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Payton: Winning Turnover Battle is Weekly Goal


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Opening Statement:
"Running back Mark Ingram (right toe), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (right knee), and linebacker Jon Vilma (left knee).  We limited defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), so he got some work.  The rest of these four players were all full: defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring) was full, cornerback Tracy Porter (wrist) was full, tight end Jimmy Graham (back) was full, and linebacker Scott Shanle (left shoulder) was full.  Practice squad -- we signed wide receiver Andy Tanner and released quarterback Sean Canfield."

Are you expecting to see Christian Ponder play this weekend?
"I think we have to prepare for both (quarterbacks) and make sure we're ready for both and study certainly their differences because this would be a week where there would be a difference between the two players.  Our plan would be to prepare for both."

How key is it to stopping Adrian Peterson?
"I think it's very important.  He's as talented a player I think at running back as there is in the league.  We saw a very good player (Chris Johnson) last week, but Adrian is one of those players with great explosiveness through the hole.  He has very good vision, balance, and he runs with a real good pad level.  I think you have to begin your game plan with that in mind.  He's that good of a player."

How difficult is it to slow down Percy Harvin with all the things he can do?
"He lines up in a lot of different spots.  For the last two years we've played these guys and have seen him first hand, he's dangerous with the ball in his hands, he's a strong runner after the catch, he has real good balance and I think recognizing formationally where he's at and if there are any tendencies really doing a good job with the film study and understanding the type of player he is.  Some of our guys have played against him, but when you get him on a fast track like we've seen here, but certainly at home he's one of those guys that can make a difference on any given play."

Comparing the Vikings and the Rams, are there several similarities going into this game with Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson and the road atmosphere?
"I think it's a team that we're familiar with having played them twice now recently.  It's a team that is very talented although their record hasn't turned out the way they liked.  Clearly you can see their play-making ability on offense.  You can see their defense can rush the passer.  They're one of the top five teams in regards to pressure and sacks in our league.  There's a lot that we're playing for so we're going to have to play a real good football game on the road.  This is one of the tougher places to play on the road historically.  It's very loud and can be difficult, especially on third down and especially against their pass rush."

Is it easier playing games in December when you're winning games and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and keep your foot pressed on the pedal?
"I think that it probably would start with the team.  You hope that clearly with where we're at with three games left and so much at stake that, I thought we had a good response last week going on the road and, although it was a tough hard-fought game, I thought we handled some of the adversity pretty well in the game and that's a good sign.  But in December these games, every one of them, are very important.  The most important one right now for us is this one and it's the only one we can play.  There's a lot that can happen here in the next three weeks, and I think our job is to recognize that, communicate it, and make sure everyone understands that."

Following the Rams game, your team hasn't committed a turnover in four consecutive games.  How hard did you get on them following that game?
"Just pointing out what wins and loses, and just understanding the importance of turnovers and getting takeaways and protecting the football, some of that starts with being real mindful of the protection for Drew (Brees).  Some of it is ball security with the individual players that have it.  It's kind of falls on everyone.  That same thing goes for special teams and your defense.  It was one point after the bye that we felt like we had to be better at to winning games, and up to this point fortunately it's been better.  I think our players understand and all of us understand how it translates into wins and losses, and then specifically how we practice it and how we really never get tired of making an emphasis of it.  I think that's something each week that's a challenge for us and every week when we put up the goals Saturday night at the hotel, that's one of them.  Other might vary, but winning the turnover battle is kind of a staple."

Can you talk about how good the defense has been on third and fourth downs?
"We've done really well on the third downs.  Last week, that had a lot to do with us winning that game.  Like I said earlier, what we're most interested now at this point in the season is that improvement and that red zone efficiency both defensively and offensively and improving in the takeaway areas and the pressure report that we do each week in regards to how many hurries and how many sacks – all of those things can lead to better defense.  Certainly our role offensively in regards to doing a good job on third down, controlling the time of possession, running the football, those play hand-in-hand roles to your defensive numbers.  We hope to be playing our best football here in this month beginning in November into December and it's a reason we're out there today, just working on becoming better in those areas, but I think specifically on third down we've done a lot of good things.  We've been able to get pressure on the quarterback.  We've been able to get off the field.  When you have a game such as a week ago when you hold an opponent to one third-down conversion and then conversely your close to 60 percent, that really improves and enhances your chances of winning a game."

How has the run defense gotten so much better since facing Steven Jackson?
"I thought we tackled real well last week.  I thought we fit the gaps real well.  We've had a few games now where we've played a real good running team: Atlanta a few weeks back, Tampa Bay, and certainly Tennessee would be one of those teams.  Those are positive signs.  We're going to play another one this week with Minnesota.  I think our players have responded well to the plan and understand or have a clear understanding of the job that week as it pertains to the running back we're playing and the type of runner he is.  There are some differences with Adrian Peterson from (Chris Johnson) from a week ago.  We'll have to handle that element of the game.  That'll be an important element."

Do you counteract the pressure Minnesota gets on the quarterback with rolling Drew Brees out a little more?
"I think we always try to look at each game plan with a certain number of throws outside of the pocket so the launch point isn't consistent.  An example would be that there are certain throws that come out on three-step rhythm, certain throws that will be off of nakeds or movements, certain throws that will be sprint-outs so that it's not one stationary target.  Guys like Jared Allen are too good and too difficult especially when they're playing at home with the noise, so we have to bee really mindful of mixing up the location of where Drew is throwing from, mixing up how we're protecting him and understand the challenges that third downs or passing downs present on the road.  It makes it that much more important that first and second down you're operating ahead of the chains and you're operating efficiently so that you're not getting into those third and longs where you become a little bit more one-dimensional."

Is this a week where you're hoping that Mark Ingram turns the corner a little bit?
"I think he's making progress.  Typically, what we'll do is we'll evaluate it day-to-day and if we feel like the player's ready to play without any chance of setback then we'll clear him and go.  He wasn't today, but all of us feel like he's made progress and he's getting better.  We'll see as this week goes on.  Today is Wednesday, so we still have a lot of time left.  If he's not able to go, we understand our plan and Chris (Ivory) has gotten a lot of good reps.  I thought he played well last week, particularly in the short yardage situations.  Fortunately, we have that depth right now and we've got players that are able to fill in.  A guy like Chris is someone that we don't even see as a backup type player.  We see him as a guy that's a starter for us, and I think that's a good position to be in especially with Mark's injury."

Do you still feel like you ran the ball well against Tennessee after looking at the type?
"Some of the penalties hurt us.  Those really end up being drive killers.  I thought our efficiency was good.  I still value it as an important element to us winning as we finish up the season and head into the postseason.  That balance I think gets back to protecting the quarterback.  There's kind of an effect that takes places when you're able to rush the ball with efficiency and then protect the passer, and typically if you're not having that efficiency in the running game or you're struggling there, it becomes that much harder to protect and you become a little bit more one-dimensional."

How do you coach away those penalties?
"I think you try to evaluate each one.  There were a handful from the game last week that I said I thought they were close, and then there were ones where the player is doing exactly what we're asking him to do.  I think also we spend a lot of time on the crew we're seeing and really going through the crew's history and what we think their emphasis is – is it a crew that calls a lot of penalties each year or is it a crew that doesn't – that's important information.  It is a factor in the game and it is important that we recognize that in tough games and in close games that it can become the difference.  Again, it's something that we have to clean up."

Has that crew from last week had a history of throwing a lot of flags?
"They've been one of the top five crews a year ago and then heading into this year.  That's something we'll do every Friday with our reports.  We'll go through the crew, we'll go through the points of emphasis, their history a year ago, their history this year and at least try to educate ourselves as to what we can expect."

Has Jimmy Graham recovered pretty quickly from the back spasms?
"Yes, he's doing well.  That was encouraging."

Did you get any clarification from the league office on the Jimmy Graham catch in the end zone that was ruled incomplete?
"Technically, if a player just landed with his heel and then landed in the end zone and it was in bounds, then it would be a touchdown.  If a player in one act went from heel-to-toe, which to their point it looked like he did, they couldn't just tell if that toe clipped the white or not.  He saw the heel, and he saw the heel in, and if it's heel-to-toe a lot of the time that how we land with a foot so the key is then where the toe is.  I think that was his point that he wouldn't tell whether the toe hit white or not."

Is the topic of "what is a catch in the end zone" something you'd like to see changed?
"It was an area we looked closely at in the league meetings this past offseason.  I don't know that it would be the first thing that would come to my mind.  I think the hits on the quarterback is the one area that is most difficult right now, to find that consistency or find that specific play, and that happens in the course of the game maybe seven or eight times on each side of the ball.  That's the one thing that for me would be more pressing."

What the key to Jared Allen's pass rushing?
"He has real good speed and good instincts, so is get off especially when he's playing in Minnesota is exceptional.  He's relentless.  He's a tireless worker.  Guys that work as hard as he does from the start of the play to the whistle find results, so that motor of his and his skill set.  He's very talented."

Did you talk to Roman Harper about penalties after the Tennessee game?
"There will be times where we'll pull a player aside, and in Roman's case he has a pretty good idea of what we're looking for.  I think he played an exceptional game the other day.  Both he and Malcolm (Jenkins) were guys that were game ball players for us on defense.  It's just making sure the players understand the importance of that element of the game and how that can really change momentum, but not after this past game I didn't."

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