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Monday with Sean Payton

    <span>              <span style="">New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton</span>                
            <span style="">Monday, December 7, 2009</span>                

Opening Statement: Much of what I said yesterday, I think holds true to some degree here. There are a number of things we have to clean up and do better as we move forward. This tape will provides us an opportunity to look closely at areas we can improve on. You have to start by crediting Washington, like I said yesterday. They did a good job coming in with a good plan. There are some things we can be better at and we will have to be better at. We got the win and in a tough spot with a short week, but we were able to manage that and find a chance there at the end of the game to win it. We were fortunate to win it. The focus shifts now this week to Atlanta. Wednesday I'll have a better idea of we are with injuries.

Q: What does it say about taking advantage of opportunities?

A: I think the play that (Robert) Meachem has at the end of the second quarter is significant. It's a hustle play. It's an effort play. You might do that 75 times and you may pull the ball out a handful of times, but the way he stayed after it and stripped the safety and scored, that was significant. It put us at a tie in the half. We came up with the timely turnovers defensively, certainly at the end of the game and in overtime, which proved to be game-winners. It took us a while, but we came up with those takeaways. Those were key.

Q: Was Gregg Williams trying to take credit for the Meachem play, given all his strip drills?

A: I think all of us were proud of Robert and certainly that will be something that Gregg will put on his takeaway reel. It was a good effort play. It's a hustle play by a young guy who just keeps getting better. He had a great game, the big catch he makes in the fourth quarter was significant to help us tie the game and send it into overtime. I was pleased and have been pleased at how Robert's played and he just keeps getting better and better.

Q: How much of Meachem's play is related to awareness?

A: I think that's a good point. When we spent time on turnover drills, Robert's spending a lot of his time on tuck, secure, high and tight, all the things you would coach someone handling the ball and then in a brief instant, the challenge always with the turnover is you don't always have the correct guys on the field to tackle what has become the offensive player. That's what our defense has done such a good job with this year. The minute there's an interception or a fumble recovery, there's a number of guys on offense that aren't really suited to chase or tackle a ball carrier and fortunately for us, ran down a play, stayed on it and thought more than just tackling the player, but tug, stripping the ball. It happened real quickly. That's great to see with a young player. That for us yesterday was one of a handful of plays that meant a lot, but that certainly kept us in the game and gave us a little life at halftime.

Q: What are you thinking when you see that on the sideline and the upcoming review?

A: I think it was clearly a stripped fumble score. I think what we're thinking like everyone else is the specifics in regards to the interception. Was it an interception or did it hit the ground? Initially without knowing, it looked like it was close. Was it down by contact? Those are the things. When it goes to review, you just sit. You know that what's being reviewed is not necessary Meachem's play, but what happened prior. At that point you wait.

Q: Have you been a part of a game where so many crucial plays have been decided by a review?

A: There was really two that come to my mind; Meachem's play and obviously the overtime play. The overtime play was upsetting because we almost missed that. We can't challenge that and I shouldn't have gotten a timeout back or any of that. Replay goes upstairs in overtime and you get two timeouts. That's the deal. It's a play that happens quickly on the field, he's ruled down by contact and they're back on the ball, it's third down. They're getting ready to run a play and I think, if it's close you have to be thinking, let's buzz down. All I was trying to do was slow down that process and hopefully give someone a chance to look at that closely. That's why we used the timeout and fortunately they were able to take a peek.

Q: I read a quote this morning where you stated you were opposed to resting players along the way even if there is no greater postseason seed to play for. Can you talk about that?

A: I didn't read his (Peter King's) story. Our focus is like it has been. We're still playing for games that matter in a lot of ways. We're trying to put ourselves in the best position possible in the postseason. The only thing I would say to that is that we're going to focus on the Atlanta Falcons. This is a place where we struggled a year ago and didn't play well. I think this is a very good team we're playing. Our focus is going to be on winning this game and doing everything we can to play well in this game. Past that, I'm really not looking ahead. We have a number of things we have to do better. There were a lot of mistakes we made yesterday; too many penalties, we made some mistakes and key errors on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, that are going to cost us. We'll sit here after one these losses and talk about why we did this and that. Our job right now is to hopefully eliminate those mistakes. The players will have two days. Wednesday they are back in. We'll start in on Atlanta and begin our preparation, but before that preparation starts with Atlanta, we need to make sure that we look closely at some of the things we didn't do a good job with yesterday.

Q: Was some of the sluggish play due to the abbreviated practice schedule?

A: I brought up mistakes made. You brought up sluggish play. I thought we played with effort and energy. I didn't have a problem with our wanting to go out and play hard and all that. I thought on a short week we handled that aspect of it well. The penalties, field position, some of the mistakes we made are concerns that I have. Those are the things we need to look at and clean up. We had a handful of them yesterday. We had too many penalties yesterday in a game I think we could easily lose and so those are the things that us on this next week on a normal schedule are things we're going to have to look at.

Q: Why was it so hard to run the ball?

A: I thought they got a lot of run fronts. Credit Washington. That's a good defense. This was going to be a team that put up a good challenge. This was a team that had played good defense if you looked at the games they played recently with Philadelphia, Dallas or any of those teams. It's one of the better defensive teams in the league. We had better success throwing the ball than running the ball and yet, we still didn't want to get away from running it. Yet, what was encouraging was we needed to run the ball at the very end and we did. That secured field position for the field goal.

Q: Can you talk about your reactions in personnel when Washington tried to ice Garrett Hartley for his last two field goal attempts?

A: The first case is when we sent the offense back out there. As we're observing and looking through the situation and you're paying attention…I was glad we were headed in the direction we were headed. I had asked Drew (Brees) right when we went to overtime…Obviously we were going to take the ball, but there's a part of me that was really wanting to make sure we were headed from our left to right, because I think that there was a fairly decent breeze going in that direction. A lot of the scoring was going that way and so, when they won the toss, obviously we were going to head in that direction. The point I'm getting at is as we were moving the football, we wanted to see if we could get this closer. We were going to kick the one field goal. They called the timeout. While that was taking place on the sideline, we decided let's keep going, put it back on the offense, ball security here. You have to be smart enough with the ball. We got more yardage and that's when we chose to (kick) at the one yard line to kick and they tried again to call a timeout right before he kicked it, but we left it alone.

Q: How close were you to going for a touchdown on the last play?

A: At that point, we felt good enough with where we were at. I didn't want to risk a turnover and you never want to risk a turnover. You always question when do you kick it, but I did feel good enough about the conditions and the direction the wind was going. Obviously when you're on the one-yard line, I think let's go win this game. I was pleased we were able to take advantage of the turnover we got in overtime. We came up the first few times with some play action nakeds. Drew made a great throw to Devery (Henderson) in what t think was the first o play in overtime. That got us from somewhat range to real good range. We were able to run the ball some and get it closer.

Q: Can you overemphasize the importance of homefield advantage in the playoffs?

A: I think the focus though really and I'll be honest with you and understand your question completely, but my focus right now is finding a way to make sure we're improving and we don't take a step backwards and we can clean up some of those mistakes so that whenever we play, wherever we play a playoff game, we're able to do a better job of some of the things we didn't do yesterday.

Q: Are there more mistakes being made at this point than you would expect?

A: No, but there are enough to go around to where we can look at it. We let a kickoff fall on the 18-yard line into the wind after we had just seen our own kicker kick and put them down to the 15 or 18. We had a number of penalties in that game; we had some protection issues. We had some shortage situations and looking back at the front we were getting, I think we probably would've been better served with a play-action pass. So all of us – I'm talking about the players, the coaches, all of us – need to pay close attention to being better in those situations. We have to be better in some of the red zone defensive situations that we had in coverage where Gregg (Williams) had called a fairly safe and secure coverage and all of a sudden we're turning a flat free. So today, the day after the game, that's where our focus is, rather than seeding or how many games we're going to try to win. That's the immediate focus in a short period of time. That being said, when we talk about giving ourselves the best chance, you want to be able to put yourself in the best postseason position as possible and the only thing that allows you to do that is to continue to win and we have a chance this week to play a good team in Atlanta. That's where we have to be better.

Q: Was calling the timeout that resulted in the fumble being overturned a gut feel by you?

A: It was similar to what a challenge would be in that there was enough sentiment on the sideline and from upstairs that it looked like a fumble. I knew it was a play that happened quick and I knew they ruled it down by contact, and there's that gap of time much like it would be if you were getting ready to challenge a play and you're just hoping – there's about five seconds that takes place where I'm talking to the side judge and I'm just waiting for the buzzer to see that the referee says that it's going to be looked at. Then Washington breaks the huddle and they're getting to the line and I'm thinking to myself that they're not going to look at this, so they must feel like it wasn't close and then the only thing that we feel like we could do was to call a timeout to slow down the process. That's what we chose to do there and I think that the key is that they got it right and we were able to get the ball back and take advantage of the turnover. That was pretty significant.

Q: What went into the decision to keep Scott Fujita home?

A: It was Friday and he was still having some soreness. He had practiced all week and they decided to drain the knee and when they went through that process is when they discovered the infection. He was in the hospital and they went ahead – it was a bursar area that they cleaned out and put him on antibiotics. Friday night I got a call from Scottie (Patton) that Scott was admitted to the hospital and he had an infection in his knee. I talked with him Saturday morning and I know Joe Vitt went over and had a chance to see him. It wasn't until Friday night and with the plane leaving the next day, we were going to be minus one of our linebackers. The other guys had to step in and play. That's really the timeframe in which it happened. He's still in the hospital and we think he'll be out here sometime soon and we're still treating with antibiotics. We'll talk about his status more as the week goes on. Fortunately we were able to catch it and get him the medicine necessary.

Q: Has there been a case of staph infection here before?

A: There are various forms of staph infections and I'm not a medical expert, but I know that the infection he has is of the bursar area and it's not the same severity of some other staph infections. We're fortunate in Scott's case that we were able to get a handle on it quickly and get the procedure done Saturday. I know he felt a lot better after they cleaned it up. Now it's just getting him the medicine and getting him the rest he needs to get better.

Q: Have there been precautions taken to prevent more instances of staph?

A: We spend a lot of time on the protocol, and there's new protocol each year in regards to what you should do with the treatment and the cleaning process and our guys have done a great job in that area. I'm confident that we're doing well there and this will be isolated.

Q: Does the disappointment of the previous two seasons make the success of this season better?

A: One of your early goals is to win your division and generally that's the first way to get in the playoffs. If you can win your division, you secure a playoff spot so we're pleased with that. Yesterday was a game where we didn't see any of the scores during our game and Atlanta had lost anyway, but that being said, it was nice that we were able to do it on a winning note. There are a handful of players and coaches here that were on that '06 team and obviously there are a lot of new faces, so this team is different. Much has been talked about in regards to fate, destiny, luck and all that and I had a lot of questions yesterday about it, but when you look at Robert Meachem's play, I don't want to discredit his hustle and the effort a guy makes on a play like that. Obviously we can't control if a kicker makes or misses a field goal, and yet when you're on the short end of some tough games like that, I never hear fate, luck or destiny brought up, I hear how we have to finish better or we didn't do this or that. I don't want to take away from the effort and the plays that guys made. The play that Jonathan Vilma made after we scored to really secure a spot in overtime or the play that Meachem makes to get behind Landry for a second time and a touchdown, or the play (Chris) McAlister makes with the fumble in overtime. If you're in this league long enough, you're going to play in some games where you feel like you're fortunate to win the game and then you're going to play in some games where you feel like you shouldn't have lost that game and you just hope that they balance out. But I don't want to short-sight the effort of what some of the guys have been doing and how they've been working and preparing. Otherwise, we'd just wait until Saturday and get on the bus and go to the airport and fly and play Atlanta.

Q: Do teams that are winning seem to get more of those plays though?

A: I think you do. I think you build confidence and our players have confidence. Conversely, teams that are struggling – and we've been on that end of it – a year ago we lost a tough game on the road in Chicago after the go-ahead touchdown and they drive down late and score on us and then a week or two later we're playing Carolina and score a go-ahead touchdown and they drive down and score late. I think you begin to gain confidence and I've seen teams do that. This job is doing a good job with that, and then there are teams that begin to not have that same confidence. I think Washington played a real good game yesterday but we were able to take advantage of a missed kick. But there were a lot of big plays that put us in that position and certainly it was a good win to get.

Q: How did the play of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell help you pull the game out yesterday?

A: They were tough yards that they got. We had Reggie Bush back after his injury and we wanted to monitor how many snaps he got and make sure we were giving him his punt returns and getting him a handful of plays in the base offense, and yet Pierre was going to get a lot of the work. We had both Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton – it was the first game where we had all four halfbacks up – and a lot of that had to do with Scott's injury. It was just the healthiest group of guys up. We weren't really in a position with the guys on defense (to sit healthy players). I thought Pierre had some real good plays for us. The aspect that I felt was important, and I know we didn't run the ball as well as we would have liked but we did protect pretty well for Drew (Brees). We did give him some time. The Colston play that got the touchdown requires an extra hitch. If you go back and look at it, it's a five-step drop in the gun and then he gathers himself and it's kind of an "in-go" and that too was on Landry, but it takes some time to throw that and I thought we blocked well. I thought we hung in there in protection pretty well and we were able to come up with some big plays in the passing game. But I think that both backs did a good job, especially late in the game with Mike having some tough yards. That was good to see.

Q: Were the Redskins better yesterday than you had seen them on film?

A: I think offensively they played better yesterday than in recent weeks. They've been really good on defense and not just yesterday. They've been pretty good on defense all season. The week before, they had Philadelphia in a close game and Dallas the week before that in Dallas. I think they've been playing better of late, but I think they played some of their better offensive football yesterday and certainly as a team had one of their better games. It's a disappointing loss, but I do think that's a pretty good team. Going in, our offense knew that we were going to be in for a challenge with the front that they have and some of the players in the back end. I think our team understands that each week in this league, a team's record may be 'X,' but you still are going to get ready to play someone who's going to be capable of winning a game, and certainly they were.

Q: Is there a relationship between the comeback wins you've had this year and the close losses you suffered last season?

A: I think the initial lesson learned would've been from the losses last year and trying to make a point of being better in that area with the emphasis of trying to finish and trying to do what's necessary to win in the fourth quarters. That being said, you still have to go out and do that. We've been in some close games. The Buffalo game was a close game all the way into the fourth quarter, and certainly the Miami game. Some of the scores have gotten skewed, but there have been a number of games – the Jets game – that were close until the final period. I think we've done a better job in that area and we're playing better defense in the fourth quarter and we're rushing the ball better. We've eliminated some of the things that have hurt us in the past in finishing games.

Q: How pleased were you with your two-minute offense in that tying drive?

A: I was pleased with the two-minute drive. It was pretty quick. We hit some plays underneath; we were getting some soft zones. I was pleased with some of the screens we were able to run yesterday with the rush we were getting. We had been getting a similar defensive look in the back end and really the play we ran where Colston scored was very similar, if not identical, to the play where Meachem scored. Again, it was kind of an in-go and we caught a safety coming down a little bit and poaching the play and we got behind him and Drew did a nice job and we blocked it well and Meachem caught it and got in the end zone. We had some big plays there and like I said, we were fortunate to win.

Q: When do you expect Scott Fujita to be out of the hospital?

A: I think this afternoon or tomorrow. He'll be at our complex tomorrow.

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