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Payton: "We Did A Lot of Things Well in All Areas" vs Panthers

Payton recaps the Panthers win, talks about the Saints running game and offensive line


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Monday, October 10, 2011

Opening Statement:

"We came out of the game fairly healthy without anything significant. In the meantime, we'll just continue to work on the guys that have been injured. I said yesterday there were a lot of things that were encouraging in a game like that where we kind of had to come back in the fourth quarter. I thought we did a lot of things well in all areas. There are still some things when you go back through the tape and you look at what we have to continue to work to clean up and get better at. Nonetheless, though, our focus will shift pretty soon here to Tampa if it hasn't already done so. The players have been in lifting and watching the tape and kind of already going through what we normally do on a Monday."

This is the first time you've coached against a Carolina team without John Fox on the sideline.  It seems like they've changed some things with their approach, but has the rivalry moved up as well?

"It's a divisional game. I don't know that the rivalry thing exists as much. I think it tends to in our league periodically with a couple of games and a couple of teams of the 32 every once in a while. But typically the division games are just hard-fought games, but it is a different team. Defensively and offensively what you see from them is a lot different and the quarterback. There are just a lot of things that philosophically are different so it's playing a different type of game that we've been accustomed to compared to the old teams that we've known. It is different and I think we saw that in the four-game study and the preseason study and all the breakdowns. It's a lot different team and I think Ron (Rivera) has done a real good job just starting off considering the challenges of a new staff without the offseason that normally you would have."

What do you make of both of the personal foul penalties in the end zones?

"Roman's (Harper) they're going to call so there's nothing to make of that. The thing we wanted to make sure we did was to not lose this game because of a foul and come in the next day and say it's alright. It's not okay. It's one thing to be on the quarterback with a hit that's close and interpret it as you might, but we have to be smart. I think there's a difference."

Can you talk about the play of your offensive line so far this season?

"Someone brought this up a few weeks ago about how you can become comfortable or take for granted a steady group that's been consistent and been the same starters for a period of time. And this year there were two changes in regards to the starting lineup at center and at right tackle. And then during the middle of a game, all of a sudden there are two other players that are playing and now they've played here for two weeks and part of that last game in Houston. I think that we're certainly encouraged with the ability of some younger players stepping in and without it affecting the overall production. You would always say that you expect the next guy up to come in and do his job and I think that's true. At those positions where there's a lot that goes on with cohesiveness and there's a lot that goes on with line calls and there's a lot that goes on with the run schemes, especially the center and even the right tackle, we've been pleased with those guys. They've been thrown into the fire and they've been able to function and execute. You also begin to establish some depth when that happens. In other words, that's some playing time that a guy will have under his belt and will be able to build on so that's been encouraging."

How often to you play back-to-back division games on the road in a row?  Do you see it as a light at the end of the tunnel after these three away games and you can come out with a commanding position?

"No, I don't. I would disagree with that. I don't think there's anything commanding at week five of the regular season because you have 11 games left. But I think it would be probably more common than you think in regards to playing two games in the division on the road. At least it doesn't stand out to me as something that's uniquely different. I think the challenge each year as the schedule comes out and you evaluate it and you look at it, there are all sorts of things that you pay attention to. But I think we certainly try to place a value and understand the importance of games in the NFC and more importantly games in your own division. There's still no light at the end of the tunnel. There really can't be. I think that begins to take shape at the latter part of the season for the whole league. But we're so early in this and each week you just have to work to see if you can put together your best effort, make progress, don't sugarcoat the things that you aren't doing well, try to clean those things up so that you can make those corrections so those things don't come back to haunt you the next week or weeks following and just keep going. It was good to get that win yesterday. Certainly anybody in this league would tell you this, is they didn't then they're lying, anytime you can win and the rest of your division loses, it's a good thing. But then all of a sudden you're on to the next one. It's just that and it is real early. We just started the second quarter of the season."

When you first looked at the schedule, was the three-game road trip something that really stood out?

"That was the only thing that stood out that stood out different. If you asked, 'What are the things that you look for immediately with the schedule,' it would always be travel, and now with this year's schedule just based on the opponents you aren't going to be leaving more than one time zone, and you look at prime time. If you're playing three away games, then somewhere you're going to have a little roll where you have two at home maybe, the first two out of three games to start the season we're at home. I think that's something where you say, 'We're 3-0 on the road,' and I think that's all you would probably say to it. I think we travel pretty well. I think there are some advantages to traveling in regards to your preparation. More importantly, everyone looks at what the evening games are, if you have any Sunday night games or Monday night games, because those impact the routine. These Sunday games here are at 12:00 and I think this weekend's is later, but there's a routine that's established. It's the ones that are going to change that."

Were you surprised to see the score of the Tampa Bay game and does that kind of loss make them a little more dangerous?

"Always in our league, the thing that we all when we get the schedule, you look at games and what you don't know is the team and what's led up to that game because certainly you're going to get a team with Tampa Bay that's hungry and wanting to put the bad taste out of their mouths no different than anyone else. The score was somewhat surprising and then when you go back and watch the tape and you recognize that generally when you have a score like that, you're going to have some turnovers. You're probably going to have a touchdown that was either defensively related or in the kicking game. These are all things that are pretty typical when somebody has 40 points. But certainly when you play a team that comes off a tough game like that you understand that they're going to be focused and ready and wanting to get past that loss. I think that's pretty common."

On third down and four or less, you're converting 73% of your opportunities.  That's number one in the NFL.  Can you talk about what's contributing to that?

"The one thing I think we've been able to do in the last three weeks is we've been able to mix in some runs on third down in general and I'm not talking about third and one. We separate third and one as short yardage. As soon as we get to third and two, we kind of put it in third down as opposed to short yardage. To answer your question, we've made some conversions in rushing the football. I think we have experience and I think we've also tried to change up protections and Drew does a real good job of distributing the ball to a number of different players where it's not just let's bracket this player and take this player out of the game. I think it's probably a combination of the quarterback playing very efficiently and very accurately and very decisively. We talk and spend a lot of time on third down. We understand the importance of staying on the field and what that can do for our defense. The time of possession I thought yesterday was significant as it was in Jacksonville because it can give you a chance to rest your defense and it means that there's less snaps defensively. There are a lot of things that go into it in regards to the execution and what you're doing and what you're asking players to do. It really goes back to a credit to the players, executing the scheme and protecting the quarterback and throwing the ball accurately. I think we're catching the ball well right now as a unit if you just look across the board. We've been pretty secure with some tough throws too."

How much does it help that Cam Newton and Josh Freeman have similar skill sets?

"I would differ a little bit in that you have size and stature, but I think with Freeman you have a guy who to some degree is different. He is a threat at running the football and he can avoid and yet he's extremely dangerous in the pocket. I think he has great leadership and intangibles. When I say this and I know how this works and all of a sudden tomorrow I'll read where I didn't think Newton possessed all these traits, but I would say Freeman is much further along in his development and I'm not saying Cam won't get there, I'm just saying they're different a little bit. You're not going to see that reverse option attack like you saw yesterday from Cam and you're not going to see some of those runs that are tough to defend like you saw. However, you're going to see a big, strong, physical player who I think has very quickly developed into one of the better quarterbacks in our league. I think you're going to see some similarities in that the players around believe in him. I think you see that on tape when you watch Josh. I think you see that on tape when you watch his team and you see someone who's patient, who will check the ball down, who has control of the two-minute, and who knows how to handle the final drive to win the game. Those are things that I think are coming ahead for Cam as he continues his rookie season. These are the things that we're dealing with from Josh. We've seen his development in the short time he's been in this league and I think he presents a lot of challenges."

Do you like what you're seeing with the makeup of this team?

"I think you can take something from a win like yesterday. We talked earlier and we talked about what type of team you have not just from a leadership standpoint, but you begin to develop a personality each year and it's a little different from year to year and a win like yesterday can do a lot in that it was hard-fought, you had to come back, and you become somewhat resilient and you gain confidence from that. All those things are important and just as important though is us being able to make sure we look and see that we were up ten in this game and what kept us from separating at that point and it became a closer game."

Did you notice any of Jeremy Shockey's gestures towards your sideline during the game?

"No.  That's one of the great things I love about him is that he's very emotional and he loves playing.  We saw those while we were winning here and we saw them in New York.  He's very passionate about the game.  He was very passionate as a college player and won a National Championship, he was passionate with the Giants and won a Super Bowl, and was passionate with us and won a Super Bowl.  I think we're always in the business of searching for people with passion.  I didn't notice anything different other than seeing Jeremy play or seeing Steve Smith play with emotion or seeing our guys such as Jimmy Graham play with emotion.  It was a hard-fought game."

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