New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"For an injury update: Mike Karney with his knee was full today, Troy Evans with his knee was full, Kevin Kaesviharn did not participated with his neck from the stinger he had in the game. Roster-move-wise, Deuce McAllister, Will Smith, Charles Grant have been suspended. We signed defensive end Rob Ninkovich from the Dolphins' practice squad to our active squad and safety Terrence Holt to our active roster and that keeps us at 53."
Was Ninkovich's familiarity with what you're doing here a big reason why he was signed?
"He's a guy that we have a background with and we felt like as we started grading out the practice squad players from other teams' rosters, he was a guy that we had kept an eye on and have had a chance to see play in the preseason. Certainly having a background with him helps."
What was your reaction to the suspensions?
"Like Mickey stated, it's just disappointment for the players and for their fans. It's really just that."
Do you worry about other players who take supplements?
"I think as a coach or as a parent, our jobs are to try to educate as best we can, and we'll continue to do that. Like I said at the onset, it's a league matter and we leave it at that. Right now we move forward and get these other guys ready to play."
Have you been planning for the suspensions?
"To some degree, with the signing of Mike Bell and maybe being one heavy at defensive end; I think you have to make sure you're prepared in the event that it actually happened, which it did, and we move forward now. I think you have to take the proper steps in making sure that you're set."
How does this affect your defense? What changes might you make?
"Obviously in Charles' case, he's been on IR so there's not a change there. In Will's case it will obviously mean more time for Jeff Charleston and Josh Savage and possibly Rob Ninkovich and Bobby McCray of course. That's how it affects us on defense. On offense, Mike Bell becomes a running back now that plays along with Pierre and Reggie."
Do you think your pass rush will take a big hit?
"I think when you lose a player like Will, a player of his caliber, certainly there's an effect that it has and we have to overcome that with the guys that are filling in, no different than an injury with the rest of the guys playing."
But you don't have another player of his caliber do you?
"Like I said, when you lose a player of his caliber and already having lost Charles to an injury, you hope you can overcome it and other guys can step in, much like guys have had to do with injuries. The same approach is taken just as if the player was injured."
We've seen Jeff Charleston rush the passer a little bit. What kind of run defender is he?
"I think he's pretty stout. He's a guy with a high motor and is very intelligent. He'll be able to lean on his experience prior to this week, and having him here rather than just getting him here today, having him here in the program has helped."
Is it a big concern that the Falcons are ranked second in the run and gashed you in the game there a month ago?
"Their team is certainly a concern and we have a lot of respect for how well they're playing, both offensively and defensively and in the kicking game. It's a tremendous challenge and our focus is on that game specifically."
How do you replace the locker room presence of guys like Deuce and Will?
"I think no different than on the field, you call on others to step up and that's what we'll do."
Is the fact that the standings are so close something that you use as motivation for the team?
"I think that it's important to really be honest with the players and they understand the urgency and where we're at right now. It starts with this game this weekend and fortunately we're playing at home in front of our fans and their ability to generate the enthusiasm, just as they did last Monday night is a big plus for us and we'll lean heavily on that and be ready to play."
How positive are you that Reggie will be able to bounce back both physically and attitude-wise?
"I think today he had a real good practice. He's off the (injury) report and I'm sure he's excited to be back in a normal work-week role without having to limit the practice snaps. All of us are excited to have him back in the lineup."
How important is it against a team that relies heavily on running the ball to get in front of them early?
"That's a good question. One of the things with this team if you study the numbers is that they're first in the NFL in first quarter leads. They have actually in every one of their wins come out real fast in the first quarter. So starting fast is something that we've talked a lot about and the importance of us starting fast and understanding that in their wins, they've gotten on top of people early. They've been a team that leads the league in first quarter points scored and first quarter leads. I think it will be extremely critical."
Is this a big week for you as a coach as far as keeping the team motivated?
"I think coming off a tough loss that it's a big week for us as coaches. Getting these guys mentally and physically ready to play their best game with everything that has taken place – it's a divisional game, it's a team that we have a lot of respect for. They're good in all areas and I think our players will see that on film and we'll point to the specifics that we think are important as it relates to winning the game. I see this as a challenge, not only for our players, but for us as coaches."
Are you satisfied with the way the run-pass ratio has worked its way out this season?
"I was asked that question coming off the game we just played and we're going to – and I'm going to as a play-caller – strive for more balance and understanding the significance of that. Each week – depending on the opponent – that might vary from how we want to attack a team, but certainly our ability to have a good running game is something that we take seriously."
Why has it been so hard for teams to win on the road in this division this year?
"You start with the quality of the opponents. I think right now it's arguably the best division in pro football and see that in how they've fared versus other divisions. All three teams that we're talking about – starting with Tampa and Carolina, which play on Monday night and Atlanta – all of them have improved and it starts with that. Nonetheless, we've had opportunities to win on the road with some close games that we weren't able to finish and that's something here in the next four weeks with two road games that we're going to have to be able to do to have any chance."
If Mike Karney is healthy, does he become an option in short-yardage situations?
"I do feel confident in Pierre and Reggie, as well as Mike Bell, and Mike will be a guy who will get some touches this week in the running game."
Is Lance Moore a number one priority for you in the offseason? Do you think he would be as good in another offense as he is with this quarterback?
"It starts with his work ethic and I think Lance has earned everything that he's gotten. Certainly I think that he's a guy that would play well regardless of what team he plays on. Certainly we hope that he plays on our team next year. He understands and appreciates his role and understands how it has been for him to get where he's at and we do as well."
So would you be averse to even letting him get on the market at all?
"Mickey and I will sit down at the end of the season and look at each specific player, but he's a guy that obviously our quarterback has confidence in and we hope we can keep in the building. He has played well enough to earn that."
Is the first Atlanta game one you look back on and think you could have done something there?
"There are a number of games that you reflect back on. I don't know that that would be one specific game, but I look forward to us playing better than we did the last time we played them."
How do you handle it when coaches on your staff get calls or have interest from colleges for jobs?
"The number one stance that we've taken as an organization – and we talked about it when I first got hired – is that we want what's best for our coaches, truly. That being said, within the framework of our guidelines per the NFL, and also when it relates to college positions, we try to stay on top of it and communicate as best we can and make sure that it's something that doesn't become a distraction to our players and our operations in regards to how we practice. Each one is a case-by-case basis. I think it's a good sign when you have coaches that are wanted by other staffs. It would be a little bit scarier if you went three years and no one contacted any of your assistants."
Do you ever envision a scenario where someone else on the staff would do the offensive play-calling?
The teams in your division have great home records this season. Why is that?
"I think it gets back to the improvement of the teams in our division. Teams are playing well at home and defending their home field well. We have an opportunity after just one division game at home to have two coming up in the next four weeks with Atlanta this weekend and then Carolina to finish the season, so for us to finish strong and accomplish what we want to accomplish, we're going to have to play well at home."
New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Monday, December 1, 2008
"From an injury standpoint, Kevin Kaesviharn with the stinger is the only significant one to report. We may miss him for a week or two. Other than that, we had a few nicks, but came out of it pretty healthy. I said yesterday afterwards, it's a tough loss where we were in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter. After looking at the tape I thought we played well defensively, particularly on third down. We gave up a couple of big plays, but we got them off the field and put ourselves in position a number of times. We struggled in the kicking game with the field position. That was an area where we had hoped to play better and then certainly I thought we were inconsistent and sloppy on offense. After watching the tape, there's opportunities, be it a drop, be it a penalty, be it a turnover, the things that keep you from moving the football cost us in this game. We knew we were playing against a good defense, one in which it was going to be a little bit different scheme-wise than the week before with zone coverage, nonetheless we had our opportunities. It's a tough loss, especially in the light of what's going on with the rest of the division right now. We sit here at 6-6 and it's disappointing."
In retrospect do you wish you ran the ball more early on given the weather conditions?
"I was frustrated a little bit early with some of the minus plays we took in the run game and I thought we found a little bit of rhythm in the third quarter, both with Pierre (Thomas) and Deuce (McAllister). We went in with the thought that we were going to feature mostly Pierre and interchange Reggie (Bush) and Deuce. Conditions wise, I think Drew felt comfortable. From a footing standpoint, it wasn't that bad and I don't know if the drops were as much weather related as they were us taking our eyes off the ball and looking downfield before we ever caught it, but certainly that's something you look back at and go through. Putting it in his (Brees') hands is something that I felt comfortable doing. The way he's been playing is outstanding, so obviously you want more balance. I felt when we got to the fourth quarter at 20-20 after we had gotten back into it, we had took the wind in the fourth quarter and really in the third quarter, the weather was a nonfactor. I felt the first and fourth quarter was when you had a little bit of the drizzle and wind pick up and then in the fourth quarter when that changed, I thought that changed, because we would play with the wind in the final quarter. With the ball back at the 20, we felt good about our chances and didn't take advantage of it."
What was your thinking in terms of running and passing going into the game?
"We went in with the idea we wanted to throw the football against this defense. They've been pretty good overall defensively with a lot of numbers. That was part of our plan going in."
How much did the weather affect your thinking in that area?
"I think you have to pay attention. The wind is more of a factor than the rain, but how much rain are you receiving. I felt the field held up pretty well. I thought we had some rain in the first and fourth quarters. I think Drew (Brees) felt comfortable with it. The thing that's more troublesome is not so much the weather as our inconsistency, be it a protection error, a penalty. Those things kill you and hurt you on drives. The turnovers hurt you. It's a team that forces you to be patient to execute and advance the ball maybe not as much in chunks. They get to the ball pretty quickly. I think that's the main thing."
How many of those passes would you term drops?
"There were a few of them that were tough catches. Lance (Moore) had one that would have been an outstanding catch. I think you're looking at about four, four balls that we should catch. That's too many still."
Do you attribute Reggie Bush's drops to rust?
"I think as much as anything it's getting back in playing. Those are plays he would normally make. They weren't difficult plays. One's a screen pass. The other's a checkdown. It's just keeping your eye on the ball and not taking your eye off the ball too quickly and looking to run with it downfield."
Do you feel you have to run the table for your team to be a part of the postseason conversation?
"I think so. I think this is a year where I don't think in the NFC you're going to see any nine win teams asides from a division winner in the postseason. You could very well see a ten win team left home. We have four weeks left and certainly understand how everyone else is playing ahead of us and that makes it much more challenging, but nonetheless we have a home game here against Atlanta in the division. We're going to have to play better. I think that's where it's at."
Why should fans be encouraged or hopeful you would go on a four game win streak when two games is all you have pieced together this season?
"It's that optimism that the time is now. We have two home games left. We're never going to stop playing hard or not trying. I think we have good character in the locker room. I think guys understand the importance of putting together a good work week and going out and playing with great effort. We have to focus on eliminating the mistakes and doing a better job of coaching in that aspect and coaching and detailing the assignments. I said to the team today, you just played a team that may end up winning the division and it's a team we had success against in week one and here we have 20-20 in the fourth quarter. That's the fine line in winning and losing. Unfortunately there have been too many games this season where we have been unable to win in a close game."
Given that the other three teams in the division are known for running the football and defense, do you think there needs to be a tweaking in your philosophy?
"I think you have to pay attention to your division and pay attention to the formula for what wins and you have to look at each year the team that's won the division. You have to start with how do we beat that team, no differently than how teams looked at us after 2006 and to look at how do we defend and play this team. I think you have to be very mindful about how you win your division, because that's' you're first goal you start the season with and what wins in the division. Generally what wins in the division throughout is good defense and being able to finish up plus in the takeaway/giveaway differential. I think in some of our losses this year, our inconsistencies have come on offense, not just on defense. I think those are the areas we have to continue to work on to put ourselves in position to contend with not only the teams outside the division, but inside the division, but specifically the Tampa Bays, the Atlantas and the Carolinas."
Would running the ball more effectively help your quarterback?
"I think so, no question. There's a formula we want to have and look to have. We want to have balance and there's a lot that goes into that. I don't disagree with the idea part of winning is being able to stop the run and being able to effectively run the football. At times this season when we've been able to effectively run the football it's led to us winning football games and when we haven't, it's led to us not winning football games. I think we understand. We're not taking the approach of just not running the football, but we have to do a better job of avoiding the minus plays and be more consistent when we do run it."
Do you think you have the personnel to run the ball like some of the other NFC South clubs?
"I think each year at year end you have to evaluate what you're trying to get from your people. Certainly you would like to have a healthy Deuce McAllister right now and we missed time with Reggie Bush and Pierre's (Thomas) done a good job filling in. That's something you do in the offseason between seasons and look closely at what fits with this team, what fits with this roster and where we are right now. That's the thing you have to pay close attention to."
Is Reggie Bush's effectiveness limited by bad weather and footing?
"I didn't think the footing was that bad and I think Reggie would tell you the same thing. Considering that there was some rain – it wasn't like it was in London – and guys were moving around pretty well. It's the same thing that we saw when Marques (Colston) came back in, and I have to do a better job of paying attention to that time off and the transition back in that it doesn't happen in one game, it happens over a period of time. The plan going in was to limit the amount of snaps that he took. It wasn't just to throw him in there for 60 plays. We were going to mix him in at the running back position and then also as a returner. He had the drops and he had a couple of tough downs in protection where he got beat and he certainly didn't play up to his standards or where he would want to play and we look for him to improve this week and play better this upcoming Sunday. But there were a lot of guys that weren't coming off injuries that didn't play too well and that's something that we're going to have to clean up and we're going to have to work hard on this week to get ready to play a good Atlanta team."
Will Smith and Deuce McAllister are still here. Have you heard any more about their possible suspensions?
"I'm really like you guys – and in fact you guys will probably know before me. We're game-planning and moving forward and waiting to hear. As soon as we know something, I'm sure the league will have a statement on it. I really don't know any more about it than you guys do."
So it's basically just wait and see?
"That's basically what we have to do."
If you don't make the playoffs but you have a winning record, how would you feel about your season?
"We have high standards and high expectations and goals. That starts with winning your division and it starts with playing in the postseason. Anything short of that is disappointing. When the season's over and you look back and reflect – and we'll have plenty of time to do that after we've played all of these games – you hope that you finish in a position where the season has continued into the postseason. That's how we feel and look at ourselves. I think that the players look at themselves that way and that partly is from the experience of '06 and the understanding of what it takes to win. When the season starts, though, you don't set the goals as improving on the win-loss record of a year ago. When the season starts, your goals are to win the NFC South and to get into the postseason tournament and see where it takes us. That's where we see our goals. Obviously it would be disappointing."
On the interception made by Cato June in the end zone, were the two tight ends too close to each other?
"Yeah, our spacing was poor. It's a four vertical play that's a pretty common play in the red area. Jeremy (Shockey) got a little wider than he needed to be and Buck Ortega was a little tight. When you're looking at it on film, Ronde Barber – who was covering Buck Ortega – was able to relate then and come over and get a hand on the ball thrown to Jeremy Shockey. So the spacing was off landmark-wise and you're really trying to divide the field in quarters and that really led to the interception. You end up having a player that's covering one that ends up making the play on the other."
Should Shockey have been closer to the hashmark?
"It's a number split, so you're really looking at a numbers landmark and then you're looking at three from the sideline for the outside guy. Between the two of them, they were too close together."
What happened on the touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant?
"It was a zone pressure and it's a combination of corner and safety. You play a soft zone behind a blitz look. It was a double move by Antonio and he beat the corner and got behind (Josh) Bullocks."
What should that coverage have looked like?
"It was a double move and you'd like to see the corner stay on top with safety presence inside. The thing that was most disappointing was that he was that open. We weren't able to stay on top and the safety was underneath it."
Is it frustrating to not have any fourth quarter comeback wins?
"I think it gets back to the little things. The one thing that we do have is that we have a quarterback who could bring us back and that gives you a chance. You see teams in our league that don't have that and then it becomes more challenging. That being said, it still comes down to those fundamentals at the very end of the game and doing the little things well. In our league, you're not going to be ahead two-thirds of the time going into the fourth quarter; you're going to have to come back and overcome a deficit. Yesterday when it was 20-10 and that momentum shifted a little bit, defensively I thought we were playing our best there. After those early scores we were getting them off the field on third down. Pierre (Thomas)'s touchdown gave us a big lift and then Shockey had the big pass play that led us to the field goal. There was when the momentum had swung and it was 20-20 and there was a wind at our back it was starting to rain a little bit more. It's just being able to finish in that type of setting. I thought defensively as the game went on we played better and better and I was encouraged with that. The third down numbers were real good. We were too inconsistent on offense. We were too inconsistent with the penalties and the drops and the turnovers. There were a number of things. It was one of the tougher games to watch this morning offensively. Part of that you credit Tampa Bay because they are a good defense and we understand that, but there are some things when you hurt yourself before a play gets started or in an alignment or an illegal formation because a receiver doesn't set his feet in time before the motion goes – those are the things that we have to continue to look at and clean up."
What did you see on the 4th-and-1 play that led you to call the end around?
"We had run inside a couple of times and had success in the last three weeks. We've actually run this belly play with Pierre two or three different times with success and they got into a Bear front and we felt like we were going to be able to leverage them with Devery's speed. It's really more of an outside handoff, but we didn't get up to the backside linebacker and he ended up making the play. We had our chances with that play and it just came down to one block and it's unfortunate."
Was it more of the front that you saw that led you to that call?
"We're not putting it with a "check with me". It's a play we're putting in to really get outside on a defense in a situation where we think they're going to play in tight on a short-yardage situation.