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Payton: Defense Has Been Key in Winning Streak


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Press Conference

Friday, December 23, 2011

Opening Statement:

"RB Mark Ingram (toe) did not practice, G Jahri Evans (knee) did not practice, Jon Vilma (knee) was limited, Sedrick Ellis (hamstring) was limited, Jonathan Casillas (knee) was limited, Aubrayo Franklin  (ankle) was limited, Ramon Humber (knee) was limited and Lance Moore (hamstring) was limited."

How big was the fourth down overtime stop for your defense's confidence in Atlanta?

"I think defensively, there's a lot to be said for the confidence gained in a good goal line stand or a short yardage critical situation like that and so you practice, maybe that situation a dozen times during training camp and during the course of the season you get into your short yardage defense and it might come up five times in a year and I think that it was certainly significant in regards to the outcome of the game. I think anytime…A year ago we had a goal line stand against Pittsburgh and that was significant and I think it was significant last time we played them."

Even though the numbers aren't there defensively, do you think the confidence, leadership and performance under pressure makes up for it?

"Yes, the other thing I think that's important is we deal with the recent a lot. With our wins here in this last part of the season we've been doing a lot of good things defensively. We came up with a big stop a couple weeks ago down in the two-yard line a couple weeks ago for the win. I think your goal is to be playing your best in all areas as the season winds down, especially as your season winds down, to see improvement and I think we're doing that and that's what's encouraging."

You guys have done a good job of defending against when a team has a dominant player like a Calvin Johnson or Chris Johnson. Is it a different challenge defending against this team that has three or four weapons of that caliber?

"It's more challenging. It's a good question. I think that with a quarterback like Matt Ryan you have to be careful of not sitting in the same type of look. With really any good quarterback you want to be able to have some variables and to change some things up, but it is more challenging when you deal with the threats of outside receiver for Atlanta, the interior passing game with (Tony) Gonzalez, (Harry) Douglas is playing well and then you have the running game. Now you have kind of what we feel like we have as well, the challenge of changing up looks and knowing with each defense called, where your strength may be and what the areas may be that you understand the ball can come to. I think that presents more challenges. It would be fair to say if it's one player specifically that's easier to handle, it's kind of dealing with two good pass rushing defensive ends. (John) Abraham presents problems and (Ray) Edwards on the other side presents problems and so those are the challenges within the framework of the game plan."

Is Abraham playing some of his best football since you last saw him?

"When you watch his recent games, he's a guy that can really change the outcome of your offensive production. You just start with third down and now your quarterback is hurried, you're not converting the third downs you normally convert because it's someone who normally has that speed and power, there's an immediate impact on your game and so he's playing very well. He's been a consistent pain in the rear for a long time."

Do you feel like Mark Ingram's condition is improving?

"He's getting there. It's a good question. The truth is we just have to see day to day. He did more today than he did yesterday. It's coming along. I don't know if I'd say he turned the corner, other than I'd say he felt better today than he did a day ago or certainly a week ago at this time."

Has Jonathan Vilma been alright out there after coming back from injury? How has Jo-Lonn Dunbar performed as well

"I think it's managing what he has now and that's what we've tried to do. Week to week we're smart with a couple veteran players in regards to our first practice. In regards to Jo-Lonn, the thing he's been able to do, which is not easy is to go from Mike to Sam and learn both those positions and be ready to play both those positions and certainly more Sam with Vilma there and earlier with Jon's injury it was more Mike. That versatility has been important for us"

Are there any games you plan to watch tomorrow?

"We're practicing. The schedule sets up with the Monday night game and Christmas on Sunday, is decent for the players and coaches where they have time on Christmas. We'll bring players in later that afternoon on Sunday at 4:30 for meetings and walk-through, but Saturday, we're practicing like a Friday. I don't know who's playing and what time they're playing and I know most of the league schedule is set up for Saturday games with the exception of a Sunday game. But with our schedule, it's really a Friday, red zone, goal line and short yardage and that's really it. You're getting the finishing touches on the game plan. It's different each year. This is always a challenge around Thanksgiving. It's always a challenge around Christmas with what we do."

You obviously want Seattle to beat San Francisco to help you. Will you watch it closely and personally keep close attention to it?

"It will be hard to watch it. I don't know what time that game is. Obviously we will know the result when we come on Sunday. We'll know the result Saturday night. I'm sure it's a later game because it's in Seattle. Other than that we'll be finishing up practice here. I'll be going back to Dallas Saturday night, turn around and come here Sunday, so it's more of just the awareness of the game being played ahead of ours."

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