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Payton & Brees Talk Halloween Contest vs. Steelers

Coach & QB preview the Halloween Showdown with the Steelers

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Post-Practice Press Conference

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Opening Statement:

"Going through the post-practice injury report, this first one with Pittsburgh: tackle Zach Strief with a knee, was full; linebacker Anthony Waters (hamstring) was full; Leigh Torrence, with a shoulder, was full; Darren Sharper (knee) was full; running back Julius Jones (shoulder) was full; defensive end Will Smith (groin) was full; guard Jahri Evans (ankle) was full; Scott Shanle (hamstring) was limited. The following players did not practice: cornerback Jabari Greer (shoulder), running back Reggie Bush (fibula), cornerback Tracy Porter (knee), Pierre Thomas (ankle) and center Jonathan Goodwin (groin) did not practice. Just one practice squad transaction: Chris Taylor was re-signed to the practice squad for quarterback Sean Canfield. Most of everything was base today with our preparations."

Reggie Bush had said he wanted to try to run on his own yesterday. Has he been able to do that yet?

"Yes, and he did some today as well. We just keep taking it day-to-day and monitoring the progress, monitoring the next day after the workout and kind of go from there."

Given that you're playing one of the NFL's storied franchises in the Pittsburgh Steelers, is this game a chance for you guys to quiet the doubters?

"Each week we get an opportunity. Clearly when you look at this team that we're playing, they're playing very good football. They have been one of the storied franchises for good reason when you look at their history. But really, we try to pay attention to the team that we're playing specifically this year and I think you're seeing a team that's playing well in all three phases. Offensively, they're getting a lot of production from their running game; they have speed outside, they have versatility at the tight end position; (Rashard) Mendenhall is playing very well; (Ben) Roethlisberger is back. They're playing with a lot of confidence. Defensively, they're as good as anyone in the league right now. When you watch them on film, they tackle extremely well and they're extremely physical. They have a ton of different players that if you're not careful can turn a game around in one play. In the kicking game, you're seeing a lot of balance and all the numbers reflect that. As we point to an opponent, when you watch the tape – and our players have begun that process already – you see all of that. They're very well-coached. Mike (Tomlin) does a great job with his staff and they're a tremendous challenge."

Is this game similar to the New England game last year where you're trying to gauge yourself against an elite team?

"I don't know. We clearly had a lot of respect a year ago when we played the Patriots for many of the same reasons. It's a different type of team and yet from a respect factor and just from film study, you see all the things that allow you to be winning, just as they are."

Cleveland used tricked plays to their advantage on Sunday. Do you see Pittsburgh as a team that needs to do that?

"They're a team – like any real good team – won't be afraid at all to pull out all stops. That's part of football and we've looked at gaining an edge that way against each opponent we play, regardless of their record. I think it's something that you have to be prepared for. You find out who's right-handed, who can throw the football, what plays have they shown, whether it's in the kicking game or offensively where it's a little bit out of the norm. You always try to prepare for that."

Were Tracy Porter and Pierre Thomas able to do more this week than they've done?

"It's still the normal rehab process, and certainly not enough to put them on (the injury) list any differently. They go through the rehab, they do the light field work and each day we monitor how they feel, not only in the morning but also after their training session activities."

Shaun Rogers seemed to have a good game on Sunday. Did Jonathan Goodwin suffer his groin injury during the game and did that contribute to Rogers' performance?

"It happened during the course of the game. We held him back today but I think he's going to be able to practice this week. Fortunately for us, I don't think it's a significant groin injury and yet it's painful enough to where we wanted to rest him today. When you have to block Shaun (Rogers), whether you're completely healthy or you're nicked up, you have your work cut out for you. There were some times where he got isolated one-on-one without guard help and that's something that we look at closely to see how we can help the center in those odd situations where the front is odd and there's someone directly over him."

Who would play center in the event that Goodwin couldn't go?

"Matt Tennant. Matt's the guy that comes to the game as the backup swing guard and center and he took the reps today."

What is the reasoning behind bringing Sean Canfield back-and-forth onto the practice squad on the weekends?

"When we go on the road for instance, there are some times when if something happened or if one of the quarterbacks took sick, he's in a position where when we put him on the practice squad, we can then move him to the active roster if we needed to. It would have to be Saturday before 3:00 but when you look at the San Francisco trip or you look at the Arizona trip, those taking place on Friday, you have a player like that ready. Now if you're traveling on Saturday, generally you have to make that transaction prior to you leaving."

Is it a matter of keeping him around and keeping him involved?

"No question. That being said, when he's on the practice squad you see him out there practicing and when he's not, he can't be a part of any of that."

Fans get concerned about Drew Brees being in the game at the end of a one-sided game. Is there thought to taking him out when a game is out of hand one way or the other?

"I'm always paying attention to that. When you're down, you pay attention to how far and if you have a chance to get back in it and when you're ahead, how much are you ahead? We pay attention to that and don't ever take for granted that we just leave him in there. If ever we feel like we're ahead enough or we're in a position where there's no way we can get back in it, then of course we'd play the other quarterback."

What kind of advice do you give Drew after a game like he had on Sunday?

"I think more than anything it lies within the plan and the preparation. I've said before that his bar and what he expects of himself is high, no different than the rest of us, but he's very competitive. But he's also very resilient, and that's a great strength."

Must you be careful not to put too much emphasis on this game Sunday night?

"I don't think you put additional emphasis on it. You look at your work schedule and you look at when you're playing the game and you still understand that we're running a long race here. We're 4-3 and that's the bad news, yet to some degree what's encouraging is that we haven't played our best football and we're a game off our division lead and a game off the NFC's best record. You keep looking at the improvement during the course of the week."

We asked Mike Tomlin about the things he was able to draw on from his championship year and use the next year and he said he consciously didn't do that so each season could stand on its own. Does that reflect your experience?

"Mike and I talked about this in the offseason, and you don't take anything for granted. Specifically I can recall visiting with him about some of those challenges; he was one of the guys that I had a chance to fire a few questions at about what he felt were the challenges looking back. He's someone that has stepped in there…what's amazing is that with the history of that organization they've had three head coaches and that's something else. He's done a great job of following Bill Cowher after Bill had success and won a Super Bowl and shortly after, Mike won one. When you look at the make-up of that team, they've had that staying power year-in and year-out. They've had teams each year that you have to contend with and are a threat."

Why are the Steelers so effective at getting to the quarterback and what kind of challenge is that?

"In this 3-4 defense, the two outside 'backers are guys that rush the passer very well so it challenges your protections trying to figure out who's rushing and who's dropping or if they're both rushing. They do a very good job with some interior dogs at trying to crease your offense. They're very well-coached and they're very talented. All those things factor in to what you're seeing now, which is their success at getting to the quarterbacks, the success at run defense, total defense, points per game. They're playing as well as anyone."

How big of a loss is Aaron Smith for them? He seems to not get the notoriety of some of their other defensive players.

"Those inside ends in that defense oftentimes don't and he's one of them that has done an outstanding job of being stout. He probably doesn't get the league-wide attention and yet people in our circles that watch and pay attention to the film and the coaches' tape, clearly view him as one of the tops at his position with what they're asking him to do and how effective he does it."

It seems like you learned everything you could about the pitfalls of the post-Super Bowl season. Is it frustrating that those still seem to be hitting you?

"You can't dwell on it. You have to get ready for the next challenge. You look closely at it and pay attention to your practice schedule and your reps. You pay attention to all the things that you're doing within the work week, just as you ask the players to do. But that's where we're at right now. We cut some snaps out of practice today and we'll be ready to go tomorrow in the nickel."

Did Jabari Greer do a little more today than he did last week?

"Again, similar to the earlier question, yes and yet not enough to where he was in a practice mode. I think the progress with both Jabari and Tracy (Porter) has been significant and positive and on schedule."

Do you feel like you've been less lucky injury-wise than last year?

"I'd have to go back and look. The uniqueness is that it happened at two position groups. When you look at the three corners with Randall Gay, Jabari and Tracy and you look at the running backs in Reggie (Bush) and Pierre (Thomas). That's not uncommon, so the other guys step in."

You said you cut some snaps today. Is that typical for this point in the season?

"Yes, but also just looking and making sure that we're getting the film study but also resting and making sure that we're looking at everything we're doing."

Did you get an explanation on the rulings on the two fumbles from Sunday?

"The one think you can't do – and the official was correct – is that you can't challenge who recovered a fumble. You can throw a flag and the official can come over and explain it to you and you still don't get the challenge, which is what happened, but you can't challenge who recovered it. You can challenge whether it was fumbled or not and if you do, the only way you're awarded the ball is if they see in the film study that you recovered it."

On the other challenge that you won, did you know that the penalty on Malcolm Jenkins would be assessed so you just went to gain the seven yards?

"Yes. Looking back at it, I felt real confident that we were going to win it so I challenged it. Had I not won the earlier challenge, I probably wouldn't have challenged it over seven yards. But there was enough evidence to where we felt like the contact made by Darren Sharper was clear."

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Does it matter more that you are playing the Steelers? Does it reflect a chance to re-assert yourselves?

"It's the next game coming off a disappointing game. You can't wait to get on the field anyway, but I guess they don't get any bigger than this where the Pittsburgh Steelers, arguably one of the best teams in the NFL, are coming into our place on Sunday Night Football, Halloween night, all the reasons why this game is a huge game. We've played in a lot of these primetime games where America's watching. There's no better time for us to go out and play great as a team and get back on track with a win."

Does your team have to be careful to not put too much emphasis on Sunday night's game?

"There's always a tremendous amount of emphasis and sense of urgency as really what we would call it. If we were sitting here undefeated playing great, we'd be telling ourselves the same thing, which is that we're only as good as our last performance. Whether it was good or bad the week before, you have to be able to come back a little bit better. I would say that since we haven't played as well as we can, we want to make sure that we can do that this Sunday."

Is there a big difference between 5-2 and 4-3 in your mind?

"You can go down the line and say there's a big difference between 6-1 and 5-2. They're all big and you could sit here and argue the divisional games count for more and the games within the NFC count for more in the playoff picture, but the fact of the matter is that you only get to play 16 of these regular season games. The amount of time you put into a work week in game planning and preparation just makes each snap so important. Regardless of who you're playing they're all important."

You had talked during OTA's about the challenges the team would face in trying to repeat and researching other clubs. Could you talk about your efforts in that area and if you have a feeling where the club tried so hard to avoid this and that they're running into it?

"I think that every year's a new year, so obviously despite having a lot of the same players, what you accomplished last year has no bearing on this year other than the experience that you gain along the way. Those are a lot of the things we talked about as a team going into the season. We're not entitled to anything. Just because we're the defending world champs doesn't mean teams are going to come in and be intimidated by us and just roll over. In fact, it's very much the flip side of that, where you know you're getting everybody's best effort and best performance. It means so much to the other team. You could argue that in some cases, it might be their most important game of the season. We found that out down the stretch as we were undefeated and kept that streak alive. Every team we played it became if they were out of the playoffs, it was their most important game of the season. It was their Super Bowl, so to speak. So, we knew that this journey was not going to be easy going through this season and we knew that we would have peaks and valleys. We just happen to be in one of those valleys. It feels like we've been in it for a while and we all want to get out of it. I think human nature might be to get down and be negative, point fingers, to feel like you need to press, put added pressure on yourself and I think we're a lot more experienced than that. We've been down this road before back in 2007. I think we have a pretty experienced team, so everybody's encountered situations like this where you're working your tails off and it doesn't seem to be happening, but you just have to keep grinding. I think we'll look back at this time as the season progresses. We'll look back at this seven game stretch to start the season as a defining moment for our team. You can only worry about the things that you can control and obviously the past is past. But what we can control is how we react to what has happened, how we change the things we need to change to get back on track, how we respond and obviously how we carry ourselves to be very positive and very encouraging and I feel like everybody's on the same page there. Adversity equals opportunity. This is an opportunity for us to come back stronger to come back better, to bring us together as a team. Maybe we're going through things now earlier than expected in order to strengthen us  for what we're going to have to do at the end of the season."

Given that the Steelers play a specific style, do it well and you have a lot of film on that, is preparing for them in some way easier than what the Browns did in that the Browns did a lot of things that were unorthodox that you might not have seen. With the Steelers do you at least have a history of what they do and how they do it?

"The fact of the matter is that they're a team that we don't play that often. Last time we played the Steelers was 2006. Any AFC opponent you're only going to play once every four years unless you see them in the Super Bowl. So, from that standpoint you always feel like it's a team that you have to put a little extra time in. Maybe you can argue that Dick LeBeau has been there as defensive coordinator for a long time and obviously they've been very, very good for a long time as a team defensively and so they haven't changed much, but yet what they do they do very, very well. They have the ability to bring pressure like most 3-4 teams and they have the personnel to get after you even when they're not bringing pressure, just with their front or with those outside linebackers and interior linemen. Obviously for us it's a huge challenge. Everybody game plans you though. Despite what you see on film, it's not necessarily what you're going to see in a game. A lot of times it's not until you get into the game and get into the first couple series' that you have a chance to see that this is what they're trying to do, what they're trying to take away, the pressures they're going to run, all those things and then again they'll sometimes they'll have a plan for the first half, and the third quarter and fourth quarter. It's kind of expecting the unexpected."

It has always been said that Dick LeBeau's philosophy is about keeping the ball in front of them. Is that what you've seen from a lot of defenses this year? Do they do it as well as anybody?

"Yes, it is. Even in their pressure packages they seem to have an ability to bring pressure and yet keep guys deep in coverage so they're allowing you to throw it down the field and make big plays. Obviously they're very, very good against the run. They're good at taking the ball away. They're good at pressuring the quarterback. They really don't have a chink in their armor. For us that means we have to be even more disciplined and execute as well as we have all season in order to beat these guys."

Even though you're 4-3 this year could you look at this game like the New England game last year to set the standard with a crazy crowd?

"I would expect the crowd to be crazy."

Does it have that feel?

"It does, similar to the opening game against Minnesota, the Monday night game (vs. San Francisco), any primetime game. You're the only game on television. You just have that feeling that everybody's watching. We always have something to prove when we step on the field. Now, we know everybody's watching, especially with the way the season's gone so far, there's no better time to get back on track on a national stage on Sunday night against the Steelers."

You talk about trying to get a little bit better every day and to make incremental improvement. Does the inconsistency mean you're not reaching that goal?

"No, because I feel like I'm obviously learning along the way. That's part of growth. That's part of getting better and the statistics don't always show that improvement and sometimes the result doesn't always show that improvement. I feel like it's there and I'm not going to get discouraged. I stay very positive. I don't know any other way."

When you were a kid at Halloween, did you have a favorite costume?

"I guess the traditional stuff. I was Superman one year. I was Dracula another year with the fake blood and vampire teeth and all that."

Were you ever a Transformer?

"I was never a Transformer. I remember one year in the mid 80's, I was a punk rocker. I think I dyed my hair pink and spiked it up and that whole thing. I just remember as a kid, Halloween is one of the best holidays and best times. It's your excuse to dress crazy, terrorize the neighborhood and eat a lot of candy. What's better than that as a kid?"

After you go back and look at the film, it seemed like you were unlucky on a couple of the interceptions. Do you maybe beat yourself up less after looking at the film?

"Yes, but that happens sometimes. It's frustrating when you walk out of a game and feel like there were only four or five throws I wanted back, they just happened to be interceptions. But did I know that two were going to get tipped to the D-lineman back to himself and that we'd have a miscommunication on one of those option routes and the other one was basically like a punt. But, when you look at the stat sheet it says four picks and obviously I'm accountable for those regardless of how they happen. It's not going to make me gun shy. I understand when I'm at my best when I'm aggressive and I'm turning it loose and I'm trusting the receivers I'm throwing to and they trust me. At times, if I throw a bad ball or anticipate something or miss a little bit, that's going to happen. If there's an interception every now and then, yes, that's going to happen. That's a part of the game. We're also going to get some big plays and we're also going to be able to execute this offense the way we've been able to execute it by being aggressive and just being ourselves. Nothing's going to change as far as my mentality."

You came off that Arizona game which wasn't your best performance and came back strong against the Buccaneers. Is that something you draw on now coming off the Browns game, making you answer the call for this game?

"Yes, I believe so. I've taken pride my whole career in wanting to be consistent week to week, but you're going to have those down weeks. It's really how you respond. Forget what's happened that previous week. Don't let it influence you negatively. Playing the quarterback position is so much about confidence and so anytime you go out and throw three picks, human nature might be to want to pull back a little bit and all of a sudden be a little conservative and you can't play the position this way, especially in this offense. You have to be very aggressive within the framework of the play-call and the situation and you also understand how turnovers affect a football game. I hope that history proves itself Sunday. I hope that we play great as a team. I plan on playing great. I think that's our mentality."

Is Ike Taylor one of the most effective corners that's been around for a while?

"Yes, I guess that's a good point. When you think about the Steelers defense, you think about a couple of those defensive linemen who have been there for a long time now, who have been mainstays. You obviously think about James Harrison who's been a Pro Bowler, a (NFL) Defensive Player of the Year. You think about James Farrior, who's been their linebacker for as long as I can remember. (Lawrence) Timmons who is at that level. (LaMarr) Woodley who led their team in sacks last year. Obviously (Troy) Polamalu, one of the best safeties in the league. Maybe he gets overshadowed by some of those big name guys a little bit. He shows up on film. I can't remember watching a Steeler game over the last five or six years where he hasn't been on the field making some plays."

Did you know he's a New Orleans native?

"I know they have like three guys in their secondary who are from here."

What do you think of them being ranked 24th against the pass?

"That's because they're fifth against the run. You can't run. Everybody tries to throw."

Isn't it a legitimate matchup?

"That's where statistics fool you. You can't just look at statistics and say you rank top five and they rank bottom five. This has to be a gimme. So much of it is influenced by their run defense being so good and the fact that they get up in a lot of games. They get up and the other teams are behind and so their only choice is to throw the football. That might pad the stats against them when in reality for three quarters of the game they're very good. They don't have a chink in their armor. They're a very solid defense that can defend the run and the pass, not only because of the talent in the secondary, but they can get pressure on the quarterback and so it's not like you have all day to sit back there and pick them apart. You have to get the ball out on time and be very smart about where you're throwing it to, because they're very disciplined in regards to where they know where their help is, they know they can guess. You can see that on film."

Looking at statistics, what is the most telling one as to where your struggles are?

"Turnovers. We had four in the Arizona game and four in the Cleveland game, obviously two of our worst performances in a while. You see the result. It's hard to win when you turn it over like that."

Last year through the first six games you were scoring 39 points a game? Did you realize that?

"No, we were just operating with an expectation level you're  going to score every time you get the ball. Despite the fact that we haven't done that up to this point this year, we still have that attitude. Our attitude is still every time we touch the ball we're going to score. In that Tampa game we punted one time. I'd like to be able to save (Thomas) Morstead's legs for kickoffs and not for punts."

Can you talk about the points you've left on the field?

"We've had plenty of them. Keep in mind that through seven games last year I think we had seven defensive touchdowns. Obviously that helps the points per game average."

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