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Payton Preps for NFC Championship Game

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    <span>              <span style="">Opening Statement:</span>                  

"As I said yesterday, we're excited to get the win. It was a good team effort. We knew we were playing a good team coming in here with postseason experience and we came out and gave up the big run and then after that defensively I thought we got back in it and I was encouraged with the overall effort of our team. Now we wait and see who we'll play next week."

A lot of players talked about the week of preparation and how that played a big role in the win. Do you feel that was a big part of it?

"We just looked at the workweek and we felt like they needed some time off and we also felt like when the players came back that we wanted to have a couple of good, physical practices. The combination of getting them away and getting them some rest and then having two good practices I think worked well."

Do you feel that whichever team you play next week that it will be a different style of game than last night's?

"It's hard to predict how a game is going to unfold. You try to as best you can prepare during the week and gameplan to put your players in the best position possible and then be able to mid-stream adjust if you have to."

Did you make a conscious effort during the season to rest Reggie Bush in hopes that he would be fully healthy for the playoffs?

"The key is having your guys at full strength and we did feel like in his case he was completely healthy and he has looked real sharp in practice of late. A few months ago I told him, 'Just keep chopping the wood and keep working hard; you're too explosive of a player.' Yesterday he had good energy and good effort and he made some big plays for us to help us win."

What kind of strides has he made in running between the tackles?

"He's a guy that has worked very hard. Each year he has matured and he's very competitive and looks forward to these big moments and is someone who rises to these opportunities. I was pleased with him yesterday, not only on the punt return, but he had a real good grasp on the overall offensive plan."

How important was the opening drive for you?

"We wanted to mix some things up with the openers. We had a lot of different personnel groupings that we change up quite a bit. One of the things was to find out if we were going to get their nickel or dime defense to some of our sub sets and we did. We just tried to gather information on that first drive and move the ball."

Were you given a real specific medical plan on Bush's microfracture surgery and recovery?

"His was minimal and not very substantial, compared to some others that go through that. I don't think there was a concern on his recovery."

How different are you as a coach than you were in 2006?

"I guess you'd say more traveled in having gone through these games. Each week you learn things about yourself and about your team and about your preparation. I thought last week we had good focus. I felt like our guys were looking forward to playing. The way we practiced was a real good sign that we were ready. To answer your question, I think just from the experience you learn more as a coach and I think the other thing that's important is that you never want to stop learning."

How do you watch today's game? Do you watch it as a fan today and then as a coach afterwards?

"A little bit. We're all fans of football. We'll break it down and put on the tape and get the coaches' version tomorrow morning and we'll have all the games of both of these opponents to look at. There will be plenty of time in the work week; the schedule will be typical with Wednesday being our first day, right on through to Sunday gameday. But it will be a chance for us to sit back and watch it, much like you would."

Do you think it's time to drop the finesse tag from this team for good?

"I don't know that that tag exists. When you rush the ball the way we did this season, and we've played some really good teams already, so I had not heard that until right now."

Did you realize it was Mr. Benson that came up and hugged you while you were doing an interview with FOX?

"I didn't realize who it was at first."

How raw was Jahri Evans when he came here and what makes him the Pro Bowl player he is now?

"He's a strong player. He's powerful. He has strong hands and he does a real good job at the point of attack. He has good feet and good movement skills. I think his strength and his feet are exceptional. I think that really serves him well at that position, especially against a good player like he played yesterday."

Were these skills recognized right off the bat?

"He's a small school player. If you knew what you were getting he shouldn't have been a fourth round pick. You're taking a size guy that dominated at that level. There's still a question at that level of competition and you saw him play at different positions at tackle. He's one of the more enjoyable guys to coach as well. He's very sharp, a tremendous worker, very disciplined and he has a bright career ahead of him."

Your protection will be challenged with either the Dallas or Minnesota pass rush. How do you intend to meet that challenge?

"We've seen good pass rushers. We see (Julius) Peppers. We see (John) Abraham and certainly these are a couple (Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware) of real good defensive ends and that's the fun part of game-planning and putting together the best plan to try to combat a good rush. When you get to this point in the playoffs and you're watching Indianapolis yesterday, they rushed the passer very well. The Jets did that. When you get to this point in the playoffs, you're going to see not only real good pass rushers. You're going to see real good quarterbacks. You're going to see the best teams in football. That's part of the gameplan."

Did you think that how you guys fared against the Dallas pass rush last month was an anomaly?

"Let's hope so. I think we can play better and I think our players feel the same way."

You talked about Reggie Bush's competitiveness. Was his role something you outlined to him at the beginning of the season, that you'd be limiting his contact?

"No. I think it's a long season and you have to be careful with a back like him that in the first three weeks of the year he's had too many touches and he's breaking down, so he gives us versatility in the passing game and in the running game. Our depth with Pierre (Thomas), Lynell (Hamilton) and Mike Bell there allows us to be smart about how we want to use him. He had a great week of practice. The last few weeks he's been sharp. He's doing a good job."

How much of it is psychological to tell a player you want them healthy at the end of the season?

"The players are all playing. We're not holding anybody back. I want to make sure we get that clear that we're not holding a player back for the postseason. We're not doing that. It's just managing the snaps throughout the year and trying to give these guys the best opportunities that we think in the game plan. He's as healthy as he's been since he's been here in a postseason game now. I know he was looking forward to yesterday's game. When they got nicked up the secondary yesterday, they lost a safety (Antrel Rolle) and they lost a corner (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), we got into some more there and four wide sets to maybe stress the secondary more and run the ball out of the nickel. We did and his long run was out of a four wide, one back, no tight end package. We just tried to change the personnel groupings."

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