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Q&A: Sean Payton's Monday Conference Call

Audio and quotes from Sean Payton's Monday conference call with local media

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, October 3, 2016

Could you easily say you're as close to 3-1 as you are to 0-4?

"It's pretty normal in this league. We knew starting the season we were going to play in some hard fought games. We have to find a way to be better. The encouraging thing yesterday, there's a handful of things we didn't do well yesterday, (but) the encouraging thing was we finished. We got some momentum, we got some takeaways and capitalized on those turnovers, but I think if we just went through this weekend's game(s) we would see a handful of games that were two scores or more and then by far the majority of them (come) down to the last series."

How important was it for your young players to see that a game like yesterday's could be won and I guess even more so that they had critical roles in it?

"It was important for the team to fight through some adversity there, paying attention to the clock and clearly looking at where we were down 13, at the 7:00 minute mark, give or take right in that area. It was important, that belief or that validation after a caused fumble first by the defense. Offensively, we hit a 4th and 2 pass to Michael (Thomas). The next series we are able to recover a fumble from their receiver (Travis Benjamin) and again convert it and then just as important, knowing you have to come back and finish the two-minute drill defensively. You receive the ball there offensively you are on the one, you are down six though so you are obviously looking to use time, but with the clock stopped you are scoring. It's not like you are going to burn all the time off and kick a game winning field goal and so defensively we had to go back out there and come up with a sack and come up with some of the things we were able to do."

You mentioned that there were some things that you didn't like from yesterday. What were some of those?

"I thought offensively in the second half we struggled. I thought we had the two interceptions that on the road are going to be tough to overcome. If it weren't for their turnovers, then we are not going to overcome them. I thought defensively, in the first half, we gave up two easy touchdowns, chunk plays. One through the middle of our defense with their first score, then one on the sideline on the second score when we are not playing our coverage correctly. Those are disturbing if you will."

Before the first forced fumble, you had 4th down and punted. Did you consider going for it in that situation and then you obviously got the fumble on the very next play?

"Yes, the only problem was the down and distance. Take me through it I want to say it was (fourth and) six. I recall specifically on the headset, just talking about let's have a fourth down play ready here if we get some yardage (on third down). But I was not going to do it on fourth and sixth with that field position."

With the 57-yard touchdown they had in the second quarter. What was the coverage breakdown if you can kind of explain that?

"The corner and the safety were in a cover 2. There is going to be a strength change with the motion by the tight end. Both of those guys have to be on the same page with the formation changing and then how that impacts the coverage as well."

As a rookie, Vonn Bell has climbed up the depth chart pretty quickly. What have you seen from him that has given you so much trust in his play?

"He's explosive, he plays with real good speed. The job for us is going to be during this bye is to look closely at what we're doing. Not just defensively or offensively or in the kicking game. (We have to) Make sure we have our best players on the field. I think that's going to involve us looking closely in ways to incorporate Vonn (Bell), (Jairus) Byrd, and (Kenny) Vaccaro. Offensively the same thing applies when we start looking at receivers and runners. Those will be things that we have to address from the coaching staff standpoint."

On the final interception, (B.W.) Webb had some room in front of him but he got down like I am sure you coach him to do. How nice was that to see?

"There are all sorts of situations that we cover and we practice. We have seen that play when the returner continues to run and the ball gets punched out as well. It is a down down situation and you are in that second of the game when as soon as he makes that interception, I'm about ten yards to his left so if he does not go down you are going to see a flash come off the bench and tackle him."

What are the plans for the players this week as far as practice or getting reps and stuff like that?

"We will have a balance. We have done this before. We will receive a bonus day or two for Carolina. Then we will have meetings and lifting circuit. I'll give these guys some time away. We are going to lift and then we come back early next week and have a bonus practice."

 It seems like you've not been very fortunate on the injury front this season. So how do you see the timing of this bye in terms of rest for key guys?

"I think it is important because you cannot control the bye so you don't spend a lot of time worrying about it. However, we have a chance to get a number of guys back that have been out. Obviously that number has been high for us, unusually high this early part of the season. That being said, it falls at a good time for a number of players."

Cam Jordan had talked about the dynamic between wanting to play another week after getting a win and then needing the rest of the bye week. Where do you stand on that? Would you like to have another game before this bye week?

"Here is the thing. We can't control that. I find myself not spending a lot of energy on something that we can't control. I think for us with the injuries there are some positives with a handful of players being able to come back and play. But I don't find myself thinking about that because there is no way for us to control it."

But would you say, that based on your experience that the tangibles of health and freshness outweigh the intangibles of momentum?

"I'd have to go back and do a long study. We have some momentum based on the way the fourth quarter finished. Yet, there are a lot of things that need to be cleaned up. We're going to see a stretch of good opponents coming up here. If you start with Carolina and then you go to the next week, Kansas City and the week after that is Seattle. All of those teams were playoff teams (last year) and played extremely well."

Michael Thomas has been receiving a lot of snaps these past few weeks. In the games is he really just confirming what you guys saw in both practice and training camp?

"We have to look to continue to find touches for him but yes I would say he has come up with some big plays when we needed him. Yesterday's touchdown was certainly significant being fourth down. There are always a ton of things as a rookie receiver that he needs to work on with his releases, his splits and his alignment. But he does play hard and he does show the ability to make plays in the crowded area."

What are some of the elements of finding success inside the red zone like you have this year?

"I think a couple things – I think it is important that you are able to run the football, number one, and not have minus plays. I think the one thing, looking at this year's numbers, is that we haven't had those minus plays, whether its sacks or minus yard runs, where all of a sudden you lose three yards, or penalties for that matter. Things that stall red zone production would be penalties that set you back (and) a sack. I think Drew (Brees) has done a good job of being smart with the decisions. I think that that efficiency has improved because we have minimized or eliminated the minus plays."

A lot of players yesterday seemed to credit Tony Hills for an inspiring speech to the team at halftime; is that something that you saw as well and what were your thoughts on that contribution?

"The one thing about Tony (Hills) is that he is passionate and he has a lot of respect with these guys. He has been with us last year and has played in a handful of games, and then back during training camp. He was off of the roster and then back on the roster, and yet there is a toughness about him that you appreciate as a coach. I didn't get a chance to hear it. When we come in off of the field, initially we are split as coaches and players, and then we come together with the plan. We get ready to go out and I am sure it came when the team was finally breaking out and getting ready to head out onto the field. He is a guy that really speaks from the heart. I think you appreciate that."

How important is it in a game like yesterday to stay with the run even though you are not getting as much production out of it as you'd like?

"I think on the road we felt going in that it was a real good third down defense. We also felt that it was a defense that rushed the passer well. Having that balance, especially in a road game like that, was going to be important. I thought Mark (Ingram) ran hard. I think the runners handled the ball well. That was encouraging."

You referenced yesterday having five different defensive packages; is that common or are you doing more mixing and matching with all of the injuries?

"Part of it's because of the injuries and part of it's just going in to defend or play that team. I think at this breakpoint here we have to play close attention to the first quarter of the season and things that we need to look closely at as coaches."

Is now a good time to tell your players, especially maybe the younger ones, that they should not make assumptions as to how the season will go based on how the first quarter went, just given how teams grow and evolve as they go through the season?

"There is enough veteran leadership in this room and players that understand how difficult it is to win each week, and yet how attainable it can be. Certainly, getting that win yesterday is a boost of confidence, and we needed it. I think that our players will be smart in their time away. Then, when we're back up and preparing for Carolina, they're going to understand the type of team they are getting ready to play. It is our job as coaches to give them the best chance to have success."

Is it fair to say that when you play divisional opponents early in the season and then again late in the season that it may be a lot of the same guys but isn't always the same team?

"I'd absolutely agree. When there's a gap between games and you're repeating a game with somebody, there generally's been a lot of things that have gone on between then, and there are some different players on the field. I'd agree with that completely. You can go year to year and look at our division. Each one of them's different in to itself. I think the more you've done it, the more you get used to it and the more you understand that. Part of that is a mindset and a mentality. I think injuries play a role in that, and then also the past week or two. Oftentimes, you see the desperate teams in our league win."

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