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Payton's Final Wild Card Presser

Payton updates the injury report, talks about RB Darren Sproles and the Saints success on third down.


New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Opening Statement/Injury Report: Lance Moore, hamstring, did not practice. John Gilmore, toe did not practice and linebacker, Jonathan Casillas, knee did not practice. Jon Vilma, knee, was limited and then the following three players were full; Robert Meachem, Malcolm Jenkins and safety Jonathan Amaya."

It may not be truly Saturday's game, but you've had some young guys on defense play very well against Carolina. Does that help?
"I think you always want to get your rookie class involved. I think the concern heading into the season was the lack of an offseason or time for development, but they picked things up real well. We play them if we think they're ready and we don't if we think they're not. The guys that have earned those snaps have demonstrated during the workweek and training camp that we have that confidence in them and they've been able to produce. Whether it's in the kicking game offensively or defensively, it just goes back to what you see at practice and the confidence coaches have in them."

Obviously Drew Brees was similar with Darren Sproles being from San Diego. Has he exceeded expectations in any areas?
"It's hard to tell in free agency or the draft, how quick a player will pick things up or how he can get acclimated. In Darren's case, he's extremely smart in terms of football awareness. He picked our offense up very rapidly and so his football IQ is real high. Secondly, from a running back standpoint, I think his ability to carry not only outside plays, but inside handoffs, he's been real durable and those are some of the things that maybe don't strike you at first in free agency. There are certain skill sets you saw, but I would say his versatility and football intelligence are two things that have been very impressive."

How much has he opened up things for guys on the outside?
"He's a part of that, just as Jimmy is a part of that. There are players that operate typically from inside the hash marks initially from their route deployment, but I would also say from our nickel running game. He's done a number of good things and has given us that run/pass type of mix when you're in one back or running the ball from shotgun. We've run the ball from shotgun better than the five years prior. We've been in that alignment a lot, so I think it's important that we have a threat to run the football not only throw it."

What about Marques Colston's year?
"He's having a real good year. He obviously plays outside for us in our base personnel. He's someone too that knows our offense inside and out. He can come inside and make plays in the nickel outside. He's very comfortable in traffic. He has strong hands in traffic. He's in great shape and really has his weight and all those other things where it needs to be. He's playing well and having an exceptional year."

What do you think of Detroit's defensive line and what are some of their other strengths?
"I think their front on defense is something that is very active and something that you have to recognize when you watch the tape and plan for. They're explosive offensively and they have the ability to throw the ball as well as anyone with the quarterback and receivers and the tight end (Tony) Scheffler inside. They're dynamic. Those are two areas. I think the return game is another area. If you were bringing up a couple areas, those are some that I would mention."

Is their defense healthier and more complete than the last time you played them?
"You're looking at a culmination of games, so you see certainly what they're capable of doing and how they play. They play very well on third down. When you do the red zone study, they've been playing a complementary game offensively and defensively. That's something that you just don't see on one game tape, but you see on a series of tapes over the past year."

Can you talk about Ndamukong Suh's play and how you manage the matchup?
"I think you need to do what you do philosophically offensively, yet you understand where he's at and there are certain things you try to do to help offset his strengths, but it's harder to do with a defensive tackle than a defensive end."

How has third down preparation in practice evolved in your coaching career throughout football?
"It has (been emphasized the game). Our game has always been situational football and for us, our second day of the workweek has always been nickel, third down and some two minute. Staying on the field and getting off the field, it's a critical snap. It's to the same as a turnover, however if you're about to stay on the field, your time of possession increases. All those things favor you and if you're able to get the other offense off the field, the same thing happens. It's an important down and just as important as the down and distance on third down and how you operate on first and second down to put yourself in positive third down situations as opposed to third and longs."

Why have you been so good at conversions?
"I think it's a combination of a lot of things. Certainly Drew (Brees) has been extremely efficient on that down. I think the protection has been solid. Going into each week, a lot has gone into how we're going to use our protections that week. When you have the receivers we have and guys like Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles, players like that to get the ball to, I think that helps."

Can you talk about getting the other guys off the field on third down the last four or five games?
"That's been a big number, I think defensively there are a lot of looks we've tried to mix up. We're playing with a lot of confidence on that down. It's been a big reason for our success. If you took that statistic offensively and defensively the last few weeks each game, you come in, you're around fifty percent, your opponent is at 20 or 30, and those are additional possessions."

Is the postseason fun for you despite the finality?
"I think winning is fun. Leading up to each game, as a coach and as a player, it's the work and preparation. To some degree there's a grind involved in that. I think the chance or opportunity to experience success in the postseason is what makes this enjoyable and exciting, but there's an element to that and I think that it's when you play well, when you see a plan unfold the right way and see the success carry over from the work week is what's most rewarding."

How tough is it looking at other games and other future possibilities?
"Honestly we don't look at the what if's at all. This is the game that we're focused at. We don't look at scenarios had we won another game or lost one. We're 13-3, we've given ourselves a chance to win a home playoff game as the number three seed. Immediately you take that information and prepare versus Detroit and that's really the truth. The last two or three weeks of the season you play attention to scenarios and how it affected you, but you pay attention to this game."

How does your team guard against overconfidence?
"I think we do a good job of dealing with the extremes from a media standpoint, who's favored, none of that. We spend time on it, because there are more and more of those distractions than ever before and we guard against it when we're having success and we guard against it when we have a tough loss. If we can keep to the task and keep to our jobs and not let it affect our locker room, our chemistry, our goals and what we want to accomplish, then you begin to tune out some of that. I think our players do a good job of that."

Do you have an example of handling the media?
"After a tough loss, there will be a week of tough media. We understand what sells in your business. I think educating players as to what creates hits on websites, blogs, stories and headlines, we understand how that business works. I think educating them on that is something we spend a lot of time on."

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