New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe VittPress ConferenceMonday, November 19, 2012
Opening Statement:"In reviewing the film last night and early this morning, one thing we had to do was win the turnover/takeaway battle which we did. I thought a big stat in that game was Pierre (Thomas) recovering a fumble that Jimmy (Graham) had lost. Offensively we had great balance yesterday. Pete Carmichael called a great game. Aaron Kromer did a great job in the running game. We had some positive yards there. We had some big plays. Lance (Moore) had a big day yesterday. Specialteamwise, all we talked about all week long was getting our return game going to set up field position for our offense. We had one return called back because of a penalty. We led off the second half with a long kickoff return. Greg McMahon and Mike Mallory did a great job last week in the scheme part of that. Defensively, we're playing this run game better now. We're playing downhill. We're becoming better at our tackling. We kept the deep ball off of us yesterday, which the Raiders are known to do. Malcolm Jenkins had a big play intercepting the ball and taking it to the end zone. We need to get better with our penalties. That's the easiest way to self-destruct. We'll address that and as we embrace that we'll get better at it."
In the last few weeks is this team reminding you at all of the 2009 team defensively that was low in the yardage rankings, but forced a lot of turnovers and scored touchdowns off of them?
"I really haven't thought about that. Every year, you've heard me say it a million times that every team has a personality of its own. The players that we have on defense have truly bought in to what we have here and how we do things. When you bring players into our system, they adapt to the way we teach, the way we walk through things and to the accountability that we're going to hold you to and I think our players are adapting to that. They've bought in. I really haven't thought about any comparisons with that."
As a defensive coach, are you proud of how they've held up in the red zone and goal to go situations?
"Number one, this isn't my team. Number two, if you look at the history of what Steve Spagnuolo has taught as a coordinator and what he did as a head coach in St. Louis, they've always had great red zone defenses. They've always had great goal line defenses. I think that came down from Jimmy Johnson, when they were together in Philly with Andy Reid. You need to have the right people and you need to have prideful men and I think that when you're down there on the goal line, making plays on the one-yard line, it's a testament to your players' resolve and physicality"
Very few teams have started 0-4 and gotten in position where they could get over .500. What was the key to the turnaround?
"I think the key is that this team has stuck together and weathered a huge storm and they didn't point fingers. All they did was try to get better every day on a collective basis. Skill development on a personal basis has been important to everyone. This coaching staff has done a phenomenal job of keeping the target on the next game, next practice. All we talk about now is closing this game out and getting ready for San Francisco. That's all that matters. That's the only game we can play."
What's Charles Brown's status?
"He's being evaluated right now. He's being evaluated as we speak"
Are you looking at other tackles?
"Yes, once we get the evaluation. We usually bring a group of athletes in on Tuesday and look at them and see if they can help our football team. We're waiting for the evaluation to see where that is."
What's the outlook on Zach Strief's potential availability moving forward?
"(Bryce) Harris played pretty well for us yesterday. Like (Eric) Olsen, he has athleticism, (is maybe) a little undersized and has a little bit better arm length. We'll evaluate that position and do whatever we think is necessary to win."
Has there ever been too much made of payback for last year's San Francisco game?
They eliminated us in the playoffs last year. At the end of that game, our hats were off to them. They won 15 games. Take a look at them statistically as to where they were a year ago when they beat us. I had never seen numbers like that in how they stopped the running game and the way they were forcing turnovers. I think at the time they were like 30. Special teams were ranked first in the National Football League. We ran into a buzzsaw last year and they beat us. This is a new season. This is a new set of challenges. This is a new week and this is our next opponent."
Is the club's success in the month of November over the past four years, a factor of the team being able to realize what times of the year are vital?
"I think it's the process. They come in everyday as a player and try to get better. We try to get better as a team. By November, you kind of define who you are and get a little bit of confidence. That being said, I know what our November record has been. The past doesn't dictate the future. It's going to take another great week. With this team coming in, it will be a great challenge."
What is the reason that this team seems to stick together in tough times?
"I think Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis) came together here in '06. We made a concerted effort to bring guys in here that have character and integrity that winning was important to and had the innate ability to put the team above their own personal goals. When you have a group of guys that are like that, there are a lot of guys in this locker room that have played together for five, six and a half years. There's a true accountability to each other in that locker room. When you're able to get the right people, each and every year to go on this journey with, that gives you a pretty good chance."
Are there any particular people that provide that leadership?
"You're here every day. The quarterback is pretty good. The linebacker (Jonathan Vilma's) pretty good and I think number 50's (Curtis Lofton) been a great acquisition. 91 (Will Smith), that's all he's done is lead. 27's (Malcolm Jenkins) a voted captain on this football team. Zach Strief has the groin injury, has a hard time walking and wants to go on the sideline to be with his teammates. Number 73 (Jahri Evans), all he does is lead by example. Marques Colston, when did he let you down? Lance Moore might be playing his best football. These guys have been here a long time and won a lot of games together. They're accountable to one another. I think that's the pressure every week on our coaching staff to make sure we don't let them down. It's our job to provide them with a road map that gives them the best chance to compete on Sunday."
Is a mark of a person like Lance Moore how they play after they get their first long-term contract?
"I don't know that. I haven't tracked that. I know this that anybody Mickey (Loomis) has given a big contract to, he tries to do it to people that have been in this building from day one and have sweated and tried to make this program what it is today. I don't think any of the guys we've had here since '06 have had a sense of entitlement. Their next game is their most important game. We all believe in what have you done for me lately."
After the Green Bay loss, Aaron Kromer used the climbing the mountain analogy. At what part of the mountain are you guys at now?
"You have to be kidding me. We're ten games into a season. We're .500. We have miles to go. We have weeks to go. We have miles to go. We're nowhere near where we need to be. We're nowhere near where anybody on this team wants to be. That's why every practice, every meeting and every chance you have to get better is critical. It's a marathon."
You stressed the alertness of Pierre Thomas' fumble recovery. What does that say about him?
"It says he understands how important the turnover differential is in the National Football League and is number one. He got on it and sat on it. It's an important stat."
How will you watch the San Francisco game tonight?
"I'll watch it in my office as most of the coaches will."
You don't watch it together?
"No, we don't sit around and get popcorn. Our coordinators watch it on TV because you pick up some things on TV like the cadence and potentially some checks on defense and things like that."
Is it helpful?
Is it helpful compared to coaches tape?
"Yes, because you don't have audio on coaches tape."
In retrospect is the recent turnaround not shocking as the games during the 0-4 start were all competitive?
"It's important to understand that we can't look in the rearview mirror. We can't change any of those outcomes. They are what they are. You can't look over the fender or the bumper and look too far. Our players are coming in here on these two days and getting a good run. They will review the film on Sunday's game. They will break the seal on San Francisco. They will meet on Wednesday morning and we will start our install for San Francisco and that's what it is. We're going to have a great week of preparation against San Francisco, one of the elite teams in the National Football League. It's a chance to compete. We're going to get exactly what we deserve and that's it."
Will you be anxious to put together a game plan for whenever Darren Sproles comes back?
"Yes. What do you think?"