you're trying to look at all the game tape that you can and trying to put your best gameplan together. I think more importantly is that your best gameplan still has to consist of things that you've done and that your players know well. I think the mistake sometimes is the idea that you're going to add a lot of new things. Looking back at my experience, when you look at the cut-ups at the end of the year – all the plays that you've run offensively and defensively – oftentimes the stuff that you ran in training camp are the ones you're most efficient at. So you begin to tinker with formations and dressing those things up, but you always have to be leery in games like this of trying to do too much. So I think it comes down the details and the execution. It comes down to not turning the football over and winning that battle. That was another statistic this weekend that was glaring. In each of the games, the winner was the one that protected the ball better and won that battle."
Do you think that having the extra week is an advantage when it comes to game-planning?
"What it helps you do is to generate your computer reports ahead of time because it's fairly easy to begin the process on three teams and get all the reports in and get the video watched. But it wasn't until Sunday whenever that game finished that you really honed in on one specific team. There's enough time to look at all the games and pay close attention to the strengths and weaknesses – no different than it will be for Arizona looking at us."
What impresses you most about Kurt Warner?
"You hear a lot of times people say that he gets rid of the football, and it does come out of his hands fast, but in order to get rid of the football in a timely fashion, you have to decide quickly where you want to go with it and he does a good job – like Drew does – in processing information very quickly and making good decisions accurately and the ball comes out. Both of those players become harder to sack because the ball does come out quickly. It's easy to say that the quarterback has to get rid of it quicker, but until you're able to digest what you're seeing defensively and then make those decisions quickly, it could come out quick but you might throw it to the wrong player. I think he does a good job of getting the ball out; he's very accurate; he's a good leader and he has been very consistent, especially when you look at his playoff numbers."
What specifically does it mean to get Jeremy Shockey back healthy?
"He's a guy that has been close for the past couple of weeks. He's a presence inside, not only in the passing game but he helps us in the running game and gives us flexibility with our personnel groupings. He's certainly one of the guys that we look at as a key starter. There are a number of things that we can do when he's playing rather than when he's not."
Do you have a rotation in mind at defensive end to replace Charles Grant?
"We signed Paul Spicer and Bobby McCray, Jeff Charleston – those guys have all played a lot of snaps this year. We'll be in and out of a number of personnel groupings and we'll rotate like we have with that front. That's something that Gregg (Williams) and Bill (Johnson) and the coaches on defense have done a good job with so there are a lot of guys that have played already and we'll look closely at that all week."
What do you expect from Garrett Hartley as he faces his first playoff pressure?
"One of the things I liked was how he performed in the games last year. He's a guy that as you evaluate the kicks he has made – at Washington in the game this year and some big spots – he'll handle it just fine. He has kicked in big spots before and he's a guy that when you watch him, he has a lot of confidence in his leg. Certainly his teammates see that and that was what we were able to evaluate last year in the regular season when he kicked, as well as this year. He's not a rookie. He's experienced and he'll be ready."
What was the thought process in using Hartley to kick off in Carolina instead of Thomas Morstead?
"He kicked off a year ago and this year when we started the year with John (Carney), we used Tom and can continue to use Tom. I just wanted to see him kick in that game, just to see how he was doing with that. When you do that, then the punter just works on the technique of punting. Both of those guys have strong legs, which is a little bit of a luxury when it comes to a game and having that flexibility whether it's Garrett kicking off or Tom. We'll decide later in the week as we approach the game how we want to go. But both of them have good legs and it was merely me wanting to see how he would do back in that role because he hadn't done it this year so we just took a look at him."
How do you avoid the lapse that affected some of the teams that had the bye week in recent seasons?
"I think the key is the process in which we practice. Putting the time in today, I thought we had a real crisp practice. I think the schedule for our players – with the only difference being a Saturday game – is that this is a Wednesday to us, really, keeping them on their routine. Certainly they understand the importance of the game and yet the routine and the path to play well begins during the work week and today with our first full practice with Arizona in mind."
Do you have to do anything to get their motor up?
"I don't think that in playoff games that's as big of an issue. I think the execution and the details are the things that are most important."
What else do you have to look at other than statistics to get the full picture of your defense?
"I think what's most important is the defense this week and looking back closely at the things that we've done well during the season in prior games. When the postseason begins, that packet of statistical information that you get from the league office shifts to postseason numbers and clearly for us, whether it's in the kicking game, offensively or defensively, the focus is just on playing well and winning this game. Clearly as coaches you pay close attention to things you want to improve on and implement those; we had the additional week to do that and this week to reinforce those things."
Would scoring defense and takeaways be two areas that would help balance the #25 ranking?
"I think the takeaways is the one thing that is noticeably different from a year ago and the other thing is the big plays that we gave up a year ago compared to where we're playing now. From a turnover standpoint, creating those opportunities is significant and if you went back through the season you could point to a number of games where they became game-winners. Certainly that statistic is vital in these games and it's the most important statistic – not only in the regular season but clearly in the postseason."
Without getting into specifics on injuries, were you able to achieve the level of health that you had hoped to have going into this game?
"We're getting there with our health. We had great participation today. We're encouraged with the guys that we've been waiting on and again we'll have another full day tomorrow. We have a lot of time between now and when we play and I think that has been a positive."
Where is the offense now as opposed to the beginning of the season in its ability to attack a 3-4 defense?
"Fortunately we saw a number of teams play a 3-4 front; you can go to early in the season with the Jets and we've seen variations from it, even from our own defense when we get into certain packages. I think that they have become very familiar with the type of 3-4 that we're seeing. Not all 3-4 defenses are structured the same way. There's a 3-4 two-gap defense that you see more from New England some of those teams. When you look at Arizona, there are a handful of teams running a similar package that they're running. I think our players are well-versed in it, mainly because we've seen a number of teams already this year in that front."
How does Arizona's 3-4 defense differ from others?
"You start with a one- or two-gap approach and theirs would be a one-gap approach. They play a lot of 'under' front from the 3-4, which would be like a normal 4-3 'under' defense, only one of the outside linebackers is really more of an end. Both of their outside linebackers stay right and left so either one of them could be playing in that 'end' position, so it's more of a one-gap defense."
Was Arizona's run last year a good example of what happens late in the regular season not always having an effect on the results in the postseason?
"When you look at the run that they had, you look at what Ken (Whisenhunt) was able to do with that team and most importantly the stuck together and really got into the postseason and played good football. I think that you'll see teams all of a sudden in the postseason – when you watch the Jets right now playing with a lot of confidence in a big win that they had this past weekend, and Arizona would be a good example of a team that got going and got hot and played very well. That's not anything new. I think if you go back in the history of the postseason that comes up often."
Do you have a relationship at all with Ken Whisenhunt and did you see him as a coach on the rise?
"I've never worked with Ken. We have a chance at the Owners' meetings and the Combine to always touch with our peers. He's done a great job there. Certainly he was well-respected before becoming a head coach. He has done a tremendous job of really changing a culture in Arizona, of changing the fortunes of an organization. His staff and the players that they've put in place there have really done a great job of following the plan and that's a credit to him and the coaches and the people involved in that process because it's difficult. It's challenging to do that and do it consistently and that certainly starts at the top."
Have you seen another group of receivers this year that is similar to what the Cardinals have?
"They're very talented. Without trying to make comparisons – I think that would be unfair – but what was really impressive was seeing a guy like (Early) Doucet come in with the injury to (Anquan) Boldin and play the way he did. They're deep at that position group. They do a good job of deploying them. Certainly there's a confidence level in their quarterback to be in the right spots – the same things that we try to preach here with our quarterback. But it's an extremely talented group."
Do you agree with the perception that the rhythm and execution on offense were better in the first three months of the season than the last month?
"If you just look statistically, that would be obvious. I think what's most important is this next coming month. I think the one thing that is somewhat misleading is that you begin to look at Washington or Atlanta, and if you look closely at our schedule or any NFL schedule – the Jets game was close until the very end, the Bills game came down to the fourth quarter, the first Carolina game we were down 14, the Falcons game we were down… It's easy to grab the last couple and discount the fact that those were tough wins and good wins for us. Those were big games in allowing us to have the one-seed. When you go back through the schedule in its entirety, you're going to play in a lot of those games. Fortunately, this year we've been able to finish and play well in the fourth quarter in some big spots. I think that will carry over as we move into the postseason."
What differences do you see in the Cardinals from when they're playing well and when they're not?
"It's the very same thing we've talked about in regards to playing well in the postseason. They've taken care of the football and they've protected Kurt (Warner). It would be the same thing if you pointed to and looked closely at our numbers. You play good defense and you take care of the ball and you do all those little things well. That's something that is pretty apparent."
How important is it to guard against playing tight in a big game like this?
"That's a good question. The biggest thing is to have confidence in the plan and making sure that the players clearly understand the play design, offensively or defensively. They understand it because they've done it repeatedly before and before and before and just being cautious of not having too many new thoughts or new ideas that create indecision. Generally when a player has a grasp of what you're doing and has done it a number of times, it allows him to do it at a better speed and with more confidence."
So it's "go with what got you here"?
"Yeah. I think there are certain tendencies that you have and you work hard to gameplan like we do every week to look at certain ways to attack a defense or to attack an offense or to cover kicks, and yet you just have to be cautious that you're not adding a lot of things that you haven't really repped a lot. I think that's one of the things that allows them to play at the tempo you're looking for rather than to play a little slower."
Do you think that this team can be motivated by the fact that people are suddenly doubting them?
"Honestly, I think the motivation for this team is a lot deeper and comes from guys wanting to do well after all the hard work in the offseason and having high goals. This isn't the first time; they've been doubted before in a number of big spots this year already. I don't think they pay much attention to that."