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Payton's Tuesday Press Conference


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton's Press Conference

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Opening Statement:

"A couple of things first, just from a scheduling standpoint, what we'll do this week is pretty common with a Monday night game.  Today is like a Monday in regards to our players' routine.  Tomorrow will be a players' day off and then Thursday we'll get into our practice schedule, so Thursday would be our base, our first day in preparation much like a Wednesday would be.  Our Friday would be exactly the same schedule as a Thursday, and then our Saturday would be the same schedule we follow on Friday.  Our Sunday, we'll push things back just from our walk-through schedule and check into the hotel that night and of course play on Monday.  From a timing standpoint, it works out pretty well.  We were pleased with the game we just played and were pleased to get a win.  I thought, like I mentioned after the game, early on with some of the miscues we had offensively with the fumble and the snap, defensively holding them to field goals especially early in that game was important.  As the game wore on, I thought we settled in and played better.  Overall, I was pleased to get a win and recognize the importance of that.  We shift our focus to this upcoming game knowing we're going to play a very good opponent and someone we're very familiar with in a game that obviously has a lot riding on it.  We look forward to that challenge and we'll go from there."

Are you surprised that you've been on this six-game winning streak and Atlanta has stayed right behind still with a chance to catch you in the division?

"They're a real good team.  We felt going back to even our game when we played them earlier in the year, every time it seems we play them it comes down to a last possession or field goal.  We've just played so many close games, so many hard-fought games that it's a sign that typically both teams are pretty evenly matched, very competitive and very good."

What is your opinion when you hear players from other teams talking about your defense being dirty?

"I actually haven't seen any of that.  I think more than ever the officials nowadays are doing a great job of controlling games and monitoring hits.  Roman (Harper) got called on a penalty that was one that really could have gone either way.  I really don't pay a whole lot of attention to that.  I guess it's a little like our whistle guy."

What has impressed you most about the Falcons and what you've seen from them?

"I think they play very good team defense, they get to the ball, they have good speed and are real solid in a lot of areas on that side of the ball.  Offensively, we've seen a lot of these players for a number of years, and you add a rookie receiver in Julio Jones to that equation and now you have really what amounts to a lot of weapons and a lot of guys you have to defend.  They have great special teams play.  I think it's a team that gets it and understands how to win and understands the objectives each week in order to get a win.  It's been a big reason why Mike (Smith) and his staff and his team have been so successful.  They understand what wins games, they understand what loses games, and that's why they're always a difficult opponent."

How do you compare the running style of Michael Turner to running backs like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson?

"Turner has a unique skill set in that he's explosive, he runs with very good pad level, and he's hard to get a good hit on.  He's a guy that carries his pads well and is low at the point of contact.  He has very good balance and vision, and he has that speed that can take all of a sudden a four or five yard run and do a much longer run.  He's built differently and his running style is somewhat different, although you would describe him as very dangerous just like the others.  He has great power and great leverage.  Those are the things that strike you about Michael Turner.  He has good vision and balance, all the things an elite runner would have."

Do you think Julio Jones might be the x-factor in this game?

"He didn't play certainly the snaps that we'll see him play this week (in the first game).  He stresses the defense because before you might decide to rotate coverage one way to Roddy White, and now that becomes a little more challenging when you add (Anthony) Gonzalez to  Julio Jones and Roddy White.  They have very good depth at wide receiver as well along with the running backs and have a quarterback that knows how to distribute the football.  They present a lot of problems."

Were you watching any of last night's game with the 49ers and Steelers?

"Yes, a good portion of it.  San Francisco looked very good.  They're playing very well as a team.  Ultimately, it was a tough challenge for Pittsburgh especially with the way San Francisco's defense is playing."

Can you talk about how special the potential Drew Brees single-season record for passing yardage can be?

"It's significant in that it's something that was accomplished by a great player, a Hall of Fame player in our league.  We're talking about Dan Marino and the other significance of it is that's it's coming with success and with our offensive plan.  It's not coming as a result of being in close games, maybe losing games and having to throw at the end of games.  When you look at a record like that and you look at the person that's currently holding it and you see there's not just one quarterback, but two or three that are on pace possibly to eclipse that mark.  I think the more significant issue or the thing that makes it more unique and special is the fact that it's coming with success and I think Drew would feel the same way.  I think he would also say it's such a team record in regards to all the different things that have to take place for something like that to happen.  Whether that happens in this game or the following week, you try to put more of a focus on the game itself and the score of the game and what we have to do to win this game, but the idea of eclipsing that mark is pretty amazing."

Can you talk about Matt Ryan and how you've seen him mature?

"He's definitely a guy that we feel like is a great player.  He has that size that you look for, he's very intelligent, and they ask him to do a lot at the line of scrimmage.  He has a quick release, he's hard to sack, and has that athleticism where he can make plays moving to his right or his left.  He's very comfortable in stepping up and avoiding (sacks), and I think he's helped them and provided that leadership to put that program in a position it hasn't been in a while much like Drew has done that for us."

Is there anything different with those primetime games that you can attribute to your team playing so well in?

"When you're a kid, you grow up with the idea that someday you might be involved in Monday Night Football.  I think for a player to play on a national stage, it's important.  There are so many people that have a vested interest in how they do, you hope that you have many of those opportunities and you hope that you have more success.  I think that we've been able to do that because I think we're a better football team than maybe in year's past and we get comfortable to a schedule or a routine I think like all the teams do.  I think it comes down to the execution and understanding how to focus for that three-hour period to play your best football, and chances are the team that does that this upcoming Monday night will be the team that's most successful.  I think from a scheduling standpoint this week with Christmas, the Sunday schedule works out pretty good.  I've said this before, it's not a very holiday-friendly profession.  We're involved in practices and games on Thanksgiving.  We're involved in practices and games on Christmas.  Over the years, I'm sure many players and coaches have had to alter their season or holiday plans because of what we do, and this week it works out a little bit smoother; but to the point of the record we have with playing in national TV games, I think it goes hand-in-hand with being a better football team than maybe we have been."

What's the significance of being on this win streak and peaking in December?

"You'd like to be hitting your stride and playing your best football.  In '09, we weren't necessarily playing our best football in the last week or two of the regular season, and then went into the playoffs.  I think getting players healthy, and you're either getting better or you're getting worse each week.  That's really the truth.  There's nothing simpler than that.  You're not just staying the same.  I think finding players that have that will to prepare and have that want to or drive to improve on the week prior and get better as the season moves on, I think that's a key component to preparing for the postseason and getting yourself mentally and physically prepared for the end of the season, playing good football at the end of the season and then carrying it over if you can."

Do you feel like what your team did in '09 was somewhat of an exception?

"Historically, it's been the exception because it's the first time it's ever happened.  I would say that losing three games and then winning the next three with the Super Bowl being the last one is different.  We were a team that needed rest at the end of that year, and it worked out pretty well.  You still recognize the importance of playing well here.  I think you're seeing some teams that are doing it, and you're seeing some teams that maybe aren't doing it as well.  Fortunately for us, we've been able to get on a pretty good run and we hope to continue it."

Can you talk about what's contributed to Drew Brees' success over the past few games?

"You have to have that pocket that allows you to climb.  I mentioned it last week I think a little bit in the postgame interview, there were two or three great examples of it last week where the rush came outside high and wide, and he was able to climb and inside that pocket was clean.  A couple things happened: you buy more time and maybe you see him take a hitch or a second hitch and get off to a second or third receiver.  When it's clean that way, he's very comfortable with climbing up into the pocket and from that location generally your target area isn't always inside the hash-mark or inside the numbers, but generally it becomes more confined to that middle portion of the field as opposed to the outer spots of the field.  I think also some of the targets he has in regards to Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston and Lance Moore, guys that are comfortable with working in the middle of the field, lead to that statistic.  I think we try as best we can in the passing game to have versatility as to where we go with the football so that it's not just one area and defenses can lock in or play a certain field zone.  We've been able to do that, and I think it starts with that pocket and his comfort level of stepping up and coming to either primaries or guys that are second or third in the progression."

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