After reviewing the film from Thursday's 14-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the New Orleans Saints returned to the facility today, lifted weights, conditioned and watch film of the contest. Head Coach Sean Payton held a press conference at the end of the day, discussing yesterday's game. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
"The one injury to report is Anthony Waters. He came in this morning with a (sore) hamstring, to what degree we'll probably get a feel for as we come off these next couple days when we're away. That was the only one of note. I thought some of these other guys held up well. Jonathan Vilma did a real good job considering his groin and the reps he had taken in practice. Tracy Porter the same way. We mentioned it last night after watching the tape and meeting with these guys, certainly we played a good team last night. Anytime you can get off to a 1-0 start with the home opener that's important, especially against an opponent like Minnesota. Once again we're faced with a little bit of a unique schedule that we don't play for 11 days. The players will be in today lifting, watching the video. They'll be off Saturday, Sunday, Monday and will have a bonus day Tuesday, be off Wednesday, which would be our normal routine and then we'll get into our base preparations Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then we close out the week."
*Was the score a little misleading in terms of evaluating the productivity of the offense? *
"Certainly you'd like to score more. It ended up being a game in which it was closer than you would have hoped and yet what is most important that you're able to finish with a win. When you watch week one's game tape, maybe it's a cliché, but it's a chance to make a lot of progress as we move forward. You can look at a number of things that could have helped us, like more points. I was pleased with the effort. We can clean up some things and this first meeting today gives us a chance to do that, which is a little different than the preseason where you might be looking at a quarter of film with a group. This is four quarters of a game. On third down, we can be better, when you see the numbers there, but overall, the thing that is hard is you don't know how the game's going to unfold. You're going to look back at last season and some weeks you get into a game that I just finished telling the players that sorts out differently than you expect and yet you have to be able to play and win that game."
How would you evaluate Drew Brees' performance?
"He was sharp. I thought he graded very well. I thought with the offensive line, the game ball went to the guys up front. Number one, I thought their pass protection was outstanding. It was early in the second half when we mixed up the run and the pass, specifically when it came down to winning the game in the final minutes. When you look at the tape those guys played real well and so when you look at a lot of the things, you'd expect more point, but it was what it was.
*What is the importance in the scheme of things in winning an early season game like this in ones that could go either way, rather than the year when you started 0-4 and lost a couple close ones? *
"I think that's an interesting question. I had never seen this or heard this, but the other day listening on the radio, someone studied the opening game of the year and what the percentages were of teams that go on to have success after winning their first game as opposed to not getting off to a fast start. Certainly for us, we won in '06 in that opening game in Cleveland, won last year, but two years ago won at home but ended up with only an 8-8 record. All it does is it just allows you to win your first one, I think more importantly against a pretty good team, the second best team in the NFC last year. Certainly they're different and we're different. I said this after the game that we have a lot of respect for that opponent. That's a team that's going to factor in here this year and hopefully we will as well."
*Do you especially appreciate the wins that could have come down to one possession? *
"Sure, you go back to finding ways to win, we could go back to a half a dozen last year and it's what separates teams from having maybe a .500 record to the team that wends up in the playoffs. These games come down to the final drive or final possession. You know that as well as anyone statistically that the margin of error in our league is pretty close. It's pleasing when you can win a game like that and finish the way we did late in the game defensively. Offensively, they had one (third down) conversion in the whole second half. I thought we tackled better than we have. I said last night without watching the tape that we tackled better than we had in a long time and there wasn't a lot of hidden yardage after contact, which was encouraging."
*What were the results of the statistic you heard on the radio? *
"It was surprisingly strong in favor of a team having a good season. Clearly we know that there's a lot of football ahead. The only thing we can do is prepare for the next game. I know we say that all the time, but there really isn't anything more than that. You really lose sight if you look beyond what for us was Minnesota and for us today is San Francisco."
*Can you talk about how the linebackers did with some of the shuffles you had to do due to turnover and injury? *
"I thought the linebacker play was very good. I mentioned at the onset about tackling. It was inspiring to see (Jonathan) Vilma play the way he did. Both (Scott) Shanle and Jo-Lonn did a good job and Scott went back to the will, Jo'Lonn came in at sam. We had snaps where Marvin Mitchell was in the game. We played a lot of people in a number of different packages. I thought the play of our linebackers was very good. In regards to Malcolm (Jenkins) making his first start (at safety), he had a real good game. He did an outstanding job in some of the run support looks, yet got his hand on balls, showed range, was in the right spot. We were real encouraged with his first effort"
*Were you surprised that Brett Favre didn't test him more? *
"A lot of it depends on the looks you're receiving. You can go into a game trying to target a certain safety and yet, there are certain coverage looks you might have that prevent you from throwing in a certain direction. I thought we mixed some things up pretty well. I thought we affected the passer. Sedrick Ellis was outstanding. He was another guy on defense that received a game ball. Roman Harper was the other game ball player on defense. There were a lot of encouraging things in your first outing against a team with a good offense, a team that has arguably the best running back in football and a real good front. We did a real good job of containing them and really for the most part not allowing for leaky yardage or big plays after the catch."
Were you surprised that Adrian Peterson didn't receive as many carries in the second half?
"I don't know. I heard that discussion on my way in this morning, but if you look at the amount of snaps they had offensively in the fourth quarter, it was less than single digits. Sometimes you want to use a player more and get them more involved, but if you don't have that opportunity or opportunities, all of a sudden it's gone by. If you go three and out, three and out…You've heard me say this when it happens offensively, whether it's Pierre (Thomas) or Reggie Bush, sometimes if you're not converting some third downs, you're not having those drives to give those players these touches you're referring to. That's the challenge. Every time he touches the ball at field level, you guys see it and I see it, he's a scary running. He's has power. He has speed. Whenever you watch him, you can tell he loves playing."
*Would you go into the thought process of why Thomas Morstead is your holder? *
"The quarterback group and the punter work at it. Once Mark (Brunell) left this offseason, Thomas had really improved. If it can be the punter and he's good at it…Certainly he has the additional time during practice that doesn't prohibit the kicker to wait until the offensive drills are done. That being said we want the best candidate. The snaps and the holds were good. All that was fine."
*Are these things correctable? *
"Yes. I think so. More than anyone else, like I told him this morning, I said this guy's kicked in some big spots for us needless to say. It's something we'll get back to work on. He'll handle this challenge."
How many of those passes do you internally grade as drops?
"If you ask CJ (Curtis Johnson), he's going to grade it a lot differently than yourself or anyone else. Without getting into the specific numbers, we're pretty hard on it. If a ball is in the area, we grade it as catchable. There were a few opportunities where you'd normally expect them to make that catch, and Drew (Brees) does a good job with some of those throws. That's another area that we'll continue to get better at. We have a lot of confidence in that group of receivers. Certainly they have a high standard and we'll just keep working at it."
Would you have challenged Lance Moore's catch after seeing the video?
"No. Here's the one rule of thumb, in regards to receptions, especially if you're looking to overturn a call. Generally the receiver anymore has to have control of it and if there's any loose, leaky fall, you're never going to get an overturn. Now if you get the call in your favor, it may get overturned. But that wasn't one that after seeing it that was close.
"I think the close one really was the Minnesota reception that was ruled incomplete and then stayed incomplete per the review. That was one where you could look at it 10 times and because of that, the initial ruling generally stands."
What did you think about Meachem's ball in the end zone? Was that graded as a drop?
"Yes, we graded it. Specifically, the location was good and it got on Robert pretty quick. The specific plays and which ones were graded as drops or incompletes, I wouldn't really want to get into, but certainly that's a play that Robert looks at and says, 'I normally make those plays.'"
How beneficial will these days off be towards getting some guys back healthy?
"One of the points in the meeting earlier was just making sure we take advantage of getting the proper rest and still lifting weights and still getting the treatments we need. We don't want it to be something that creates any rust. I think they'll handle it well and certainly with the injured players, the few guys that we have that are battling some injuries, hopefully we can use that time. It's just one of the challenges. Four years ago, that schedule came out and every game was at 1:00 or 12 noon and it was on Sunday, except for the one Monday night re-opening, which was kind of our little gimme. But everything was at 12 noon or 1:00. Now when you have success, you play Thursday, Monday, Monday, Sunday, Thanksgiving Day. We adjust to that and I think we're pretty good with that but that's where we wanted to be. In this event, when you play this Thursday game, it's on you and you heard me talk last week about the schedule challenges and the roster and practice squad. But when you're able to win it, you almost have what is a little bit of a bye weekend and time before your next game. It just so happens that we don't play until next Monday night, which is a little unique."
Can players be away for four days now?
"There's three days. Guys aren't going to be leaving the country, but if a guy wants to go see Miami play Ohio State… But they're back here early Tuesday morning for meetings on San Francisco and we go from there."
Was it helpful knowing about Brett Favre's ankle injury in devising a gameplan?
"I don't think so. The only reason that would have been of any help is that possibly it delayed his return or his thought about playing this season. But in regards to the gameplan, you know you're facing a guy with good anticipation and a strong arm who will get them in and out of the right plays. Specifically when it pertains to his ankle, I don't think it was significant. I think more than anything else, the time away from training camp was significant."
Did you expect the Vikings to rely more on the running game because of Favre's ankle?
"I think everyone that follows football anticipated more runs than passes this time around. If you looked or charted or researched his first game against Cleveland a year ago – late for training camp, his first game with the Jets two years ago. It's hard to jump in right away so your inclination would be that we were going to see more runs and maybe a little bit more balance and we expected than and I think everyone did. It's really still preparing for what you see on film; it's preparing for the offense. But in week one after two-and-a-half weeks of training camp, that's challenging at that position specifically."
What were you able to see at halftime that let you put more pressure on him in the second half?
"There were a few oddball looks in the first half. We played a lot more coverage out of some different fronts but at times it looked like maybe an eight-man front and we were still playing some variations of cover-two. Then in the second half we got so many long-yardage situations to where Gregg (Williams) dialed up some man pressures and also some zone pressures. It was really just mixing up a few things and yet having your core two or three front coverage calls that got the predominant amount of the work. But we held up real well in the run front and when you can do that and still play pass like we were able to do, you have a chance to be effective. I thought that part of it was good."
Is that the kind of performance that you expect to get from your defense this year?
"Our expectations are high, not only defensively but for our team. We certainly are excited after the first week. If you can hold an offense like that down and get the win, especially with the consistency that we played with. I was pleased with how we tackled. I thought we had great energy. Even the bench –when you look at the film – was very focused and ready for this game. It was a good start."
Did you have any comments for Garrett Hartley following his missed kicks similar last night to the footage shown from the Tampa game last season? What do you say to a guy in that situation?
"That's a great question. That game was more not so much as a result of the kick, I was wanting to see that look in his eye and last night was different. You as a coach constantly struggle with what the player needs to hear and you're mindful of that. It may be different, based on their personalities. When you find out with guys eventually what they need to hear, it becomes easier. Forget kickers, I'm talking about any position; some guys need a certain way and other guys are different. More than anything else, he has been very consistent throughout his career, as well as very long. That's the thing. You know you have the right guy because you know you have the right leg talent and you also know you have a guy who has put you in the Super Bowl and then set a Super Bowl record. Now it's just what is the message each time? You try to treat him the same way you might to say something to a defensive end or a receiver, and yet it might be different in his case. But he's a guy that has confidence. But last night would have been different compared to what you saw."
Was running the ball only three times in the first half by design?
"To some degree. The opening plays had two runs in the first 12. Number one, we wanted to find out how they were going to utilize just three corners; that's all they had up for the game. We got into some four-receiver sets and they stayed in nickel. I thought Drew (Brees) did a great job of getting the ball out on time. Especially in that first series we had a good mix and good tempo. As that game went on, one of the things we talked to them about was as the game went on we were going to run the ball more and more. But I think it helped us neutralize the pass rush to some degree. It becomes a little bit more challenging when it happens time and time again as opposed to just periodically. I thought the tackles handled the ends with pretty good effectiveness; and two good ends certainly."
Did Jermon Bushrod do a solid job against Jared Allen?
* *"He sure did."
What happened on the sack you gave up?
"It was a pressure and we were one short. There were only five blockers. It was a pressure that came from our right side and they timed it well and Drew was smart enough to protect the ball."