New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Media Availability
Thursday, December 15, 2011
"RB Mark Ingram (right toe) did not practice, LB Jonathan Casillas (right knee) did not practice, LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) was limited, DE Turk McBride (left ankle) was limited, and then these four players were all full: DT Sedrick Ellis (hamstring), CB Tracy Porter (wrist), Jimmy Graham (back), and Scott Shanle (left shoulder). Most of the work today was on third down and nickel."
How have your teams been able to maintain the consistent winning seasons. for the past three years?
"In 2006, we had a gritty team and got off to a good start. I don't know that at the start of that season that any of us coaches or players knew how that season would unfold. Certainly after the preseason there were some games where you thought it was going to be a tough challenge. That early start I think helped us with confidence. Clearly since that time I think we have a better team. In '07 and '08, there were probably games in those two seasons where the year before we won and the next year or two we weren't winning. We probably weren't as good during those two seasons and obviously didn't do a good enough job as we have now more recently. We're certainly graded on wins and losses and that's very easy. I think to the overall question, there's a lot for that continuity, there's a lot for the leadership in the locker room and a core group of players and a core with basically most of your coaches intact. From the Owner to the GM to everyone in the building, we've been able to have a good deal of amount of consistency. I think it's a great example of it this year, and I said this to Mickey (Loomis) yesterday, I said it's good to see Tennessee winning. There's been patience there with a real good coach, a real good general manager, and real good ownership, and they've been close and close. I think it's good for our league when you see a guy have success with a program that they slowly have built and ownership from on down is recognized that we're closer than we think. I think that's contributed a lot to our being able to be in the hunt and have a chance each year."
Is it crazy that the teams you beat in the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl have a combined two wins this year?
"I was asked that yesterday by the Minnesota media. It's a fluid business and you don't take anything for granted and all of us recognize how quickly or how difficult it is to win each week or to put together seasons that give you a chance to play in the playoffs. We recognize that that's very difficult. Each year there's a new challenge. I think the examples that you brought up are good examples starting with coaches that might be different or maybe the same, or certainly the importance of the quarterback position in our game. All of those things are factors. Bill (Parcells) used to say that these things keep you driven because that fear of not being successful or of losing is a great motivating factor."
How has Roman Harper done in the coverage game this year?
"I think he's improved in that area. He certainly has improved in his man-to-man skills. When he's playing down in the paint, which is an area we like to get him in regards to run support and/or pressure, it's an area that he's comfortable with and like any other player you work hard on those other areas that maybe you don't view as a strength. I think he's definitely a good example of someone who's gotten better within the framework of our defense and gotten better at some of the skill sets that he's worked on. I think he's consistent. He's done a great job with some of the tight end matchups. We've played some pretty good teams that have good tight ends that are involved in the passing game and we ask him to be very involved in coverage and he's done that. That is the beginning mark of good safety play is having that ability to do both things well."
Has he taken on more of a leadership role?
"I think to some degree he's had that all along. I think that part comes easy for him. He's been one of the starters dating back to '06. He started in his rookie season and I think he's someone that our players would definitely view as a strong leader in our locker room."
With all the emphasis on helmet-to-helmet, have you and your coaches had to instruct your players on how to properly hit offensive players?
"I think the emphasis for us and really as it relates to the league, and really the league's emphasis is paying closer attention to the tackle zone and that means maybe lowering your landmark. I think the challenges come up when the receiver or ball carrier or whoever we're discussing a second prior to impact lowers his head. Those are some of the challenges. I mentioned yesterday I think the bigger challenge for us and I think around the league is the hits to the quarterback. I think it's hard to officiate all of that, it happens so quickly. To answer your question, landmark and where you're looking to hit a player has gone lower."
Is there a fine line between a legal and illegal hit?
"Absolutely, but I think we can be that aggressive and that physical and just lower the landmark and still not lose maybe that edge that you're talking about defensively."
Would you use Tracy Porter's hit on Jake Locker as a perfect example of that?
"I think there are plays that come up where you can point to and I think we try to do that. I think our players, anyone who is involved in tackling, understand where this emphasis has gone and have educated themselves along with the coaches in regards to what we need to do differently so that we're not paying an inordinate amount of fines or we're not being penalized a number of times. Every now and then, there's a hit like Isa (Abdul-Quddus) had where as he's making contact the receiver (is lowering his head), and those are the ones that are tough. Those are challenging and we understand that."
Do you think the fact that Marques Colston came from a small school contributes to his humble personality and have you seen him change with all the success he's had in the NFL?
"I haven't seen him change. I think he's the same person, obviously more accomplished, but the same personality that we drafted in '06. I do believe that had he come from Texas or USC or LSU, I think you'd still have that same personality. In other words, I think we could point to another player – Devery Henderson would be a good example from a major college, drafted very high, and yet I think that's how he was raised and that's how his personality is. Certainly that consistency you see with Marques, not on the field, but just in regards to how humble he is, I think that's Marques Colston and I don't think it's necessarily because he went to a smaller school."
Does he still have the same work ethic now as he did when he first came into the league?
"I think there is certainly something to players that get drafted later that feel like they have to make an impression. If you saw the very first rookie camp that he was involved in, it wasn't really strong. He had his back strained, was on the ground, and Mike Haas was running around catching balls. It took Marques that first offseason before training camp where he was in better shape and very quickly then in that training camp he earned a spot. I think he's always understood what's necessary to be successful, where he needs to be weight-wise to be successful and the time that goes into playing his position at a high level is one that comes with paying a price. I would always from the beginning until now describe him as someone who is a very diligent worker and an extremely good worker. With that, I would say he's a very intelligent player. He can play all the spots. He knows exactly what he's supposed to do and would be able to draw up what everyone else is supposed to do on any play."
Do you think the personality of the wide receivers as a group contributes to the prolific passing numbers year-in and year-out?
"I think part of it is these players being at this place at the right time. I don't think it's something that's necessarily changed who they are or their personalities. To their credit, I think they've embraced the offense and they've embraced playing with an outstanding quarterback. That time that has existed, and it's been quite a long time where we've had that continuity. It's a group that's unselfish. It's a group that understands that the quarterback is going to look for the player that's open in a certain coverage as opposed to just look at a player. I think we're fortunate to have those guys. All of them are highly motivated and all of them are highly driven and all of them work extremely hard. I would say the personality of the group is somewhat unusual in that a number of them are fairly humble and maybe even shy."
Do they ever tell you they want the ball more?
"I think that every one of those skill players wants the football. I think what's important is that each week we're showing them with each plan that their role is something we think about and when we put in a third down play, it's going to feature a certain receiver. We don't know if he's going to get it, so what's important for us as coaches is to make sure the players realize that they're very involved in what we're thinking about the night before whether it's Lance Moore or Marques (Colston) or Robert (Meachem) or Devery (Henderson), and not in any order, is that we have plays that are designed for them, no different from Jimmy (Graham) or Darren (Sproles). There's been just a ton of examples where all of a sudden Lance is scoring on a play that might have been designed for Darren or vice versa. That just happens within the framework of the game, but it is important that the player feels like there's been time and energy and effort given to the lines in their part in the script. I think that's important and that's something that takes time as you look through your plan on third down or your plan on play-action or what you're wanting to do in the red zone. It's important that you're trying to put these players in the best position. I think that confidence that they have in the plan carries over to the performance."
Can you talk about your efficiency on third down on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball?
"I think the numbers are real high. I think that's one of our keys each week and it's an important statistic. It's not the same as a turnover, but when you're out on third down and punting the football essentially you've turned the ball over to their offense. When you're on the field defensively, have a chance for a stop and don't get it, they obviously receive more plays. I think our players understand the significance of getting off the field on third down and being able to put together drives. I think it's been something that we've improved at. I think the numbers are real positive and again will be significant in this week's game as we look at what Minnesota does offensively on third down and what we're going to see defensively on third down. That would be a significant number in regards to winning and losing and it has been. When you can hold an opponent to one third down conversion like last week, that allowed us to overcome the penalties and maybe some of the big pass plays. That allowed us to overcome having to settle for a field goal in the red area and the game's still close. Conversely, offensively we're close to in that game 58 or 59, just under 60 percent. Those were all keys to us winning last week's game and they'll be critical as we move forward."
Are there any similarities or differences between the 2009 season and this season as you get your team prepared for the playoffs?
"The difference would be this, clearly at this point in the season two years ago the division was won. At this point today, it's not. That's a goal. The common would be that in both places you're trying to put yourself in the best position possible for postseason play and that's the case right now as it was in '09."
Personnel-wise, is it the same or different where maybe you were resting some players?
"If I'm not mistaken, we were sitting with Minnesota right beneath us. It wasn't until the Monday night game where the Bears beat the Vikings where we decided to rest starters for the last week of the season. That being said, there's not one thing different."
Do you like having to play through the season and not have to worry about resting anyone?
"Absolutely, and yet if you said right now at week 14 that you had the number one seed you'd take curtain B. I think we're getting healthy at the right time and I think we're playing good football and we're going to have to play good football this weekend and with the remainder of our schedule. I think everyone is aware of that."