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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Discusses Win at St. Louis

    <span style="">New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton   

Monday, November 16, 2009

Opening Statement:

"Having watched all the tape, I thought it was a good win for us to get but it wasn't always clean. There are a handful of things we will be able to clean up this week and work on. We didn't have as many snaps this week offensively. We had the turnovers that were disappointing. I thought defensively our second half was much better than the first half. We did a real good job against the run and we got off the field on third down. I was encouraged with how we handled the two minute at the end and really forced St. Louis to take the completions with the clock still moving. The kicking game was big for us yesterday in that the return for Courtney (Roby) proved to be the difference for us in a game like that. I was real encouraged. It was well-blocked. Those guys did a great job. It was good to come away with a win and yet there's enough we can work n here Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and hope to play better against Tampa Bay. I thought St. Louis played with good effort and they made some plays in space. I thought the quarterback (Marc Bulger) played well. The running back (Steven Jackson) played real well. They came up with a few turnovers that got us off the field. Those are all things we'll work on correcting."

How much is that game a reflection of St. Louis playing well or teams giving you their best shot because of your status?

"It's probably somewhere in the middle. A lot of the time it's easy for us to say we didn't play our best game and certainly there are aspects we have to do a better job with. We understand that and yet I was proud we responded with both corners being out for a good portion of that game. Obviously our defensive tackle (Sedrick Ellis), Darren Sharper, our safety, we overcame some things against a team that was coming off a bye and a win. I think you guys all know that the records of teams in our league, they might be two or three other games from winning four games. We could be the same way. It's probably somewhere in the middle. I think we can play better football, yet I think the team we played is getting better. I told Steve (Spagnuolo) after the game those guys are playing with effort. I think they believe in what they're being coached. They're young and I think he and his staff has done a good job in a short amount of time of establishing and creating a new program there in St. Louis. To get that win on the road against a team that was coming off a week rest, and to get that win despite some of our mistakes is encouraging."

Can you update the status of Tracy Porter?

"The good news…This morning I've already read a number of reports on it. Obviously there's a rush for news when it comes to an injury. Oftentimes it's inaccurate, but he does not have an ACL. He does not need surgery. I don't have a timeframe on it, but it's an MCL and that's great news. With the play that took place, he was kind of leg-whipped by Usama (Young). You never know until you have the MRI and we were obviously excited for him. He was down yesterday because he had gone through an injury that had taken him out of last season here and he's been playing so well. That's good news. We go from there."

Is it a sprain?

"They grade these MCLs and I don't really want to get into the specifics. I'm not going to. It's an MCL injury that is not going to require surgery and it would be considered a sprained MCL. There will be a time that he has to rehab and recover but the good news is that it is just that. It's not an ACL. I had read a bunch of different reports that it was an ACL and that was premature."

Do you anticipate him being back this season?

"No question."

How concerned are you with the number of turnovers you have had over the last four weeks?

"It is concerning. I have to do a better job and offensively we have to do a better job of not just preaching it, but spending more time on it. The first one yesterday was a screen pass we were throwing and they gave us a certain pressure and we're kind of throwing a hot route to Jeremy Shockey. That really is on us, so that one's not as concerning. I think you have to look at each one for what it is. But later on the fumble we have in the tight red zone. I know Marques (Colston) is trying to make a play, but we just have to be smart with how we're carrying the football when we're in those scoring situations. Other than the last play of the game and there's no time left, that's the only time you like to see that ball, where you're that careless with it. It was a good play initially. We had the interception before that. These are all things we have to clean up. I think we'll have more snaps than other than 55 or 56 snaps. When you turn the ball over, obviously it's going to reduce the number of snaps you have, so I think it's something we can correct. It's something that we were better at earlier in the year. We're going to have to be better at it here as we play in November, December and so forth."

Does it encourage you that your team has overcome the turnovers?

"It says that you haven't played your best football yet. I think I said this a little bit, when we came into the locker room after the game…It's hard to win in our league on the road. Guys certainly appreciate winning the game and yet, overall, I think the feeling in that locker room, many of you were there, was that we have to be better than this. A feeling that we didn't do our best job, players, coaches, all of us – starting with me – and we have to do better. So, obviously to learn those lessons or to go back and revisit those lessons, it's always easier when you're coming off a win when you're not sitting there and saying finally this bit us in the butt. How our defense responded with a couple of those changes of possession and how they responded in the second half especially, offensively, I thought we did a good job rushing the football and I was encouraged by that. It was down into the four minute drill where I feel I could have been a little better than let's just run, run, pass, punt. I think that you're still trying to get one first down to take a knee. I thought we ran the ball well for most of the game. It's hard to run the ball in the four minute, especially if you line up in some consistent sets and I think that's where I can be better."

In the last few games are your opponents lining up better against you, making more plays and being smarter?

"I don't think so. I think the opponents each week are certainly looking forward to the challenge just as we would. I think we're seeing teams built differently. We're seeing Miami who obviously has strengths and weaknesses and I think one of the better rushing teams in football. I think Atlanta's one of the better offensive teams in football and play good defense. So does Carolina. Each team's different and St. Louis is younger with a new staff, yet they present challenges. It's good to get the first of a number of road trips here, we have four of the next five counting yesterday on the road and it's good to get a win to start that road trip and I think there's a lot of room for improvement. I felt the feeling in the locker room was somewhat subdued even though we won, because I think by and large all of us and I say this as coaches and players that all of us can do a better job and I think the key is that internal challenge and that's what really drives you I think and that's important.."

Do you think the coaching staff could do more to cut back on the turnovers?

"What we're seeing on tape is what we coach, so we have to do a better job of drilling it. I can tell you don't turn the football over, but we need to look specifically at ways to practice it and if that means an additional period, we'll do that, because I don't think you can just say don't turn the ball over and I think part of what we do is teaching, show me what you mean. Show me how. I think those are things we look at."

With Tracy Porter being out for at least a little while, where do you go from there? Will you have players in for workouts?

"We'll see. Yesterday, obviously Randall Gay was thrown into the lineup. We're waiting to see on Jabari Greer – I think we have a chance of getting him back. We have Malcolm Jenkins and Leigh Torrence. The good news is that we have some depth there at that position. But I'm excited for Tracy in that it's not finite. Obviously we're all concerned when you deal with a knee and you have to take a player off the field like that. But we'll see where we're at."

Have you thought of possibly bringing back some former Saints players?

"Not really. Not right now."

Are you concerned with the defense not having cohesiveness because of the missing starters?

"I don't know that we ever get to play 16 weeks with just the first unit. As the season goes on – and we're not the only team, when you put any game on you're going to be dealing with a number of players being out. You can look at New England and Indianapolis last night; they were both dealing with injuries. I thought in the second half we did a real good job. I thought in the second half we held up better against the run. We tackled better; we obviously created the big turnover in the first half with Usama (Young)'s interception. What I am looking forward to is that we have a chance of possibly getting Sedrick Ellis back and Jabari Greer back. But I do think that is ever-changing throughout the season and I think that's the nature of a 16-game schedule. You're going to have to all of a sudden have DeMario Pressley being involved and playing; and all of a sudden Jermon Bushrod is going to be playing; and Charles Grant/Kyle Eckel.aspx">Kyle Eckel who was living in Philadelphia three weeks ago, is now playing 14 snaps and playing in the kicking game. That is the nature of the game. So we work to improve the cohesiveness and get those guys up to speed because I don't think you're going to have your same 22. You'd like to and you hope that the injuries are to a minimum and yet you realize that other guys are going to have to step up and play. That has happened already and hopefully it doesn't have to happen a lot more but it will continue to happen in our league."

Do you have confidence that the defense will become cohesive?

"No question. We saw it at the end of the game. Our guys made big plays on defense where we weren't able to finish offensively and we had to put our defense back out on the field. The one easy thing about a two-minute drive is that it's real easy to grade it; you win or you lose it. And we won it. We ended the game with an incomplete pass and protected the win. That's the bottom line in a two-minute drill. Certainly we'll be working as coaches to bring the players up to speed that are newer and haven't gotten the reps and get these other players that are nicked up healthy."

Do you have concerns that the recent interceptions might change Drew Brees' aggressive approach?

"Not at all. I like what we have in the passer. He's extremely accurate. Not one bit. When you look at the first one, it was a deflected pass on a hot route and the other play was a vertical route. We're going to continue to throw the ball down the field. I think that's something we do well. That's something that we've done well and we just have to keep improving."

How have the offseason acquisitions impacted this team?

"I've said before that there are two aspects to the scouting: there's college scouting, which obviously involves the draft and the acquisition of college talent, and then there's the pro personnel aspect that involves the Anthony Hargroves and the Jeff Charlestons and the Mike Bells and Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer; those are a handful – and I'm not getting them all – but those are a handful of guys that have come in and fit a role. I think the key is having a vision of what you see the player as. I was taught real early on to at least have a vision of what you see the player doing for your program. And that being said, the same applies when you evaluate a college prospect; what's your vision? How do you see the player playing? We've had a lot of young players if you go back through the drafts; you're seeing Robert Meachem, who is each week getting better and better and I have to look to continue to get him more touches because every time he touches the ball, something good happens right now. You look at Marques Colston, Jahri Evans, Usama Young, Sedrick Ellis – they are all playing critical roles.

"So be it through the draft or be it through free agency – you can look at our linebackers: all of those guys were somewhere else and were signed and brought here, in Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle. It's a combination. You have to draft well and you have to have a vision for what you're looking for and I think starting with Rick Reiprish and Ryan Pace, those guys have done a great job with that and we're on the same page and they know exactly what we're looking for in players."

How is Robert Meachem evolving and improving his game?

"Last week I thought he had a significant game in that the catches he made a week ago were at a critical time where they helped us. His touchdown tied the game and yesterday the same way. He has outstanding speed; he has the ability to make a play when the ball is above his head in that when it becomes kind of a jump-ball, he understands how to go up and time that. He handles the arounds and the reverses with speed, so it's just a matter of each week when we get into the game plan. Typically when we put certain plays in, you have an idea of who the primary is. It doesn't always go to that player; there were a number of plays yesterday that might've been designed for one player and ends up maybe in Pierre Thomas' hands on a checkdown or Reggie Bush's hands for a touchdown. Each week we have to look at ways of getting him on the field and that's a good problem to have. But to his credit, he has worked extremely hard."

Are you encouraged by the game that David Thomas had yesterday?

"He's steady. He's very intelligent. What I mean by that is that he's one of those guys that always seems to know where to be. He makes good decisions on the field. He's versatile in that he can do a lot of things, and he has helped us a lot."

Does Malcolm Jenkins have a knack for making big plays on special teams?

"He's another smart player and he's around the ball. On the kickoff return that we scored on there were a number of key blocks, certainly Malcolm's was one of them. We're real encouraged with how he's playing. He's a guy that has great football awareness and I think that serves him well, along with ability and certainly he has ability. But he has good football instincts and generally those players make the right decisions."

Have you and Drew Brees had conversations about his turnovers in recent games?

"You have to really evaluate them and understand that a couple of those are fumbles that happen in the pocket. He's smart enough to where when we put the tape on, some of those are out of his control. I think that Drew is very conscientious of understanding what wins football games and there's a big reason why we're 9-0 and it starts with Drew Brees. We'll work on this. It's easier to come in off of a game like that and our ability to win games is largely down to the way he has played later in games in the second half. All that is good news in that you're looking for areas to get better. He's his own worst critic. If you asked who's hardest on Drew Brees, it would be Drew Brees. And yet, he has made a ton of plays for us. The throw to Meachem was unbelievable. We'll continue to work on those aspects; work on some specific drills with not just the quarterbacks, but the runners, the receivers – anybody that's involved in touching the football – we have to, starting with the coaches, do a better job of not just preaching it but really working on it."



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