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Payton Updates Porter's Status, Recaps the Bucs Game

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Monday, November 07, 2011

Opening Statement:
"Real quickly just from an injury standpoint regarding Tracy Porter – he's in the training room now.  All of the tests and x-rays came back negative.  Basically he's dealing with some chest and upper back soreness from the collision.  All the news with his injury is positive so that's encouraging.  We had a handful of other guys with some nicks and Wednesday we'll give you an update as to where they're at.  I said yesterday after the game and then today after looking at the tape, there were a lot of good things to draw from.  It was a good team we played and certainly a good win in the division."

Can you explain Patrick Robinson's delay of game penalty on that fourth down?
"It used to be defensively, you guys might remember, defensive players would try to move to draw a lineman offsides.  It happened a lot in the kicking game ten years ago when teams lined up to punt or kick field goals where periodically a defensive lineman would line up to try to jump.  When you extend out to a holdup player on the punt unit and you're getting ready to block a gunner, the same thing applies.  The call is a little unique in that it's called a delay of game, but that's the penalty.  You're not allowed defensively to try to do that."

There was a game last year where Chris Ivory had a few great runs and you spoke to us about how that can have a ripple effect on your team.  Do you think that was the case with Pierre Thomas yesterday with some of his runs?
"Last year, there was a game specifically in Tampa Bay where Chris had probably one of his career-best games.  I think there's always a residual or carry-over effect when you're running the ball efficiently and for real good yardage.  Pierre's (Thomas) touchdown run for instance, obviously the significance of the touchdown is important, but the means in how you score can give you that momentum.  The offensive linemen, the tight ends, everyone involved in the blocking aspect of the scheme feel that.  Just as a fourth-and-one stop by your defense in a short yardage situation when you're able to win that battle up front, you're generally going to win a lot of football games."

How valuable do you feel like Thomas Morstead has been this season?
"He's been outstanding.  He's having a Pro Bowl season.  He's an extremely good athlete.  He's tall, he has great leg strength, and his consistency this year has been fantastic.  That's been the one thing is we've all seen him develop from his rookie year as a fifth round draft pick to where he's at now.  Each year there's been a steady progress and there has been improvement.  He's very detailed in what he does.  I'm not sure if we're in first, second or third, but when you're in the top five in the league in your punt coverage, it just establishes the importance of that field position.  The old adage is you want to play on their end of the field.  Then when mistakes are made, they're magnified when they happen on their end of the field.  He's allowed us to do that a lot this year and on a very consistent basis."

Did David Thomas' return contribute to the running game?
"It sure did.  You didn't see the numbers in the passing game, but once again when we talk about David and the instincts he has, he plays with very good leverage.  When you game plan and you've heard me say this before, you know exactly what you have in a player, and he's one of those guys that when the tape's graded out he always seems to grade out very high.  He's very smart and having him back in the lineup is a plus for us.  It gives us some versatility in regards to our personnel groupings.  When you add another tight end/f-back there are just a number of things we can do that can help Jimmy Graham and John Gilmore.  We were able to get to some of those things yesterday."

How does Darren Sproles open up options for other people in the offense?
"He does in a number of ways.  First, the spread set running game which we don't just feature with him but he's a part of just as a running back, in space he's very difficult to handle.  He has very good burst and acceleration.  He's not slow through a hole.  He'll hit a hole very quickly.  That element as to how you're going to defend him not just in the running game, but how you're going to defend him as it pertains to some throws.  Yesterday, we had some matchups where he was isolated on a linebacker and just a simple wide route or swing route instead of being three or four yards was ten to twelve yards.  There's a lot of pressure put on the defense when you have someone with his skill set that can play at the h-back that can go in with Pierre as well, and now you decide whether you're going to go in with the nickel and play him with a defensive back.  There's a lot of flexibility you have with a player like that.  I think that puts a lot of pressure on the defense to decide within each personnel grouping are they going to cover down in their man coverages, with a nickel, with a linebacker, so there's some stress involved there.  He's really adjusted well and played a big role for us yesterday."

How do you carry over the physical presence from this past game to the one against Atlanta?
"I think our players understand (the importance of) the month of November and the divisional games.  Purposely, I think the league schedules more of these divisional games late in the schedule.  I think it's been great for the fans and for everyone following the game.  Playing well in this month, the month of November and December is very important.  Atlanta is a very good football team.  They won our division a year ago.  They had a big win yesterday on the road.  We have a lot of respect for and understand the challenges that they present.  Again the weekly challenge for us is the process of looking at the tape, getting guys treated from the prior game, getting them healthy and then turning that page Tuesday and completely then as we focus when we get to Wednesday's practice.  We're kind of in that process right now.  Again, it's another division game against a very good team."

How did your linebacking corps look without Jonathan Vilma?
"I think very good.  Jo-Lonn Dunbar played very well.  He did a great job.  Aside from the physical presence of a player like Jon who's not playing, really the signal-caller is changing.  The plays are sent into Jo-Lonn's helmet.  I thought he did a great job of getting us lined up.  He made a few checks to get us in and out of certain defenses based on what he saw the offense doing.  I was real pleased and encouraged.  That was very important.  When you lose a guy and you don't play a guy like Jon Vilma, there's a lot more to it than just the Mike linebacker.  I thought the other guy stepped it up."

How has Jo-Lonn Dunbar grown as a player?
"I wouldn't make the comparison to Zach Strief, but he's had probably more starts than Zach.  They're two completely different positions, yet he's been part of the program and he's played predominant special teams roles some weeks and he's started a lot of games for us at the Sam.  He played at the Mike yesterday.  Once again, there's a player that knows what he is and works extremely hard at his job and that gives him a chance.  That spark he played with yesterday and that intensity I think carried over to the whole defense."

How much of an impact did Zach Strief's return have on your offensive line?
"It was real positive.  Coming off his first game, there weren't any nicks.  I'm sure he's somewhat sore.  He graded out well and was very efficient.  I thought both our tackles knew they had some big challenges with Tampa's front and their ends.  I thought overall up front we did a very good job not just at the tackle position, but all across the board both in the run and in the pass game."

Were you concerned with Drew Brees sliding head first?
"That was a little uniquely different I guess.  He's athletic enough and smart enough to understand what he's trying to do.  He made a big play yesterday in that big game in that final drive.  We got a snap of 22-man which is two deep safeties and a man underneath.  There's this instinctual aspect with that coverage if there's no one open.  The challenge defensively is if the quarterback ever decides to take off, all eyes of the defense aside from the defenders are on receivers and their back is to the quarterback so you can end up with big plays like that.  It was a coverage that we've seen Tampa run before and it's something they're pretty good at.  To Drew's credit, he climbed the pocket and felt the crease and that was a huge conversion for us both from a time standpoint and leading to what would have been a field goal that really changed the makeup of the end of that game.  That one specific play, I think all of us were expecting the slide and then it was head first.  He's pretty good at handling that so it's not something that I'll over-coach."

After the game, you said you thought your defense did a good job of keeping plays in front of you and then you see a guy like Julio Jones from the Falcons have a game like he did yesterday.  How do you defend a guy like that?
"It's not necessarily a prevent style of defense which would really be a three-man rush, but it is an understanding of the splits the receivers take, the routes that are designed to get behind either the corner or the safety.  Every week teams go into games no different than us where you have your intermediate or your underneath throws and then there's half a dozen to eight throws that are really designed to get behind the safety or cornerback.  It just forces you to be disciplined and really pay attention to formation, keys, split keys by receivers that might lead you to believe it's going to be a shot play.  We had a couple shot plays yesterday and I think every team that has success offensively generally puts those into the plan and a lot of times into the opening series of plays maybe to get behind the defense to soften them up.  I just saw some of the highlights and certainly he's a talented receiver along with some of their other weapons there in Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.  There are a number of guys you have to account for and you have to force yourself to have that discipline and understand within each framework of each coverage how you handle the vertical throws."

What did you think about the penalties on Leigh Torrence and Will Smith?
"Overall, that crew worked their tails off and did a good job and yet there are some calls that don't go your way and there are some calls that do go your way.  The one offsides where we were called defensively and clearly the tackle moved.  Maybe sometimes you just miss that and I understand that.  The one that was disappointing was the one at the end where Devery Henderson does a great job, I mean I think a textbook job of really blocking him on the perimeter.  He's probably our best blocker as a receiver and springs Darren for what's going to be our last play on offense and it comes back.  Each week those are going to come up and you just hope you're going to get a few of them that go your way.  You get a few of them that don't and it's no different from the players element where often times there are mistakes and you keep playing and no different from the coaching standpoint where there are things that I do each week throughout the framework of the game or throughout the week that are mistakes.  It's no different for those guys who have a tough job.  You just hope it balances out."

Did you see a lot of boost after some of your running backs made some tough runs?
"There's no question.  There's an effect of being able to run the ball.  There's an effect just from watching the game as a team from the sideline. Having done this long enough, when teams are having success running the football against you and it's second-and-two or second-and-four, that has an effect on your team.  When you're the team that's having success and are able to run the football, that's important."

Do you go into the game thinking you have to give Roman Harper some help defensing Tony Gonzalez?
"I think you go in with mixed looks.  I don't think you want to go in with just one way that you're going to defend him.  The challenge he presents is his ability to really position himself opposite the squeeze of the defender.  It's no different if you were playing basketball and you took a post position and then left yourself this opposite shoulder away from the defender to catch a football.  He's very good at that.  The coverage can be correct and the coverage can be good and yet Matt Ryan is an accurate enough quarterback where he can locate that away from the squeeze.  You see them do that all the time.  He has great presence and savvy and that route awareness that he has has served him well over the years.  I think you have to have a handful or different set of ways that you can account or cover him and not just the safety.  There will be times that there will be a linebacker or maybe a nickel.  Your challenge is always the size matchup, the same thing we get with Jimmy Graham.  At times, you think well a corner is on him and that's a better pass defender, but the problem sometimes is just the stature from a size standpoint and the length of arms and the height and all those things that go into covering a bigger target like that.  He's been a handful every year we play them."

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