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Joe Vitt: Falcons Game Will be a Huge Challenge

Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt provided an injury update to the media and discussed Sunday's contest against the Atlanta Falcons


New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Post-Practice Media Availability
Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Opening Statement:
"We made a roster move this morning.  We signed CB A.J. Davis, who was with us in training camp and we waived Nick Hixson this morning, so we'll see how that works out.  We're excited about the move.  Darren Sproles did not practice today.  We all know he has the hand injury.  Courtney Roby did not practice today.  He has a shoulder injury.  Junior Galette did not practice today.  He has an ankle injury.  Zach Strief did not practice today.  He has a groin injury.  David Hawthorne was full-go.  We got good work today.  Today was our first and second down practice on both sides of the ball.  We certainly know the challenges that face us ahead.  Offensively, they are a skilled football team.  They're 8-0 for a reason.  They're plus-ten in turnover takeaways.  They're making big plays on offense.  They're one of the least penalized teams in football, so they've got all the ingredients and they're doing all the things right to be 8-0.  I said this earlier, it's going to take our A game and everything we have to compete with this football team.  We had a good practice today and we're excited."

How challenging is it to defend against Tony Gonzalez?
"I was with Tony for four years in Kansas City and I really marvel at his work habits.  He's a tight end that has basketball-type athleticism.  He's in and out of his breaks, he can drop his weight, and he doesn't give his routes away.  You combine that he's got great hand-eye coordination, he can catch the ball outside the framework of his body.  He and Matt Ryan have been together now for a significant amount of time where they're on page with one another.  Listen, this is one of the premiere tight ends that you have to defend in this league if you expect to win a game.  He's everything as advertised."

How much is Tony Gonzalez's presence in Atlanta's offense open things up for Roddy White?
"When you have two big, skilled wide receivers like (Julio) Jones and (Roddy) White, you like to play some cover two against them.  You're going to roll up on the outside and protect them with the safeties over the top.  You can't do that now because you expose the middle of the field to (Tony) Gonzalez.  We're going to have to play some cover two and we're going to have to mix our coverages, but Gonzalez is the guy that does not let you tilt your coverage to a wideout because of the threat he is."

Does the Falcons offense remind you of the Saints 2009 offense?
"I think there's a recipe to be 8-0 and they've got that recipe going right now.  They're extremely confident, they've won some tight football games, they're executing extremely well, they're not shooting themselves in the foot with needless penalties, they're winning the turnover takeaway battle, so there's a reason they're on a roll.  I really don't reflect back to last year.  I'm worried about this week."

Do the Falcons use Jacquizz Rodgers the way you use Darren Sproles?
"Not really, not yet.  He's fast, he's explosive, and he can make you miss.  I think they're still experimenting with what they have.  They can put him in a regular formation, 21 personnel, he's got the speed to get to the outside.  He's got decent enough power to make you miss inside, but I think he'll grow into an option-type runner and pattern runner that Darren is at some point in time.  But he's certainly explosive and he certainly has our respect."

What are your thoughts on having to play them twice in one month?
"You really don't give that a lot of thought.  You're going to play the hand you're dealt.  We're preparing for a heck of a game this weekend.  After that, it's on to the next challenge, but I haven't really given it a lot of thought.  If you're playing well, I guess you like it.  If you're not playing well, then you don't like it.  This is a huge challenge for our football team.  Since I've been here, we've never had a team that's been undefeated coming into the dome like this.  They're 8-0, they've earned every win.  I think they're the best team in football.  Their record dictates that."

What was your reaction when you knew there was a chance to sign Curtis Lofton and what has he brought to the team?
"Number one, (I was) excited.  He was a guy I spent a lot of time on (when he was) coming out of Oklahoma looking at his college film.  He had two visits in here and we had an extended visit with him at the Combine.  Number one, what you're getting is a sturdy linebacker.  He can protect the paint and really tackles well inside the paint.  I said this in the Spring, one of the things you don't know that you're getting until they get here is what kind of person he is.  He grinds film, he's dependable, he's durable, he's played every snap for us, he's very stable, he's not up and down with his play, he's really a good teammate, and he's earned the respect of our players in this locker room.  So this has been a real good acquisition for us."

How does Curtis Lofton fit in to the defense on passing downs?
"Very well.  You don't see him coming out.  He fits in very well."

When you were on a roll in 2009, as the weeks went on, did you find that the opposing team's intensity picked up because they were trying to beat you?
"No, I think this is what Atlanta is doing a good job of now, you cannot control how other teams are going to play you.  You can't control how other teams are going to prepare for you, the intensity that they play with against you.  The only thing that you can control is how you prepare and the mindset that you come to the game with.  I think 2009 taught us a valuable lesson.  We took it through '11 and we took it through last year.  The process for us is one day at a time and one week at a time.  When you get to the game, it's one play at a time.  The only thing you can worry about is those things you can control.  The only thing we can control is how we play and how we prepare.  You really don't try to predict the intensity that the other team's going to play with you.  You just can't do it."

What are some of the reasons about this staff that you've been on since 2006 that the team has been so successful against Atlanta?
"I don't know that.  The one thing that we don't do is we don't go back and look at past records.  I've said this to you guys a million times, every week in the National Football League takes on a life of its own.  Because we've beaten this team in the past at some point in time is going to have no bearing on this Sunday's game.  This is an 8-0 football team coming here to play a 3-5 football team.  I think they're the best team in football.  With a 3-5 record, that's who we are right now.  We're going to have to play our best game of the year to be able to compete with these people."

How much do you feel like having Curtis Lofton on your team can help you since he's been with the Falcons in recent years?
"He knows the personnel on that offense, but really it's a different scheme now.  It's a new offensive coordinator.  There are a lot of things different than what they did a year ago.  They don't shift as much, they don't have as many personnel groupings, and what they do very well now is they execute.  They do what they do and they'll do it over and over again until you stop them.  All good football teams in the National Football League are predictable and they're a good football team.  He can talk about personnel and he can talk about some of the nuances, but this is a new team with a new coordinator and it brings a new set of challenges."

When you look at the defensive ball, do you feel like they have a lot of defenders that are always around the ball as tacklers?
"Mike Nolan, since I've known him, has been a 3-4 coach.  When he took the job in Atlanta, they were really built to be a 4-3.  So he's got some of his 3-4 stuff that he did, but he's really integrated the 4-3 package that they had in Atlanta.  So they're going to give us what we call multiple front, multiple coverage, multiple blitz and zone pressure.  Really there's nothing that's out there that they don't do.  They do it extremely well.  They're playing with a high level of confidence right now.  They do get population to the ball.  They're disciplined and they're athletic."

It seems like personnel-wise they have a lot of the same players from a year ago.
"I think these new coordinators came in there and really energized this football team.  I think both coordinators have done a good job playing to the strength of the personnel that they acquired.  Obviously by the way they've played, they've energized the football team and the players have a lot of respect for them.  They made some personnel changes in their coaching staff that's worked out for them so far and 8-0 proves it."

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