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Payton Holds Court with Media on Wednesday

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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Opening Statement:

"Let me just start with the injury report for today.  DE Turk McMcBride (left ankle) did not practice, LB Jon Vilma (knee) was limited, CB Jabari Greer (right knee) was limited, and DT Tom Johnson (left elbow) was full.  There was just one practice squad transaction.  We signed WR Andy Tanner in place of QB Sean Canfield.  Our schedule was a little bit different with today being that we tried to put a little more time in between the game Monday and when we started.  We've done this before and then cut back some snaps in practice.  All of it was first and second down.  Tomorrow we'll gradually increase the reps and gradually get back into our normal routine."

Is that a good sign that the injury report is so small or did you just have a light practice?

"I think it's a good sign.  The list is small.  If we would have gone two hours or two and a half hours, I know the list would have been exactly the same."

Do you think all the roughing the passer penalties are fair and do you think it's something you have to coach your players on?

"Just in regards to our game, the concern I had in our game was that we had double-digit penalties.  We had more than certainly we're used to and certainly more than what's acceptable.  We talked about it a little bit this morning.  I think the officials have a challenging job each week.  We may or may not agree with every call, and yet you still have to get on to the next play and not let it have a carry-over effect.  We never want that to be a reason or an excuse as to why a game goes a certain direction.  It's one thing if it's a play like Will Smith's, where I don't know that we tell him to do a thing different.  That being said, it's something that's a point of emphasis for us and something that I think we need to be better at than we were on Monday night."

What were your thoughts on Isa Abdul-Quddus' penalty?

"I think that's the tough one.  In general as a league, I think we're trying to lower the area at which we're making contact and no different than in Jimmy Graham's case.  Often times the receiver, just as he's catching the ball gets to a little bit lower position so you end up sometimes with helmet-to-helmet.  That's kind of an ongoing point of emphasis for our team just as it is an ongoing point of emphasis for the league."

Is the plan moving forward to continue to inactivate Chris Ivory at running back?

"It's certainly not any plan set in stone going forward.  I think for that game we spent a lot of time discussing where we were both offensively and defensively and in the kicking game with injuries and basically coming up with inactives.  Each week we will look at that and look at it closely.  Obviously we value his ability.  The challenge of having four very good running backs who are all healthy is one that I have to handle as a head coach.  I think each week as we get ready to play an upcoming opponent, we have to look closely at the roll and the plan and how does it involve not only the running back position, but how does it involve the roster.  We alluded to the injury report being fairly short, which means you're probably going to have more healthy inactives as opposed to when the list is bigger.  We'll deal with that week by week."

Can you talk about the job Jo-Lonn Dunbar has done at middle linebacker?

"He did very well last week.  He was one of the game ball recipients on defense.  I think he's done a very good job as a signal-caller and as a leader.  It's something he's worked extremely hard at.  He was very productive in the game.  When you can lose a player like Jon Vilma and have another guy jump in like Jo-Lonn and have the success he had, it really speaks of the position group and it speaks to where we've come just in regards to depth.  He really played well."

How is Matthew Stafford different from when your team played him in 2009?

"It's light-years.  A lot has taken place with their team and quite honestly our team since that game.  Not only was it '09, but it was the first game of '09.  I don't know how many games it's been since then, but he's very comfortable with what they're doing.  They do enough stuff at the line of scrimmage where they put some of the plays in his hands.  He can operate the no-huddle.  I think the thing that stands out most about Matthew is this is the first time that this has happened in the history of our league where there's a team that's won three games after being down by 17 points in the same season.  That's never happened before.  One of the trademarks we look for in scouting quarterbacks is how they play when they're behind.  He's someone that's led them to some significant wins when their team has been behind.  They're one of the top teams in scoring differential in the second half.  There's a belief I think with everyone on that team and that roster that they have a quarterback that can bring them back through adversity and they have the players around him now and a defense now that I think is a lot different and a lot further along that '09."

How do you compare the situation with Ndamukong Suh's possibility of being able to play in this game to DeMarcus Ware a couple of years ago with the Cowboys?

"I think it's different.  We have to prepare for the Lions, no different than if a player showed up as questionable on the final injury report or limited.  We have to prepare to play that team and it's the team that's most important.  I was asked earlier by Detroit's media and my response was that we get used to each week playing without a Jon Vilma or a player like (Louis) Delmas who's injured or a suspension with Suh that our game, and not just the New Orleans Saints, but the Lions and any other team in this league quickly gets the next guys ready.  I think that's just what we get accustomed to and what we get ready to do because it happens weekly and it's just the nature of our game."

Is Suh a guy that you would have to specifically prepare for his skill set?

"The only thing that's different when you're dealing with a defensive tackle than an end is some of the things that you would try to do to slow up a good pass rush from a defensive end are entirely different than what you would try to do with a tackle.  In other words, the running backs are less likely to be involved in that adjustment or the tight ends would be less likely to be involved in that adjustment.  I think as much as anything his force inside as a run defender as well as a guy that can push the pocket are things that you see on videotape."

Was there anything talked about with the offensive linemen about protecting Drew Brees that made a difference in that area?

"I think it's really become more of a focal point each week in having success. We talked about this last week as it pertained to Drew and Eli Manning, which quarterback was going to be more comfortable with time in the pocket.  That has a lot to do with first and second down.  It has a lot to do with having some balance with run and pass.  It also has a lot to do with helping those tackles.  Playing at home certainly can help because the noise is a benefit as opposed to a hindrance.  I think more than anything it's a point of emphasis with each play that you call and how you put together a plan.  I think there is probably two or three other major things that I've hit on that all contribute to the numbers that we had on Monday night in regards to no sacks and limited hurries.  That's a credit to the guys that are up front blocking and the guys who are helping in the process and also I think the efficiency of operating on first and second down and having that balance and finding yourself in the third-and-manageable situations as opposed to the third-and-longs."

Have you noticed improvements in the number of hurries as well as the sacks?

"We try to look at those because those are equally as important.  The sack may be the easy number to track, and yet the quarterback who is getting hit as he throws it or is having to hurry as he throws it and the ball's incomplete, there's a direct correlation there to your efficiency or your success on third down or for that matter any down when you're throwing it."

How big of a factor are not having any sacks in the last three games to winning?

"I think it's part of the equation.  I think the turnovers are a part of that as well.  I think there's lot that goes into winning football, but maybe easier to look at is if you're not protecting him, it's going to be hard to win.  We put a value on turnovers.  We take a look at that each week, but you have to look at what causes the turnovers.  It's easy to just say we can't turn the ball over, but when the quarterback has less time or tipped balls or hurried passes, that's one area that can lead to more turnovers.  We've improved in that area and by no means are we a finished product there, but it's something that has been a valuable area for us to look at specifically to point to and say this is vital each week with what we do offensively."

Is the window up on Greg Romeus and did you like what you saw from him?

"It is and he's been moved to Injured Reserve.  I did like what I saw.  When we drafted him, the plan all along was this year understanding he was going to spend half of it in rehab and all likelihood the other half or a little bit less on the Injured Reserve.  We're real encouraged with what we saw."

Curtis Johnson's name has come up for head coaching jobs.  Is he someone that you think would be a good head coach?

"Absolutely.  First off, he's an extremely hard worker.  He's very smart.  Just take for instance his position group in six years now, one of the things we constantly look at is the productivity and how they've responded.  The question with Curtis is not if he's going to be a head coach, the question is when.  He's going to have a lot of opportunities.  I've said this before, it's a great reflection on the organization and who we're hiring, but he's been a big part of our success offensively and an important part of our staff beginning here in '06.  This time of the year is when these discussions come up with assistant coaches and honestly they are healthy ones.  I've said this before, if those discussions aren't coming up over a long period of time then you've got a little bit of a bigger issue on your hands.  I think that opportunity is going to come sooner than later for him."

What happens with that when the playoffs are in the picture?

"It's real simple.  Our focus with any of our coaches is they're fully committed to the New Orleans Saints and they understand that.  That's something that anyone who has any interest in a coach of ours understands as well.  In Doug Maronne's case with two games left with the season that year finishing differently, it was an easy transition because Aaron Kromer was here and there was a smooth transition with him going to the offensive line.  I think it would have been different that year had we been in a position to go to the playoffs.  It would have been something where Syracuse would have had to have waited until the end of our season.  I think it's critical that the players and everyone knows that the focus and the most important thing is our preparation for each game without distractions.  I think all the parties can figure out some of the nuances that can arise with the schedules being different in the collegiate game than the pro game."

Can you talk about what Calvin Johnson brings to the table?

"I think he's the best receiver in football and I say that in a very honest and unbiased way as you watch the tape.  He's someone that has great size.  He does a great job of playing the ball above his head.  Just from a stature standpoint he presents challenges.  He's a good route runner.  From all the other information you gather, he's a great worker and a competitor.  When you see some players that have been with a program through some tough times now enjoying success, we can relate to that a little bit with some of our players that were here prior to '06 that went through some tough seasons.  He's someone that you obviously have to be mindful of on each play where he's aligned, not just in the red zone but certainly on third down.  He can get behind you.  He can go up even when he's covered and make a play above his head.  Those earned catches that we refer to are the ones that are tough because the defender is right where he needs to be and the offensive player has earned the catch and made it difficult for you defensively.  You see a lot more earned completions with him.  Each year he seems to have gotten better and better.  There's certainly a confidence level that Matthew has in throwing the football to him and the team has in him and the coaching staff.  That presents a lot of challenges."

Does Detroit present the type of depth at running back as the Saints do?

"I don't know.  It's hard to compare their depth.  I have a pretty good grasp as to where we're at with our running backs.  I think you just try to monitor the injury report just like I give with the opponent, but I think also more importantly you pay attention to all the film that you have in regards to defending scheme.  We pay close attention to the type of runners that a team has.  The team we just played for instance with Brandon Jacobs, there are certain runs that you're more prone to get with a bigger back like that than you are with maybe a Bradshaw and in Detroit's case, whether it's Kevin Smith or another back that's in the game, I think that you go through the scouting report and you look closely at what types of runs they like to feature, whether they're under center or shotgun runs.  We'll have to do that with this team."

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