<span>New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Monday, December 28, 2009
"A couple of things from the game first; Pierre Thomas left the game. He took a shot to the ribs and had some tests done last night to make sure that it wasn't anything more serious. Fortunately the results came back negative so he'll just have to battle through with regards to soreness. After watching the tape, a lot of what I talked about last night remains the same. It was a disappointing loss. Just finishing with the team in the team meeting, there are a number of things that we're going to have to clean up if we want to play better. I thought in the first half we did a lot of the things that we wanted to do in regards to establishing a tempo. Unfortunately we only did it for half of the game and in the second half there were just too many mistakes that kept us from winning the game. It wasn't one specific area – that's for sure. When you watch it, offensively there were three different times that we came up a yard short on third down and were forced to punt. We were able to move the ball in the two-minute late in the game, but other than that we didn't do a real good job in the second half. Defensively, in the overtime you hope to get a stop and force a punt and then the same thing with the kicking game, we had the big punt return which obviously was a big play and then not making the field goal. We'll spend a good two hours today working on the tape and making sure we can clean up the mistakes as we move forward. We're going to have to play better – we understand that. Right now our focus is going to shift to Carolina and the last regular season game of the schedule."
How closely will you watch Minnesota's game tonight?
"We talked about that a little bit. I think for us it's going to be more important to get ourselves ready to have a great week of practice and playing Carolina regardless of how this game finishes tonight. It's a good question but we need to play better and we need to not really pay attention to all the different scenarios and just focus on playing a team in Carolina that is obviously playing very well after two big wins and playing them on the road which has always been a challenge for us. The approach we're taking this week will be that."
What are your thoughts as a play-caller on offense as the defense is taking heat for giving up yards and looking a bit worn?
"Obviously there are some yards there defensively and we want to work to improve our run defense – first and second downs, leaky yardage – and yet after four quarters, they had given up 10 points and the first objective is to keep a team from scoring. But each game takes on a personality of its own. Starting on defense to start the game, we forced a punt, got the ball and scored and took a lead, and then took a pretty good lead at 17-0. And yet in the second half, the fourth quarter has been a quarter that we've really played well all year and we didn't yesterday for the first time in a while. We'll look to make the corrections and get back on track. As a play-caller, I really don't think I was forced with a tough decision. There was a good question yesterday when I took a timeout and considering possibly gathering the thoughts for a good play on fourth down and then thought that 17 made sense to us with the way we were playing. I probably needed 30 seconds to make sure and then that was fine. Later on, there was one in the fourth quarter where it was fourth-and-half-a-yard and I gave some thought to it but then sent the punt team out. In hindsight they returned that for a touchdown but I don't feel like I was faced with a real tough decision there. I felt we were playing certainly well enough and we had turned the ball over twice; we won the turnover battle. There were a number of things that we accomplished and yet there were a number of things that we didn't do that resulted in us losing the game. Now there are certain plays as a play-caller, but I don't feel like yesterday there were – as some weeks there are- tougher decisions in regards to choosing to go for it for instance on fourth down. I thought we established the run early, which I was pleased with. Pierre got going and certainly it hurt to lose him but nonetheless, I think from a third down perspective in the second half, there were two or three cases where we came up short by a yard and that wasn't good enough. We have to look to correct that and that's where I look at the play and say, 'Does this give us a chance?' But I don't think there were a lot of tough decisions that way."
What can you do to get the team's focus back?
"I think we have a smart team and they understand the challenges and they understand that we're going to have to play better to have success when the second season begins. Ultimately they also realize that this team will be measured on how we play in the postseason. I think what's most important is for all of us to closely look at some things that we have to get back to doing that we've done earlier in the year or in any of our wins. Pointing out those things and making sure that we have that balance of practice, meeting time, rest – all of those things as it leads up to this game and then also the schedule as it leads up to the Divisional game in our case. That's where the focus has been today; trying to make sure they understand what's in front of them and yet I don't want to have to have this meeting we had today as we check out of lockers and pack bags in the playoffs. We have to find the corrections and not view it as a positive, but view it as an opportunity for us to get things corrected before it becomes a more important game, and that's what we're going right now."
Is it important that you get a complete game in before the playoffs?
"I think I know what you're asking and it gets back to the earlier question; it's important for us to play well this week. That can mean a lot of things but hopefully we'll make the improvements and show the improvements that we're going to emphasize all week. I think it's a good time for us to go on the road and put a good week of work in and play a good Carolina team. So our plan is to play this game just like it would be the last game to get in or out of the playoffs, and that can't be any more clear. We have to play better, and certainly against a team that is playing better right now."
It appeared that Tampa blitzed you a lot more than they did in the first game you played against them. Was blitz pick-up an issue for you yesterday?
"I thought overall we handled it. We had one hot where they did a good job of getting a sack. Your observation is correct; it's a different defense – just from a scheme standpoint – than we played the first time. When they made the change after our game, they went back to maybe some of the things they had done in years past. They're improved defensively, and I said that to Raheem (Morris) before the game and afterwards. They're playing with good fits and good energy. But they didn't blitz us any more than we expected or what we had seen from Seattle. I thought we handled the pick-ups pretty well."
What do you see in Carolina as of late?
"I've known John (Fox) a long time, and his formula has never wavered. I think they're very well-coached. They do a great job of playing team defense and they've always been able to establish their running game. Those would be two things that stand out without even getting into the kicking game. Their ability – regardless of who they play – to run the football and they do that very well with a number of players and they play very good defense and they have of late. Yesterday you saw it and certainly you saw it the week before against Minnesota. Those are the things that have been consistent when they've won there. Those are challenges that we'd look at today, certainly."
Were you surprised to see the score of Carolina's game yesterday?
"Maybe all of us were to some extent. It's a funny league. Obviously that would be a disappointing loss for New York. They were in the playoff hunt and Carolina wasn't. It's similar to our loss yesterday when you look at Tampa Bay coming on the road and we're playing for something. It just reaffirms the things that we talk about all the time with the opponent and putting your best foot forward for that day. I think we can and will play a lot better, and we're going to have to starting with Carolina and then waiting to see what transpires after that."
How did handle Garrett Hartley when a young kicker like that misses a big kick?
"We get a chance to see practice and I had a chance to see last season and see him perform and we had a chance to see Washington this season. I really look at both Garrett and Thomas (Morstead) as two really young kickers that are going to be with us for a long time. The punter is having a really good rookie season, and I know this isn't Garrett's rookie season but maybe it's his sophomore season or year-and-a-half. But the most important thing is they get back there and I have all the confidence in the world in him. It came down to a late field goal so that kick is more magnified, but I've seen him operate in big situations. The key is the player knowing that you have confidence in him and that's something that he has established. That's not always the case. We've been here and I might not openly say it, but I might hold my breath with a kick, and that's not the case with him. I have a lot of confidence in his leg. When you see what I see during the workweek and you see the talent that he has, he's going to do a good job for us and make a lot of those kicks. He already has made some of them, but to answer your question, I'm very confident. When you have a chance to talk with other players, they see the same thing. Sometimes you're in a situation where you might not have the player that you think is going to be your kicker for the next five, six, seven years, but I do think we have that player. That's something that he's had to earn; it isn't just because we want him to be. That's something that we've seen and he has been very consistent in his production. He'll be ready."
Do you have to say anything to him this week?
"I think it varies depending on the personality. He's a pretty tough-minded guy. He has kicked in some big spots at Oklahoma. I don't think this is all that new to him, as far as the pressure kicks. Let's get back to work, no different than what you'd say to anyone else. It's just more magnified, that's the difference. With him and his personality, he'll handle it just fine. I liked the look in his eye after the miss. I got after him a little bit, but it was important as we were going into overtime and he might be back out there again. I think he had the right look."
What do you attribute to the success running the ball that opponents have had against you?
"I think if you're just talking about run defense, you start with run fits and technique. I think you always point to the technique in your assignment with a down-safety defense compared to the two-deep defense; it's a little different in terms of how you fit a run. Those are the things that I know Gregg (Williams) and his staff is going to pay close attention to and have continued to. That's something you just have to get and can clearly improve on week to week. It's something we'll look to improve on this week and we'll have another chance. Certainly we're going to get another great opportunity to see how we've improved against this team, because these guys run it as well as anyone."
You said earlier that this is a good week to go the road. Why do you feel that way?
"Sometimes at home, as a coach there are more distractions for home games. There's visitors coming in and looking back with my experience when you come off of a tough loss, sometimes, flying, checking into a hotel and really having the focus for 48 hours as opposed to the evening the night before, it's different. We've traveled well. We've played well on the road, so I think sometimes it allows the players to really be in an environment that's really different. When we left a year ago to Indianapolis for a week, I didn't view that as a negative. Mickey (Loomis) would tell you, as they were eyeing the storm, I was pushing for us to go when the thing didn't hit the gulf yet, because I just viewed that as an opportunity to take the team somewhere for a week and eliminate distractions and make it a focal point. Going on the road sometimes can do that for a team as well. I think we've been a team that's been able to travel well."
Would it be possible to keep four defensive tackles up on the gameday active roster?
"It is. We've rotated. For the most part of the season we've gone with three and the fourth end and the fourth end being Jeff Charleston from a special teams standpoint. DeMario Pressley would be the fourth tackle. It's the first time we've been in the position to make a decision. Sed (Sedrick Ellis) has been injured and so we've gone with the three tackles without him. Prior to that it might have been another injury. Each week we'll look at it. The key is to try to anticipate how many snaps a player is going to get. Each meeting, it's a question I'll ask Greg (McMahon) on special teams. How man plays did Charleston get and how many did he get on defense and is he getting enough…I'm using him as an example. The same question you would ask Lynell Hamilton as the third halfback, Courtney Roby. His role is a little bit more defined, but the backup linebackers, because when it comes to the 46, you make those decisions based on the kicking game, whether it's the linebacker, or the safety, the additional defensive tackle, the additional tight end. What does Darnell Dinkins do when he's not playing on offense? It's something we weigh each week."
Do you feel that scoring only 17 points is low for this offense?
"I think it is considering the first half you scored 17. I wouldn't have envisioned us not scoring in the second half and that's disappointing, but that's something that we certainly hope to score more than 17 in a game and I think obviously we're capable of doing that. We had the turnover. We came up short more than we would have liked on third down and that's disappointing and that's something all of us will work to correct."
Were your two players who were inactive with concussions cleared to play?
"It just came down to the decision to examine again today and without getting ahead of myself I think we're going to be in a better position with them next week, so we held off on both Scott (Shanle) and Randall (Gay). (Jeremy) Shockey we worked out before the game. He's real close at that point. I was close to bringing him up. I didn't want him to have a setback because of the nature of the injury he has and I would anticipate him having a much better chance this week."
Was it a coach's decision to not play Gay and Shanle?
"No. Those were outside the building decisions."
What is the nature of Jeremy Shockey's injury?
"It's the toe."
Is it turf toe?
"It's on the top of the toe. It's not as severe as a turf toe, which is positive and he's had some swelling there and obviously some soreness when he plants. He's getting real close."