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Jahri Evans, Curtis Lofton talk about Sunday's loss to the Bengals

Quotes from linebacker Curtis Lofton and guard Jahri Evans conference call with the New Orleans media on November 17, 2014

New Orleans Saints Guard Jahri Evans
Conference Call with Local Media
Monday, November 17, 2014

Did anything change on Sunday when Zach Strief had to go out with an injury?

"I don't think so. Typically when guys go down (with an injury) up front, the guys that are in there, we just try to get that guy up to speed on what we're seeing, what's going on out there and I felt like we did that with Bryce (Harris).  I don't think it changed the gameplan at all, maybe Coach Payton could tell you that better, but we don't feel like we have to operate any differently when a guy goes down."

Would you agree that the team was not emotionally ready to play yesterday? What causes that?

"I don't know what causes that but after watching film just now with the guys you could say that maybe we had a little more juice in some other games. That's just something that we have to find, it's something that if one guy says it or somebody else says it and a couple people say it then it's probably true. As a player you just look at it and see how can I be better, looking at myself what can I do to get better, during the week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in my technique and my footwork and my hand placement and my pre-snap reads, how can I be a better player to help my team come out with a win."

Does there need to be more guys who are outspoken about their frustrations?

"The thing is that we do have some young guys on this team that may not have played on this level or are getting their chance to play now, but it is frustrating when you have a group of guys together and you have success for a while and you come into it with a bulk of those guys that are still the same and you're trying to have that same success and have it each week and when it doesn't show up it is unfortunate, it is disappointing. The thing is that this year we just haven't pulled out the close games. If we were able to pull out the close games, not Cincinnati, not Dallas, we kind of weren't in those games with points, but the close games. We lost four games by a total of ten points, and that's the way this league goes. One snap here, one snap there, one bounce of the ball here, one bounce of the ball there. In the past we've been able to close out those games, we've been able to finish. This year has just been a little tougher for us and we weren't able to finish all of them."

Does Sean Payton talk to the team as a whole on Monday?

"Yes, he addresses the team every day that we're in here (at the practice facility). Right now our focus is, and everybody came in to watch film, our focus is to move on to Baltimore. That's our next opponent…"

Did you hear anything different in his voice today compared to previous weeks? A sense of urgency or frustration?

"No."

What do you think about the NFC South right now?

"It's wide open. That's what we talked about today, there are six games left in the season and we have three NFC South opponents and right now we are tied for first place with Atlanta holding that tie-breaker. We have to pay attention to Baltimore because that's who we have coming in here this week. Our division, somebody has to step up and take it."

Do you believe that there is any self-doubt coming into the team?

"As a professional athlete we go out there and we work hard at our craft every day. We're going out there on gameday to put forth our best effort and everything that we have into it to get a win. You don't put your body through the stuff that we do to go out there and not have success. We all want success in this building, and that's what we're working for. Injuries, we can't control that, it's the name of the game, it's physical…"

You've talked a lot this season about playing with a sense of urgency, with six games left this season how do you create that sense of urgency?

"We just have to work harder. We have to find that edge, find something that's going to help us get this win whether it's physically, whether it's mentally, just studying our opponent, then we have to go out there and execute. The bottom line is that we have to execute the gameplan on gameday and then we have to adjust when we see things that we haven't seen or they haven't shown us. Right now we have a lot of film out there and the same thing goes for other teams. Everybody has film out there. We just have to grind it out and win this division and not look past our other opponents but focus in on just winning."

Do you philosophically feel like if we talk about a team that finishes 7-9 and goes to the playoffs, is it fair to say that the record isn't always indicative of how a team would do in the playoffs or how good a team could be?

"I think every team around this league doesn't care what their record is as long as they are in the playoffs.  That is kind of the second season just getting there and that is the goal.  Once you get there you figure out your opponent and you prepare for your opponent.  Right now we are sitting here at 4-6 with a losing record and talking about the playoffs.  We are able to get there at 7-9 if we just take care of business.  Teams have done that before.  Once you get in you see your opponent, you prepare for your opponent and you prepare yourself to win."

Do you feel lucky to still have a shot at the playoffs?

"Our division, I guess you could say lucky but if the other teams aren't winning a handful of games we could be easily out of it but we are not.  That is the truth.  We are not out of it.  We are going to work hard and put wins on the board to make sure we stay in this thing."

You probably thought you were able to run away with the division.

"At the beginning of the year, yeah, coming into it, yeah, we definitely, most people thought of us as the frontrunners.  That is the thing about this league, we have a lot of talent on this team but the NFL is full of talent.  When one guys is injured sometimes your talent is high on some days when they are not hurt or when they are playing hurt but you have to put that effort out there.  And like I said, when you close out some of these close games early in the year we wouldn't be in this position but we are.  We just have to continue to get better as players, continue to work on our craft, continue to learn and let's go out there and execute."

How hard is it mentally to see so many key players go down?

"It is pretty tough when you come in and a guy is a big part of your game plan or he is a big play making guy.  You want that guy to be at their best all year and when they are not you are just trying to mentally help them or any way you can help them fight through whatever they are going through, but then you have to get the other guys ready and let them know listen, you are going to have an opportunity, don't lose sight and take advantage of your opportunity.  Like you say, we always say next guy is up because it is a violent game and that is one thing you can't control is the injuries."

New Orleans Saints Linebacker Curtis Lofton
Conference Call with Local Media
Monday, November 17, 2014

Can you talk about any ways to approach downs like third and fourth and longs?

"I think just overall situational defense has been a problem for us and we need to find a way to address those.  I think it has been evident in the past couple of games that we are struggling in those areas.  You kind of ask yourself 'what can we do to eliminate those and get off the field or make a play in those situations?'  We have to look at the film and be honest with yourself, think about the call and how can I do better.  That is what we did today as players.  Coaches are always involved.  We got together and broke down the film as a unit and addressed those problems.  We will get them corrected and get them fixed."

What is the mentality with plays like that?

"You would like for the guys to back up and get at a reasonable distance and back off the guy.  If it is third and 18 you probably want to have 10 yards cushion so hopefully for a guy to run a deeper route the pass rush has to come into effect to take the quarterback and don't let him have all day to throw the ball and you make him throw the ball in front of the sticks and come up and make a play."

Last year the Saints had 49 sacks in 16 games and this year you have 22 in 10 games.  How much has a lack of consistent pass rush contributed to the issues on defense this year?

"I wouldn't say it is a lack of pass rush, but I think pass coverage and pass rush go hand in hand and both of those have to come into play to win.  If one is off then the other struggles, I think you definitely see that and the number of sacks we've been getting, quarterbacks don't have to hold the ball as long then the coverage isn't that tight."

Any thoughts on what kind of player Rafael Bush has been since he stepped into his starting role and what would be the challenge of playing without him?

"I was with (Rafael) Bush in Atlanta.  I was pretty excited when we brought Bush to New Orleans.  He is a consistent player.  He knows the game.  He studies and he is one of those guys that makes up for a lot of other guys with his range.  With him coming in and playing great ball for us we didn't miss a step when (Jairus) Byrd went down, it just goes to show what kind of ability he has as a player.  For this defense we have to have the next man up mentality so when one guy goes down we expect you to play the same way, or not, even elevate the game.  We will definitely miss Bush.  I wish him the best."

Are you curious to see how they are going to handle it and what role will you take in it as a captain?

"I think that as a captain you want to push guys and you want to motivate and encourage guys but that only goes so far.  I think that as individuals we have to look at ourselves and ok, we have six games left.  I am going to do everything in my ability and my power to put this team in the best situation.  We are going to study more film, take care of my body, and ask more questions so I can help us win.  This is a six game season.  This is crucial. This is when we have to win these games.  Every game is a must win game and that is the approach we have to take and the mentality we have to have.  If we do that then I think we will be where we want to be."

What did you think about Kenny Vaccaro being so vocal yesterday?

"I think that when you express your frustration you don't express it to the media, you keep that in house.  He is not the only player that feels that way.  There have been numerous guys that have expressed the same feeling but there is a different type of way of doing that.  That is how it has been handled in the past and that is how it needs to be handled in the future too."

Did you feel the team was more flat than normal?

"I do agree with that.  It was a little flat.  I felt like we would pick it up but then something bad would happen, and fought back.  We have to understand that everything in the game is not going to go our way and we just have to ride the roller coaster, don't rock the roller coaster.  You don't want to get too high or you don't want to get too low, you just want to stay constant.  I always believe that something good is going to happen and we are going to win the game.  We didn't do that yesterday but we have to get that fixed and we will get it fixed."

You mentioned the players getting together today, is that something you do time to time or something you did differently?

"Usually after a loss we get together with our coaches.  Today the coaches put it on us to get together and look at the film.  We always get together every week as a defensive unit and as an offensive unit but also special teams.  We will break the game down together and watch our opponents. That is nothing new, but this time we were without the coaches."

Was this the first time without coaches since you've been here?

"No.  It is not out of the norm what we did today."

With third down defense, what are the things you try to identify to improve?

"I think that you look at what the pass rush is, you look at what personnel they are in and then you look at formation.  Once you see the formation and see the splits and wide receivers you can eliminate certain plays and certain routes and already in your mind you can prepare for that.  We do have a young group and we have to train them and push them to grow and study the game to be better in those situations."

So third down defense puts more of a premium on studying and reading right?

"Your question was on offense you can switch the ball to this hand and that hand and as a defense you asked me what can you do to be better.  One of the things is studying the film, knowing the splits, knowing the formations, knowing the down and distance and that allows you to eliminate certain things that you are going to get in your plan for two things at that time."

How do you go about playing with a sense of urgency?

"I think that as a leader and as captains we have to push these guys.  Coach (Payton) puts up, and he is very real with us in understanding where we are as team and if you don't see that and that doesn't inspire you or motivate you to go out there and do your job and be enthusiastic about it there are millions of other people out there that want your job and want to be where you are at.  Ask this organization, they don't allow people that can't continue to do that.  As players you have to understand that.  I have to do this and if I don't I am going to be replaced.  And plus, we know we are a good team and we haven't played it or haven't shown it but we are still very confident.  All of these problems will be addressed and will be fixed.  At the end of the year we are going to be where we want to be."

It sounds like you are saying those fake doors with the exit signs on them are more poignant symbols than usual this week.

"Yeah Coach Payton always talks about those exit doors.  It is very easy to walk out one of those doors.  He said as players you have some players that are always looking for a way out and some coaches looking for a way out too.  But it is the guys that who want to stay and fight and that is the players and coaches that we have in this locker room.  We will address and definitely fix these problems."

Will you learn more about this team in the next six games than you have all season?

"I think so.  I think like I said, Coach Payton has been very real with us.  This is exactly where we are at in the NFC, exactly what we have to do, and if we do this then at the end of the year we are going to be very happy.  This is what it is about so guys have to see that, you have to feel it, you have to breathe it and you have to believe in it and if you do that, like I said earlier, you have to do everything in your power to make this team better and make yourself better for these last six games."

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