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John DeShazier: Takeaways from Coach Sean Payton's Monday teleconference

Payton said close games likely will be the norm this season

Check out the Saints locker room celebration following the team's win over the Chargers.

A few snippets from Coach Sean Payton'sMonday teleconference:

  1. The last time Payton got a little too physically involved in a game (Oct. 16, 2011, Saints at Tampa Bay, in case anyone is wondering), he suffered a leg injury (he was rolled up on the sideline), then later confined to the coaches box upstairs for safety purposes, and handed over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. That's noteworthy because Sunday, after cornerback B.W. Webbintercepted Rivers' pass to seal the victory, Payton (jokingly, we think) said he was prepared to spring into action if the fourth-year player had continued to run rather than give himself up after a 7-yard return to end the play with 1:10 left. "We've seen that play, where the returner continues to run and the ball gets punched out, as well," he said. "You're in that segment of the game where as soon as he makes the interception, I'm about 10 yards to his left. So if he doesn't go down, you're going to see a flash come off the bench and tackle him."
  1. When Payton said the Saints don't have a large margin for error, and that the team likely will play in many close games, he wasn't kidding. The results have been 35-34, 16-13 and 45-32 in losses to Oakland, the Giants and Atlanta, respectively, and 35-34 in Sunday's win against San Diego. Legitimately, the Saints can say they're a handful of plays away from reversing their 1-3 record. "It's pretty normal in this league," he said. "We knew starting the season we're going to play in some hard-fought games, we've got to find a way to be better. The encouraging thing (Sunday) – there's a handful of things we didn't do well yesterday – the encouraging thing was, we finished. We got some momentum and got some takeaways, and capitalized on those turnovers. I think if we just went through this weekend's games, we would see it. There would be a handful of games that are two scores are more (in margin of victory) and by far, the majority of them, down to the last series."
  1. Several of the Saints' young players had critical roles in Sunday's game; rookie safety Vonn Bellforced the fumble that helped trigger New Orleans' comeback from a 34-21 deficit with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter, rookie receiver Michael Thomascaught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees(on fourth-and-2) to pull the Saints to within 34-28 and second-year offensive lineman Andrus Peatmade his second straight start at left tackle in place of injured Terron Armstead. Their maturation continues to be critical, and continues to come at a good time for a team that needed a victory. "It was important for our team to fight through some adversity there," Payton said. "Paying attention to the clock and clearly looking at where we were down 13 (points), it was important, that belief or that validation of an effort. A caused fumble by the defense, offensively we hit a fourth-and-2 pass to Michael. The next series we're able to recover a fumble from their receiver and again convert it. And just as importantly, knowing you have to come back and finish a two-minute drill defensively."
  1. Bell (six tackles and the forced fumble) is playing his way into more snaps. "He's explosive, I think he plays with real good speed. The job for us is going to be during this bye, is to look closely at what we're doing – not just defensively, or offensively, or in the kicking game – and make sure we've got our best players on the field. I think that's going to involve us looking closely at ways to incorporate Vonn, (Jairus) Byrd and Vaccaro. Offensively, the same thing applies when we start looking at the receivers and runners. Those will be things that we've got to address from a coaching staff standpoint."
  1. By no means was it a clean game for the Saints. Payton said as much immediately after the game, and didn't alter his stance Monday. "I thought offensively in the second half, we struggled. We had the two interceptions, which on the road are going to be tough to overcome and if not for their turnovers, we're not going to overcome them. I thought defensively in the first half, we gave up two easy touchdowns, chunk plays (a 20-yard touchdown pass from Philip Riversto tight end Hunter Henryin the first quarter, and a 57-yard touchdown connection between Rivers and receiver Dontrelle Inmanin the second quarter) – one through the middle of our defense with their first score and up the sideline on their second score – where we're not playing our coverage correctly. Those are disturbing."
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