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Payton's Monday Press Conference

Payton talks about win vs. Panthers, running backs and secondary

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Press Conference

Monday, October 4, 2010

Opening Statement:

"Pierson Prioleau ended up with a chest bruise and of his lung. We checked him into the hospital last night. He was released this morning and he's feeling better. It's something we just have to monitor this week. I think initially all of us, at least I did, felt like it was more of a concussion, but it was just him struggling to catch his breath. Chris Reis, we'll have to look closely at his shoulder. He's having all the MRIs as we speak. We have a few other nicks. Of course we'll monitor where Pierre (Thomas) and Roman (Harper) are, some of those other guys who were injured prior to the game. Overall, there are certainly things that we want to continue to work on. I am pleased we were able to get the win. I felt defensively we came up with some big stops, certainly at the end. Guys have played well defensively. Sedrick Ellis played well. Usama (Young) played for us and played maybe more snaps than we had anticipated and played more snaps at a position than we had anticipated, so that was good. Jon Vilma and Malcolm Jenkins the same way. Offensively, there were a lot of positives. The turnovers and some of the red zone opportunities were ones that we have to look closely at and work on as we get further on in the schedule. The good news is you get the win, but looking closely at a critical eye, there are a lot of things that we're going to be able to coach off this tape and work on."

Could you be bringing in any players based on your injuries?

"I think number one, I'm optimistic Roman's going to be healthy and I think tomorrow there's a good chance we'll bring in a couple of guys to work out."

Is Pierson Prioleau going to be questionable this week or is it a longer-term thing?

"I would say just this week and a lot of it's how he's feeling and how he's responding. Fortunately, the x-rays and all those other things were negative, but yet, something as significant as a lung we're going to have to be patient. It would not be long term. It would be a short team (injury). Looking ahead to this week it's something we have to play close attention to."

Is it fair that some have a notion out there that the offense is in a malaise?

"I think if you look at points scored, that aspect hasn't been what we're accustomed to and certainly where we want to be. I think each game has been a little different. Yesterday there were opportunities for scoring that we didn't take advantage of. Whether that's a turnover at the one, one at the fringe when we're entering the end zone or even the last play sequence in which we went down to the five and I had a boneheaded call on second down and take a loss. It was a draw play and then we settle for a field goal. Different than the Minnesota game where it was going to be a different type of game, a different type of defense. We're fortunate though that we've been able to win despite maybe not playing our best football. Maybe sometimes a plan is going to be maybe a little more conservative. Yesterday, watching the tape and I'm sure after the players see it, we'll feel like we left some points on the board and clearly you see that when you watch the tape today. That's why we get back to work here and try to correct some of those things. We possess the ball more. Our third downs were better. I mentioned last week and to you guys the importance of third down as it pertains to running statistics, time of possession, total snaps and I thought we saw a little of that illustrated in the game in that we put together some good opportunities for us offensively when we stayed on the field. The one thing I felt after the game and certainly looking at it now, I was happy with our second and short and third and short. The whole game we were 2nd-and-2, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3, 3rd-and-5 and maybe one or two different times when we were at 3rd-and-long. I think we were very efficient on our early downs maybe compared to some other weeks. We had more balance. We just have to take advantage of those opportunities when we get into what we call the red zone or the fringe and (want to) come away with touchdowns and not just field goals."

Are you okay with the current level of defensive turnovers?

"I thought we played with great energy. I think playing Carolina after the last three games where they had turned it over so much, we were going to see a team that obviously paid a lot of attention to ball security. Other than the two big plays, breakdowns on one empty play where they hit the touchdown pass, and the long run, I thought we played with real good energy. What I was pleased with was that there were a lot of guys going in and out of the lineup. This game we just played, we were probably as nicked up as we had been in the prior three games and I felt like our guys responded to that. Guys that hadn't played a lot got playing time. We talked about Usama Young, talked about offensively having a chance to see Ladell Betts and Chris Ivory in a more extensive role than what Chris had played in the week before and that Ladell had played period. That was encouraging."

Do you like what you're seeing defensively so far?

"Yes. I think the turnovers will come but I like what we're doing right now. I think we'll continue to make improvements. There are certain things that I know we'll emphasize week to week. We've had to adjust to some of the changes. I've been pleased with our overall effort after a quarter of the season. Here's the encouraging thing from a coach's perspective. We're 3-1 and we feel like we haven't played our best football yet offensively and defensively. We've done some good things and yet there are some things we think we're capable of doing from the kicking game as well. It's a lot easier to come in as a team after a win and make the corrections and point out these things as the season progresses that you think is important and have the type of team where you want the success that we want to have."

How do you decide who will kick each week?

"It's week to week. I think that I want to see the competition. I think that's healthy. That's the one position unique to receiver, corner or safety. If a guy's struggling there's generally someone in the building that can push them. We're trying to create that. With John (Carney), he gives us that. He also is someone that works with all aspects. He's real bright. He does a good job with the holders and the snappers and so I think each week we take a peek at it. We were in this situation and you probably asked that very same question a year ago coming off of Garrett's (Hartley) suspension. John's kicking and he's kicking and having some success. At what point are you going to transition. When we see the consistency at practice and we see where clearly one has kicked better than the other, I think we have to pay attention to that and so that's really the plan."

On that last game-winning drive, were you concerned with maybe having to kick a 43-yard field goal based on John's range?

"I think it was right there. Usually every game I'll talk with the kicker and say conservatively where does the ball have to be. Where does it have to be if we're trying to kick a longer one? I felt like he was striking the ball well and having made a couple already. We were just hoping to put ourselves in a position to score."

Did converting a third down throw to Robert Meachem make the decision more comfortable?

"We take it for granted, but you're at home. You're working out. You're not actively involved in football practices and all of a sudden you're on the field hitting three field goals. You see that in our league. Last year you see Mike McKenzie who comes in the week of a game like New England and all of a sudden is involved in a double team of Randy Moss and comes up with an interception and with the roster size a little different than maybe you'd see in any other team sport…But he did a good job."

Who would have played safety if you had another injury?

"Randall (Gay) is a guy who is smart enough and who has done that before when he was in New England. So, you kind of cover that. It's like (discussing) who's going to play quarterback if you go through two and all of a sudden Lance Moore's taking snaps. You have a contingency plan. Someone's got to play there. Randall's a guy that's pretty aware there and he'll be able to handle that."

Is Usama Young a guy you would have to work at strong due to injuries?

"The key is let's for a second say Roman's (Harper) healthy, he's (Young) going to have to be able to play both right now. I know Chris (Reis) won't be available for this coming game, so with Chris down…A lot of it will be how quickly Pierson comes back. If Pierson Prioleau's healthy, he'll work at strong, Usama at the free. We just have to monitor that and see tomorrow. I think we will bring in a couple guys. That's our plan tomorrow."

Will they be free or strong safeties or will it not matter?

"They're going to have to be guys that play in the kicking game I think. I think that's going to be important because of attrition to your special teams when you lose some of these different players we're talking about. You start playing guys that have been core players now. It wouldn't be one specific. It would be either or and based on what we think their grades are all around."

Would you consider having Thomas Morstead kick a field goal if it's outside of John Carney's range?

"I don't know. It's something he's worked on, but it wouldn't be early in a game."

Can you talk about the play of Ladell Betts. It looks like he gave you some first downs and short yardage.?

"He played well. He d a good job in his blitz pickups. We had a lot of pressure. A lot of zone pressure on first and second down from this team. He did a good job. I was encouraged. There was one play in the ballgame where he gets the ball on the weak flat on the wide route where he runs over two defenders. Coming off an ACL injury a year ago, that was encouraging to see. There's a calm veteran presence with him. As you guys talked to him, he's confident. That's important for us. I said yesterday, I thought he inspired us to some degree, especially with that play on the sidelines."

Can he almost serve as a mentor to Chris Ivory a little bit? Do Chris's two fumbles in two games concern you?

"Yes, I think to answer your first question yes and the second question, yes. There's a lot of ability with Chris. We're going to work hard to work on the ball security issues. He's too good a runner. He's got enough ability where I don't want to not find ourselves not playing a player. The fumbles are something he has to improve on. I do think Ladell is a veteran who quietly has good influence on younger players and Chris would no exception."

Does it look like he carries the ball a little carelessly close to contact?

"I think it's probably partly that. You can't carry it the same way you did in college. The speed is quicker. The guys are much more in tune to taking it away at this level than where he saw where he was just at. It's learning to run with that thing tight to your chest high and tight. That's what he's going to have to improve on."

While injuries are a part of the game and guys are expected to step up, is it encouraging that guys who maybe weren't in the plans initially have stepped up due to injuries to other guys?

"You've heard me say it every year that our job is to develop and train all these guys on the roster and when you operate at 46 on gameday, those 46 are going to have to participate in the kicking game. They're going to have to be able to participate in snaps offensively and defensively. It's part of the responsibility of the coach and the player. It's encouraging when some of these substitutions take place or they have some success or are a part of a win or grade out well. That's good, because you begin to build depth then. That's something we have to build on."

When you work guys out tomorrow will you be specifically be looking for safeties that play special teams or is special teams the number one determining factor regardless of position?

"These guys would be safeties that we think can play in the kicking game. So we'll take a peek at a couple guys and see how they work out."

Do you look at a guy like Reggie Jones off of the practice squad in a situation like this?

"Yes. I think you would look at all of that. In our meetings, we'll look at our depth currently among practice squad players and available free agents and factor all of that into the equation."

You take a handful of "shot" plays every game. Is there a reason why they don't seem to be hitting now?

"Sometimes the vertical play is called and the ball goes underneath. We had that yesterday to Devery (Henderson) where we were running All-Go Special Z Shallow Cross and they get depth and we dump it underneath. We took the shot down the field to Robert (Meachem). It's built in to where you're not just forcing it and we'll continue to do that. Certainly we see people getting a little softer in their coverages and yet we still constantly are paying attention and looking for ways to get an optimum look to get behind the defense. But sometimes there are plays that when they come out of my mouth and Drew (Brees) calls them in the huddle, all of us are thing 'shot' and then it ends up being a dump-off or a check-down. You would never know that but that was the intention with the play. We'll continue to carry six, eight, ten of them a game and continue to look for those opportunities."

Drew's yards per attempt is significantly down this year. Is that because teams are playing off more?

"It would be what you just said. We haven't had as many chunks at this time as we had a year ago. Is that because we're just getting softer zones? We probably are getting a little bit more. They probably are off a little bit more and we're probably being a little more patient as study our offense. That forces you to then complete it for six or seven and run the ball. It's not going to happen as quickly and yet we'll never stop attempting to get the ball down the field to various personnel. That's just something that we feel is important and hopefully we can continue to find those opportunities and be creative to find personnel groupings that give you a tighter coverage. That's the challenge."

How much do you thinking not having hit on as many shot plays is affecting the overall rhythm of the offense?

"I don't know that that's affecting the rhythm. I thought that our rhythm yesterday was good. Third downs and all of those things…scoring is what's most important. You'd certainly like to score in chunks and yet I think only when the opportunity is present. The key each week is to really look at what we're getting defensively and what we think we're getting. One of the things that happens is that you might look at a three-game study and against us it might be a little different what we see than what we have been seeing on film. That's part of it."

Was the opening drive an example of you moving the ball efficiently other than the turnover?

"The play that we hit Lance (Moore) on is the play that he scored on a week ago against Atlanta, a little jerk route inside where we run the coverage off and Lance does a good job of separating in short space. But we did convert. We were ahead of the chains clearly on that drive and put ourselves in a position, we just have to be better the next time around."

What happened on the touchdown pass from Clausen to Stewart?

"It's a very simple zone coverage where we were pulled out of a zone for a certain route and when a quarterback scrambles a little bit, the zone is voided. When you look at it, you ask, 'How did he get that open?' In zone coverage, there's an area of half of the field that we got pulled out of and they found it."

Was the breakdown when the quarterback came out of the pocket?

"Yes, but it was also part of a route sequence. There are other things that you'll do within a route and the eyes went to a certain receiver and pulled us out of a zone."

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