SAINTS HEAD COACH SEAN PAYTON
On the importance of the win:
"Look, it was our last opportunity to play at home. We always kind of talk about, when we hear people say, 'must win games', today was a must win game. Other than that, any game prior is not, that just means you have to win that game. Our guys understood that, and this was a good win to get."
On Cameron Jordan's performance the last couple of weeks:
"Listen, he has played well for a long time here. It'd be hard to give it one of those "best ever's", but he's certainly playing awfully well. It has been important to how we play defensively and important to how we have played as a team. It is impressive."
On Taysom Hill's performance today:
"Yeah, it was kind of up and down at times, but he led us on key drives. He missed a throw or two. I'm sure he'll want some of those back, but it's another win under his belt. We will have a chance to look at the tape and really look through the sequencing of the plays to give him a grade. I was happy with the win, and you know, ball security was important. He did a good job with that."
On the importance of C.J. Gardner-Johnson's energy for the defense:
"I think it's hard to imagine a good defense without energy. I can't think of one historically. He's part of that and you know, I think you have to be a good player to play with the confidence that he does, and he is. That emotion and energy, but also the effort you see from him (is outstanding)."
On the importance of sticking with the running game today despite the early success:
"It's a good question. I was frustrated at halftime. We had some ME's, we didn't do much of anything well in the running game, obviously. We made some hay in the second half. We'll look at the tape. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of tape that we have to clean up and there's some guys in there playing right now that are getting more playing time than they're used to. But I still think the ability to be two dimensional rather than one-dimensional is important, especially when you're paying attention to a game like we just played."
On the value of the defense playing so well when the offense has been struggling:
"Yeah, look, you go back two weeks ago to the win at Tampa Bay. We felt the matchups were going to be good and I was really pleased with how we played. I thought we controlled the field position for the most part. It felt like there was a half where we were on one position of the field. That's a big reason right now why we're at 8 wins, because of our defense. I think it was outstanding we played the way we did with the turnovers and takeaways. It's not an ever statement, that's just the way we unfolded."
On the reasons behind the decisions to hold Marcus Williams and Erik McCoy out:
"Well, it's actually pretty simple. In the event they tested out (of the COVID-19 protocols), you surely don't want them on the COVID list. We didn't think they would (test out), but in the event they did, we would've lost two (practice squad) callup spots, so in the event they were able to test and get back, we had them off the COVID-19 list. Obviously, they'll be back next week. It just made common sense (to hold them out). In the event they had a couple of negative tests, they would have been able to play."
On the importance of the drive before halftime to cut the lead to one point:
"The third down-play where we threw a go-route to Marquez (Callaway), it was well-placed. We kind of threw an underthrown, back-shoulder throw that got us out of that tight, redzone area. You go from almost having to punt in your own end zone, to having the ball at midfield, and then kick a field goal. That is significant. You start doing the math on how that half could have ended, I do think it was important."
On the feeling of having a consistent kicking game:
"I think it's been important. We've had to kick a few more than I would like, but (Brett Maher) has been kicking it well. I thought the timing and the operation has been good and just as important as protection."
On the performance of Marquez Callaway in the second half of the season:
"Look, we've seen those improvements since last year. Sometimes it's coverage-based with where he plays. I love the way he plays the ball in traffic. I think that's one of his strong suits. We gave him a lot of opportunities today and those were important plays."
On the message to his team after the game about having an opportunity to earn a playoff spot:
"It was the message to the team going into the game, actually. This was a must-win game. We have to find a way to get to 9-8 and go from there. You guys know how this works, week 16 there's usually a picture, week 17 it gets a little clearer, and now in week 18, by tonight, I think we'll pretty much know what has to happen. I think there's a pretty good chance our game could get flexed next weekend to a different time slot on Sunday. We have to wait for that, but ultimately we have to play well against Atlanta and get a win."
SAINTS QUARTERBACK Taysom Hill
What kind of chemistry has he and Marquez Calloway formed over time?
"This goes back to training camp. We have had so many conversations about Quez since July, so this doesn't feel unfamiliar to me. Quez is a guy that I trust, and you just have to give him opportunities. I will continue to do that, and he will continue to make plays."
How much is the defense playing great football an asset to you playing quarterback?
"This is not new; our defense has been outstanding all season long. As an offense, you know you have a great defense that is playing very well. It's part of a team game of football and it's what we do. But I am not surprised. My hat goes off to them for a great effort from start to finish. As you said, it is such a great asset as a quarterback to feel like you don't need to press or that you don't need to push knowing those guys are going to prevent a lot of points from being scored."
On the intentional grounding call explanation:
"No, I did not get an explanation there. I figured it was intentional grounding as I was trying to throw it away to Marquez on the backside and I thought we had a receiver in the area, but obviously didn't."
How big was the drive before halftime?
"Yeah, that was a huge drive for us. We knew that we got the ball at half and starting at your 1- or 2-yard line you don't want to do anything stupid with the ball. So, when you can score before half and get the ball back, that's stealing points and possessions. I think that was big for us as an offense in terms of momentum as well."
How good does it feel to play a meaningful game next week with potential playoff hopes for your team?
"Look, coach challenged us from day 1 this week. We came in and started Thursday this week. He challenged us and told us it was a playoff week and that we have to win. Everyone was locked in and had the right mindset."
How much does that trust come out in those two-minute situations such as the drive at the end of half with the focus on Marquez?
"I thought it was just man press on the outside and I knew I had a one on one matchup with Quez. My mindset being backed up, I didn't want to hold the ball, so I gave him a ball he could go and highpoint the ball. You look at Quez and see what he has been doing, he makes those plays when you give him an opportunity."
SAINTS STRONG SAFETY C.J. Gardner-Johnson
How big was Cameron Jordan for you guys today?
"He sets the tone for this defense. When Cam brings himself to work, Cam's Cam. There isn't a day he doesn't show up to work. To have a presence like that on the edge and to have a dominant presence up front is something we can feed off of. Can't do anything but keep giving Cam all-time praise and keep stacking those sacks. Congratulations to him because it's just going to keep going, he deserves it."
How has PJ Williams been beneficial to you guys this year as a team?
"That's the vet. The guy taught me everything I know since I got here, and that is why I play nickel. It is just an honor to be playing with a guy like that. He's been with this team through ups and downs. So just to see a guy be able to go out there to grind, fight, and just be him. Unfortunate circumstances today and we held him down as a team today. I think we made him proud today and I'm sure he is happy himself. I just love being teammates with PJ and learning from him."
What was the message and reaction after you guys let up some big plays early in the game?
"Tackle better. Tackle better and run though the ball. Play with passion. Sometimes it's about X's and O's, then sometimes it's about passion. You see when I bring the passion, my teammates bring the passion, we understand you have to be locked into the assignment and be more physical than the other team. That first touchdown pissed us off."
How satisfying is it to see the defensive lineman getting the production they are after getting criticized earlier in the season?
"You can't talk about last week; they were shorthanded. You can't do anything when you only Have about 4 or 5 defensive linemen. But you can see when we have a healthy D line, no one can stop that front. They dominated 3-4 weeks ago and dominating now. If it wasn't for them, I don't think we would be playing as high. No one would be able to do what they do without that front. I give a lot of credit to them."
SAINTS LINEBACKER Demario Davis
On if they are at their best when Cam Jordan is playing at a high level:
"Most certainly. He has proven that he is one of the most effective defensive ends in the game. Just the ability to wreak havoc on offense and so certainly he's playing the way he's been playing. It affects the offense tremendously just because of the run game they can't get on track because of them having to account an extra guy in the pass game. It was just a tremendous performance by him a tremendous performance by the guys in the back there and we certainly have to have that type of play coming down the stretch.
On how C.J. Gardener Johnson was key today:
"My coach says that every week. He played big today and had a phenomenal effort. Again, he's another player that is effective in the run game and the pass game. When they run his way, he is able to make plays in the backfield. He can take the ball away in the pass game. It was a phenomenal effort by him and the rest of the guys on the back end holding what can be an explosive offense to limited plays."
On the mindset going into this week:
"These last few weeks it's been playoffs for us. It's must win. It's win or go home and we are in that type of situation. I understand the challenge of it being a must win game. It is something that we embrace and don't run away from. To come in against a good opponent and find a way to when we know what's at stake is good. We need to do the same thing next week and from here on out. Our mindset is must win. That can be beneficial to us and where we are trying to go, so we have to make the most of it."
On having a shot at the playoffs next week:
"There are no words to express how proud I am to be a part of a culture like this one with a coaching staff like this and all of my brothers in the locker room. For the journey that we've been through this season that was very unique with a lot of adversity, it could have made a lot of people fold or hang it up. This team has been resilient and has continued to fight the entire time. All you can hope for is going into the last week of the season playing meaningful football. The thing you want in this game is a chance. It's what you do with it. For us to be going into the last week of the season to have a chance to chase the crown is remarkable in regards to all that we have been through. There is no culture or team that I'd rather be a part of than this unit right now going into the last week of the season. I'm certainly excited about the opportunity at hand."
On how impressive is the coaching staff:
"It starts at the top with Sean (Payton) and how he leads and guides us. The injuries that they have had to overcome of the offensive side of the ball and all of the shifting that had to take place. I remember earlier in the season we only had four offensive coaches for one game. It was like that on special teams. We have Pro Bowl players on the special teams unit. On the defensive side, every can see the level that the defense playing. That begins with DA (Dennis Allen) and all the other (defensive) coaches. The things that have taken place this season and the coaches have continued to shift around and to get us to play at a high level no matter who's on the field. To have a shot at the end of the year, you have to give credit where credit's due. I am not taking away from the players on the field, but the coaches have been a big part of that success."
On the defense carrying an extra load this season to support the team:
"I do not know if it is about carrying an extra load. It is just a mindset of the team. Our culture is that you do whatever you have to do to win games. You always play the game that is in front of us. For the greater percentage of the time that I've been here, there was games that the offense was scoring so many points that we had to figure out a way how to get a stop. There has been games where defense has had to get more stops. Our culture for this team is to find a way to win the game. If that means that we have to go out and pitch a shutout, then we embrace that opportunity. Our job is to go out on the field and get stops and get our offense the ball. We just play the game that is in front of us. That is our culture. That is our team. I do not think any unit is looking at that we have to carry the load. I think that is why we have had so much success over the years. It's that team. It's that camaraderie. It's that brotherhood. I'm going to do my part as best as I can to put my team in the best position to win. We are successful when we find a way to do that."
SAINTS DEFENSIVE END Cameron Jordan
On his play the last few weeks:
"It's like the stocks. There is self-correction. It's the season. It's a marathon. It's not a short sprint. Early this year I was missing a lot of guys. Once my D-line came back, then we came back strong. You start getting those double and triple teams early in the season. When our D-line came back, then they just can focus on me. That's where you see the change. It's a full blown push from the defensive line. We have always played the run well. That is why I don't look at the sack numbers. Look at my entire game. I play first down. I play second down. I play third down. I play overtime. I play whatever it takes to win. That's with all of the guys. Don't just look at one facet of our game. We are not just edge rushers. We are edge defenders and I think that goes a little bit further than sacks."
On the sacks coming bunches:
"I think my D-line coach (Ryan Nielsen) has done a phenomenal job of just cooling me down. There is so much that I want to do in a game. It's just take a breather. Once the D-line is at full speed they can't just focus on one person. I'm going to give it up to the entire D-line and all of the work that we have put in. What we do on the defensive line and the way that we attack practice and push each other to be better, that's where I see real culture. That's why I don't worry about the sack numbers. You guys worry about the sack numbers. We can talk about sacks, accolades and whatever else after the season. What's important to me is pushing my defensive line to be the best that they can be."
On If they are hitting their stride defensively:
"What our defensive have done over the last four years in stopping the run is phenomenal. The Defensive backs have stepped up their play the last quarter of the year. We have the ability to fight through and play through. There is no higher praise that I can give to our entire defense. It's that focus and that drive that we take to practice. We are big juice boys and our cup overflows with enthusiasm on the sidelines. It is what it is. We knew going into this year that we want to be a force. We've been saying that for the last three or four years. I think it is is showing. You are seeing a combination of the hard work."
On the team winning three of the last four games and looking to end the regular season winning four of five:
"You talk about the tenacity of our team. Our coaches have winning mentalities. Every time we win, lose or draw, they are always trying to teach lessons. I think that is a huge thing for us. Our leaders on offense and defense are pushing. We're steady and calm and never being shaken. At this point it is a sprint. We have kept ourselves in the battle and now we have to get to the playoffs and finish that off. Whatever we have done to this point means nothing. Next week is everything for us."