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Payton's Sunday Presser

Saints Head Coach recaps the Lions game and previews the Divisional Playoff game against the 49ers


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Sunday, January 08, 2012

Opening Statement:
"I said yesterday after the game that it was a significant win for us.  I thought it was really a tale of two halves.  We did a better job in the second half of protecting the football and taking it away.  Those turnovers we had early were significant and then the ones we got later were significant.  We'll shift to a normal week's routine with today being a lot like a Monday for us.  Our practices will be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  We'll travel Thursday evening out there and get some work out there on Friday at Candlestick Park."

How quickly do you and your team turnaround from last night and begin to prepare for San Francisco?
"I think it would be much like the regular season.  They're lifting weights, coming in on their own to watch film and tomorrow is their day off."

San Francisco has a much different offense from the one you just faced with the Lions.  How does that change the way you prepare?
"We like to run the ball as well.  Yesterday we had 167 yards rushing.  We feel like that's an important element to what we do.  San Francisco runs the ball very well.  Certainly they're a different type team than Detroit, but that's part of the postseason and playing teams that are different.  Obviously we play on the road in a tough environment.  They've had a great formula this year and Jim Harbaugh has done a great job.  They're playing great defense.  They've been real opportunistic on offense.  They've done a good job with balance and they've made some big plays.  Alex Smith has really had an outstanding season.  Without really jumping into that game, there's a reason these guys are the number two seed."

Do you look at them and just say we're going to go out and play our game?
"We'll always look at the opponent and put our plan together based on who we're playing."

Could you see in preseason that this San Francisco defense would be playing the way it was this season?
"I think it was hard.  We played them so early.  It's hard to really project where teams will be, even ourselves.  Having played them recently in the regular season, they've always played very good defense.  The idea of them just giving up one rushing touchdown last week for the first time all season is pretty impressive."

We hear a lot of your players talk about you and the rest of your coaching staff providing them with the best opportunities to be successful.  What do you have to say about that?
"I think what we've just tried to do is evaluate the  performance of each player once they get here and really try to separate ourselves from how they arrived here and really try to look at getting the best players on the field regardless of whether they were drafted or signed as free agents or in some cases even in workouts situations.  We just try to go by what we see on the field.  That's helped us and certainly I think that's important in regards to how your own team views it."

Is it a challenge to rip up their resume and focus on the here and now?
"I don't think so.  I think it's a lot easier to be fair than to try to be fair.  I think it's important for your team.  We're not always right.  We try to do the best we can, but good players come from everywhere and sometimes you miss them in the evaluation process and then sometimes maybe you over-evaluate a player.  We just try to make sure we're doing our homework and look closely at the tape that we see during training camps and mini camps and if we have a vision for the player.  I think that's served us well."

Do you think your success with running the football this year has just been because your running backs are healthy?
"We're running our core runs that we believe in and that we believe fit our personnel.  I think the offensive line is playing well.  I think our ability to throw the ball creates run-friendly looks.  Yesterday we had a lot of run-friendly fronts with a lot of safety help deep in the passing game.  I think it is a real good group of running backs.  I think it's probably a combination of a number of things."

Do you think a lot of your running ability has to do with the power of your two guards?
"I think it starts with having talented people up front.  It's the guards, it's the tackles, it's Brian de la Puente at center.  Part of running the ball efficiently is just getting hats on the right guy.  There's a certain element of execution and timing that when you have it, it's fun to watch.  I think you see that with San Francisco in their running game.  It's something that we strived for heading into this season.  It's a credit to the players that we've been able to have that consistency and have that balance.  With the threat of the pass, you can get some more looks that are more run-friendly with seven guys instead of eight guys in the box.  Defenses may be just as concerned with the passing game.  It comes down to the proper fits, the proper execution, get-off, and I think that element is something that we're improved on today than we were a year ago at this time."

Do you think you've improved over the year?
"Yes, I think over the year we've progressively played in games where we've been able to feature it more.  We think it's important."

Was there any conscious effort to manage the number of touches for Pierre Thomas during the season?
"I think it's a by-product of a rotation.  I don't think there was a specific pitch count.  When you separate Darren (Sproles) and his role, and then you look at Pierre (Thomas) and Mark (Ingram) and Chris (Ivory), I think it's kind of handled itself."

Is Pierre Thomas more of a straight-runner and not as much a part of the passing game?
"A lot of it just depends on the game, but he's a guy that we feel like he functions well in all those areas."

Was he a big factor going into the game plan?
"It would be similar as to each week.  There would be plays with his name on it.  I thought he ran exceptionally hard.  He had a lot of yards after contact."

Have you seen the 3-4 much this year?
"Yes, but again maybe not as much as in other years.  We'll see some looks from our own defense and we'll have enough time where we saw it in the preseason.  I think most of our players are familiar with the defense."

Could trailing at halftime be a teachable moment for your team?
"I think they understand that.  I think they understand that the turnovers put us down four (points) really.  Detroit did some good things.  They scored on the first possession to go up seven and they controlled a good portion of that first half at least from the time of possession standpoint, third downs, and then with the turnovers.  I think our players know that."

When the younger guys see veteran players make mistakes and then come back to have big games, is that a motivational factor?
"I think that's a little bit of confidence in that we're going to have our opportunities and you have to get on to the next play.  I think it's critical that you don't dwell on what just happened and you learn from it.  I thought the guys you mentioned did a good job of getting on to the next play, the next series, and finishing strong."

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