New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Monday, January 2, 2012
"I said after the game yesterday that I thought we did a lot of things well. We felt like we were playing a real good team heading into that game and a team that had been playing well. We were able to get the stops and follow those up with some key scores to put a gap in our lead. We're on a short week this week being that we're playing on a Saturday. The players will be out today. Tomorrow they'll be in at 1:00pm. We'll start in our preparation and get ready to play a real good football team and an important game."
Is that a tough decision on whether to practice tomorrow?
"It will be a practice, and yet it will be somewhat limited. We'll really manage what we do on the field."
Do you relish being considered one of those teams that no one really wants to face?
"As teams, coaches, or athletes, I think we would relish opportunities to just get into the postseason and appreciate those because you understand how difficult it is to win 13 games in a season and to put ourselves in a position to play a playoff game at home is difficult. We're looking forward to it. It's a night game. This city right now seems to have a lot of different things going on. Obviously a lot of important games with the Sugar Bowl, our playoff game, the BCS game and I think that's exciting."
Do you appreciate that being a sports fan?
"You have to. That's pretty cool I think for the city and the region and certainly for the economy and all the people that count on earning a living that way."
Do you look back at the first playoff game last season and bring that up with your team?
"I think those are lessons learned, and yet you understand in our game that each week when you like up to play in the regular season or the postseason, the only difference being that in the postseason it's not a best-of-five or a best-of-seven type series – there's a finale to it. As we get closer to play Detroit, we've played them once already, and we certainly understand their strengths and what we feel they do very well. Obviously they've had an outstanding season. We're going to have to have a good week of practice and we're going to have to do a lot of things well to get ready for this game in a short period of time."
Detroit plays a lot of zone defense which Drew Brees has done well against in the past. Do you think that will be a point of attack for your team?
"I think it will be interesting. One of the things that's hard for us is sometimes what we see on film versus other opponent's changes when we play a team. Finding out early on the changes or nuances that a defense is deploying, that's something we always try to get earlier or try to gather that information early because we don't always get what maybe we've seen from a breakdown standpoint or an analysis standpoint from an opponent."
Is it harder to coach as the winning coach or the losing coach in a rematch like this?
"I don't think either. I think it's another game. I've been in a lot of games like this as an assistant. I think in Dallas, it was Carolina and New York a number of times. Often times you'll end up playing a division team in the playoffs. That's pretty common. I don't think it favors one way or the other."
How might the Lions be different the next time around?
"Certainly I would say they're healthier from the last time we played them. It wasn't just because of health, but one of their better defensive players wasn't able to play in the first game that we played against them. They're playing with a lot of confidence offensively. They had a big game yesterday. It was a game kind of like ours where there was a lot of scoring. I think that confidence as the season finishes up bodes well for both teams."
Do you have to tame expectations about people saying the Saints are so good at home?
"When the postseason begins with a team that's maybe gone through it before, there's always that understanding of that finale and appreciation for how hard it was to get to this game and how well you have to play once the postseason starts. I think we do a pretty good job of tuning out the pundits for the most part. It's hard to do because there's more and more coverage of our game than ever before, and yet I think we do a pretty good job of making sure the message is clear on either end. When you go through a difficult stretch, you have a tough loss like we had earlier in the year, we handled that and I think there's a similar challenge, just a different way."
Was last year the first time you guys learned about that finality?
"No, I would say '06. You're on the road at Soldier Field and you lose a game and you come home and your season is over. That's just the nature of our postseason. One team finishes on a bus ride back to the hotel having won them all. That's the goal. It's difficult and it will take a lot of hard work."
How much can you appreciate everything you've accomplished so far this season with 13 wins?
"I think there's a time you look back. I think you always push for the next challenge and you recognize there were a lot of things that were positive and a lot of things that were accomplished in a season like we just had, and yet the reason you try to win as many games as we have is to prepare yourself for what we're getting ready to accomplish now or prepare yourself for what we're getting ready to face now. I don't think you reflect yet. I think you are still driven by the challenge ahead and I think the players will feel the same."
Does the fact that they have no playoff experience make a big difference?
"I don't know. We didn't have any in '06 and fortunately we were able to play well against Philadelphia. We had the bye. The reason I would say that is because I think they've played in some big games this year and some important games. I think that it's different than baseball or some sports where obviously the experience helps, but these games are quick too. When you look at it, it's three hours and a 13 or 14 possession give-or-take type of game. It's minimizing or reducing mistakes, avoiding turnovers and coming up with a few big plays. I think that can happen to younger teams and that can happen to older teams. I just believe that and I think history would tell us that. Now it's important for us to prepare for all those things as best we can heading into this game and certainly understand our opponent and what they do very well and try to have a good plan in place."
With your team playing so well and so emotionally, do you have to warn them about keeping their emotions in check?
"I think it's important we play with that same passion, but with one personal foul in this type of game everyone (potentially) goes home with all their dreams and expectations down the drain. That's happened to me in a playoff game before and I won't say where or when. So, it's bigger than one individual and it's about team and everyone in the organization understanding that there are a lot of things that are hard to do and one of the things that is hard to do in our league is get to this position and then have success, so you just have to be disciplined smart."
Playing Detroit for a second time this season, would you consider this almost to be a divisional game?
"Yes, there will be some similarities. From a personnel standpoint you will go through your report and you would be familiar with your opponent. You would have your prior cut-up, so that would be the same. I think that's a good point. In your division, you played Carolina yesterday and you can go back to the week four game and pull up cut-ups and study a four-game breakdown, combined breakdown and we'll be able to do the same with Detroit."
Are the Saints playing as well or better than at any stretch during your tenure here?
"I think we're playing with momentum right now. I think we've gotten some takeaways here and we have some key stops. I would avoid the blanket statements like that. I would say this season we're playing as good as we have"
Why has the run defense improved as the season has worn on?
"That's a good question. I think that our guys have been doing a good job. I think our tackling has been better, hitting the gaps well and that's been encouraging."
The fact that Detroit will be an underdog, do you expect them to play loose and maybe show some things they haven't shown before?
"I think by nature they're an offense that already opens it up. If you watched the game yesterday against Green Bay, you saw a wide open attack. I think you go back and take a look at all the things you've seen tendency wise and if it comes up on film repeatedly. You prepare for the skill positions they have on offense and yet, I think that's how you start with your preparation. I think it's a team that plays with confidence and knowing coach (Jim Schwartz) will be prepared, ready to play. They got in a high-scoring game yesterday, but I think the approach is no different than it would be in the regular season in your film study. You're not chasing ghosts or anything like that."
Is it a fair comparison with people predicting the day Drew could have with Detroit's defense based on how Matt Flynn fared against them?
"I think yesterday you ended up with a game that ended up being high-scoring, so I think you start, trying to make an analogy, talking about last year's Super Bowl winner which is arguably one of the best offenses in our league. I think that game took on a shape of it's own to it where the scoring was high and it went back and forth. It just ended up being a high-scoring game. Sometimes you get into a game and there will be points scored, other times you might get into one and there won't be nearly as many as the one in which you saw two offenses have success."
One time yesterday it looked like Steve Smith addressed your bench. Was there something he did?
"No, he's a great competitor. When he coached him over in Hawaii, he was one of the guys I really enjoyed coaching. We would jab once in a while yesterday. But, he's emotional. I like watching him play and I'd rather not play against him really. I think he's a heck of a player."
The ballots for MVP are due soon, what would it mean if Drew Brees wins the award or shares it with Aaron Rodgers?
"This thing goes to 41 writers who are going to make their vote and I think that's removed from what we do. Certainly, he's had a fantastic season, an MVP-type season. There's absolutely no control over it. What's so important is it's such a team sport and the last two weeks there has been a lot of talk about individual accomplishments as there should be with some of the uniqueness of the passing record, Darren Sproles, or Jimmy Graham, (Rob) Gronkowski, then Jimmy Graham and then Gronkowski and that type of stuff, this is the time of the year where the focus shifts to us playing our best football as a team and we recognize that obviously that's a significant award. Yet, there seems to be a lot of good candidates this year."
Is this running back group with Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas and Sproles the ideal type of group you would like heading into the postseason?
"The ideal group would be (Mark) Ingram fully healthy. So, only because that would mean we are at 100 percent. I would just say right now we're further along than we were a year ago at this time from a health standpoint."
Even if he was healthy, what about the overall diversity at the position right now?
"We've had that. In '09 we had it. Mike Bell was more that downhill runner and Reggie (Bush) certainly provided (a look along) with Pierre (Thomas). I'm pleased with the additions and I think we've been more consistent running the football."
Could you reflect on a couple of team records you set, including fewest fumbles and fewest punts?
"(It's) interesting. I wasn't really aware of it. I was aware of the fumble statistic. We did a good job this season of not giving the football away and we're going to have to continue to do that to have success in the postseason. We did a real good job considering. I like the fewest punts though. Those are two entirely different records, correct?"
If you are able to win a second Super Bowl, what would that say about the organization?
"We're just working on winning in the first round of the playoffs here."
Can you talk about Ndumakong Suh?
"He's physical, he's fast, he's quick. The one thing you notice is he's a handful. You have to be mindful of what you do in the running game, whether you're (running) to or away from him and how you handle protections. He's extremely talented. I think not one specific thing, you know he's going to line up at a specific position to your right or left and you need to realize what he does well, the film study and trying to get the right look from the scout team is important."
Is the most remarkable thing about Matthew Stafford his arm strength?
"I think he's very talented as a thrower, but I also think he processes information quickly to get it to the right receiver. He sees a lot of rotation towards Calvin Johnson, just knowing. There are certain things over the course of a season you get used to, that safety help over one receiver. He's pretty sharp."