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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Transcript, Jan. 13, 2010

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    <span>              <span style="">Opening Statement:</span>                  

"From an injury standpoint, Bobby McCray (back) was full; Pierre Thomas (ribs) was full; Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) was limited; and Lance Moore (ankle) was limited. Those were the four guys on the report. Today was a lot of nickel, third down work."

Are you encouraged with where Pierre Thomas is at this point?

"He's doing well. Certainly the time has helped him and he's practicing well."

How does a guy like Jeremy Shockey help you guys with your downfield passing game?

"The importance of a tight end with what we do – both in the run game and the pass game – is significant. Whether it's in the intermediate routes or down the field more, those are both things that factor in to what we do passing the ball."

What specifically about Shockey helps? Does he draw more attention from safeties than some other tight ends?

"You get certain coverages and a lot of things depend on what coverages you're getting in regards to the progression of the quarterback. He gives you a threat inside. I think any tight end that is able to get up the field and catch the ball like he can gives you that."

Your team seems to really play well with a lead. Do you feel that's the case?

"Obviously playing with a lead is something that you want to be able to do, and yet this year something we've been able to do differently than a year ago is to play from behind well in a number of games. If you go back through the season, I think there are at least six games. We understand that there are momentum swings in games and certainly there will be in this game."

It seemed like the Cardinals' offense was attacking the middle of the field a lot against the Packers. Is that something they do consistently?

"I think there are certain things coverage-wise that would bring you inside as opposed to outside, so I think it would vary depending on the coverage they're seeing."

Do you think not having Anquan Boldin limited them on the edge some and forced them inside?

"I don't think it changed things in regard to where they were wanting to throw. You saw some two-high safety looks and you saw them working the inside. Early Doucet did a great job of filling in; he made a number of big plays in that game along with the other receivers. I think it's more coverage predicated."

Do have a specific role in mind for Reggie Bush in the playoffs or is it more of a feel thing as the game goes along?

"We go into it with a number of personnel packages and he'll play at a number of different spots. He provides versatility, whether it's as a runner or as a receiver or someone who's catching the ball from the backfield. That's the way we approach it."

The quarterbacks and the passing games have gotten a lot of attention going into this game. How important do you think the running game will be for both teams?

"I think it's significant. It will be significant, as it was in three of the four games this past weekend. If you want to have play-action in your offense, it starts with your threat to run. So I think it's very important in sustaining drives and for both teams it will be important."

Do you feel a lot of pressure to perform in the playoffs after the kind of season you had? Is there more pressure than your last playoff opener?

"I think it's the same. Obviously there's pressure just because you're in the postseason and it's a single-elimination tournament. But it's no different than it would've been three years ago. I've said throughout the course of the season that we've played in a lot of big games and we had the idea in Week Eight that it would be a big game and if we continued to play well there would continue to be a lot of big games. I think the postseason in itself – with the fact that it's win and advance or lose and you're out – it is what it is."

Does the fact that you're in the postseason play into whether you would take the ball first after winning the coin toss so you could establish your offense?

"Not really. Every once in a while – probably twice this year – we may have gone in with the mindset of deferring, whether it was a wind advantage and trying to capture field position on the kickoff, but typically we'll have a plan. Obviously when you play inside you know what the conditions are. Normally we've taken the ball, but we'll see this week."

What did you learn from coaching in the playoffs three years ago?

"I've been fortunate enough to have been on – this is my fifth time in the postseason on an NFL staff, whether as an assistant or a head coach. You understand the importance of execution, the importance of turnovers, the importance of all the details in what you're doing. Those are things that from experience as a head coach each season you gain more of that and the understanding and the importance of managing the game. Understanding not only the time, but everything from start to finish with the workweek – how you handle the bye week, which we had in '06 and we had this year again, and how we handle practice and getting our players ready for a Divisional round, which is similar to what it was three years ago."

Do you find that coaches coach differently at all in the playoffs?

"I think they take a similar plan that they would in regards to what has provided them that opportunity to get there. Certainly the emphasis is greater in some of these areas from a turnover standpoint or a production standpoint, but nonetheless, I think that teams that have been successful and find themselves in this position spend a lot of time of really looking closely at how they got there."

What have you tweaked or shifted since the last time you were in the postseason?

"The schedule was a little different, and yet there were some similarities. The bye week was a day different. We still came in after a Monday, but we went more Friday-Saturday rather than Thursday-Friday. That being said, there was probably a similar amount of work time with our practice in the first week. Our approach from a schedule standpoint in the week before a game has been fairly consistent. From that point there are a lot of similarities."

Is there anything that you have adjusted?

"I don't know that from a scheduling standpoint there's anything. It's a different team. From a health standpoint, I'm sure it's somewhat different than it was three years ago but we have a number of players that were either here in '06 or have been somewhere else in the postseason. The practice tempo changes considerably when you get into this portion of the year, just from a scout team standpoint and everybody understanding the sense of urgency. Those are things that you would notice from observing practice."

Is there anything you might have changed personally?

"You look closely and it's hard to pinpoint one specific thing, but each year as you gain experience and reflect back on not only your time as a head coach, but the postseason in Dallas, the first time here in '06, two postseasons in New York – those are all things that you look back on and there are certainly games that you look at where you executed well and there are other games where you came up short. I think you try to pass that along to your players throughout the workweek in making sure that they're ready."

How much confidence do you have in Gregg Williams putting together a good playoff gameplan on defense against an offense like you're facing?

"A lot of confidence. He has been in these situations before, so a lot."

Do you see the Cardinals' offense as one where you need to stop the pass first and then worry about the run?

"Certainly when you look at their team, you still have to account for their running game and how important it was last year for them in the postseason in what they were able to do and now with the emergence of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower and the way they're playing, I think it's important that you stay on schedule and as best you can force the long-yardage situations. I don't think you can win with that idea of where it's just the pass. I think that understanding that last week was uniquely different with Green Bay falling behind and the way that game unfolded. Each game takes on a personality of its own."

Were you surprised with how poorly the Green Bay defense played?

"Those are the words you're using. When you get into a game like that, there is a flow back and forth and sometimes it ends up being a real low-scoring game and other times it's a high-scoring game. Green Bay has had a great season and a great run and it's a credit to Arizona in what they were able to do offensively."

Do you have a contingency plan for a game like that as opposed to a 17-10 kind of game?

"Not necessarily a contingency plan, but the offense is in place whether it's drop-back pass or shotgun pass and all that exists with your no-huddle package, paying attention to how a game unfolds."

So the players are prepared to play one of those games?

"We've been in both this year. We've been in games with ball-control and the flow of the game – looking back at Buffalo and the Jets game, there are a handful of those games that weren't as high-scoring. And then we've been in games that were more high-scoring. I think that's the nature of our league."

How does the defensive mindset that Gregg Williams has brought here helped your offense?

"The field position changes and the scoring opportunities from when the defense scores and what that does for your chances of winning a game (have helped). Gregg and his staff have done a great job of instilling the mindset of taking the ball away, and you see that also in the Arizona defense. I think each year, defenses have become better and better at finding ways to create those turnovers and not only with interceptions."

Half of the quarterbacks still playing in the playoffs are over the age of 30. Do you see a significance in that?

"I don't know that it's the age, but I would say that you're getting a lot of good quarterback play from the teams that are still playing. In the NFC for instance, we started with six quarterbacks that have all been to the Pro Bowl. When you go through with (Aaron) Rodgers and (Donovan) McNabb and (Kurt) Warner and (Brett) Favre and (Tony) Romo and (Drew) Brees – all of those guys have been successful. And you look at the AFC and with those six teams – aside from (Mark) Sanchez – where the teams are and he's a rookie who is playing well. The teams that are winning are getting good play at that position and I think there's a correlation there. I'm not so certain about the age because I think you have young players playing well in Sanchez and Romo."

Does the success that Warner and Favre are having say something about the longevity you can have at that position if you play well?

"I think so. Obviously those guys are both Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Their paths have been different but to see the careers that they have had has really been impressive, especially when you look at their staying power and the number of years that they have been able to produce is really amazing."

Does the fact that you're playing in the first game of the weekend appeal to you?

"That's a good question. We're so used to just waiting and getting the schedule and a lot of times you don't think about it. It was the case three years ago where we had the evening game, but nonetheless we played on Saturday. If there is any plus to that, you have that additional day following the game if you're able to win, leading up to the next game."

How has Drew Brees improved as a quarterback since you were last in the postseason?

"He has three more years in the offense and I think our rushing attack is better than it was in '06, which is conducive to getting good quarterback play. He's someone that does a great job with his own expectation level. He's his own hardest critic and in each offseason leading into the following year he does a great job of looking closely at things the can do better. When you look at the type of season that he has had – not just statistically – but the job description for that position is to win and he has been able to do that. And then when you look at his efficiency with throws underneath, his throws down the field, the touchdowns-to-interceptions; all those things he has been consistently better at and it starts with where he sets his sights and how high his standards are."

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