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Q&A with Head Coach Sean Payton

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    **Opening Statement:**  

"Going through the injury report for today, it was a shortened practice since we have an extended week. We're going to be looking at tomorrow like a Wednesday and then move forward. Marques Colston (thumb), did not practice; David Patten (groin), did not practice; Jeremy Shockey (hernia), did not practice; Aaron Glenn (ankle), did not practice; Chris Reis (hamstring), did not practice; Randall Gay (hamstring), was limited; Jonathan Goodwin (hamstring), was limited; Mike Karney (ankle), was limited; Mark Campbell (hamstring), was limited; Troy Evans (ankle), was limited; Aaron Stecker (hamstring), was limited; Terrance Copper (hamstring), was limited. The only roster moves we had were that we signed Joey Harrington and waived Buck Ortega and have since placed Buck Ortega back on the practice squad."

At one point in practice, the offense jumped offside and had to run a lap. Is that correct?

"At this level you have to be able to mix your cadence up. If you can't then you're going to struggle in protections. If the running back or tight end is jumping offside, then maybe we need to put them at left tackle and see how they block the protection on one. We have to get the penalties corrected and get a handle on them or else it's going to come back in a closer game to hurt us."

Are the rehabs of Mike McKenzie and Deuce McAllister ahead of where you might have expected them to be?

"Mike's injury took place so late into the season that I would say yes, because it was the second-to-last week of the year. In Deuce's case, I'd say he's a little bit ahead. The nature of the positions – be it running back or cornerback – it's challenging just because of what you're asking them to do on the leg and on the knee and that has been encouraging. In both cases, there hasn't been one of those setback weeks in training camp. Deuce had one instance that I can recall in camp where he hurt the inside portion of the knee on a cut, but it wasn't the part that had been repaired. I think we're fortunate that way."

Is it attributable to the work they have done in their rehab or the surgery?

"You'd have to say that the surgery was successful; the work done on both knees by (Dr. James) Andrews was good. The rehab has been good and the players have done a good job of following the plan. I think you have to credit all of those things."

Did you feel that Robert Meachem would be this effective as a deep threat so early into his playing time?

"There was a little bit unknown. The positives were in training camp when we could see that the player was running better. He's healthy and he's a big target. He has gained some confidence and that started with the play at Washington. What you have seen also is Drew gaining some confidence and locating the ball in coverage away from the defender to let him go up and make a play."

Is that what happened on the flea-flicker?

"Yes. It was covered and yet the ball location was good because it was in a position where only Robert could catch it and he went up and made a play. He has real good size, which I think helps him."

Are you starting to see the speed from him that you had seen on tape at the University of Tennessee?

"I think so. The thing we saw on Tennessee film was a lot of run after the catch. We saw some shorter throws that all of a sudden turned into some big plays because he was pretty good with it after he caught it. We saw that in the preseason at Arizona – he caught a little shallow cross and cut back against the grain and scored a touchdown. We just keep building on it, try to give him the things that he does well, and keep working on his skill and his progress. He's a guy that works extremely hard and is very conscientious about improving, and that's a good thing."

What did Carl Nicks do well in the game on Sunday?"I think he was solid. He's a big body and he's strong and he's powerful. He's a tough guy to rush the passer against because he has nimble feet and gives you a good look at the point of attack. There were a couple of angles or hat-placement issues that we'll have to clean up in the running game, but for a first time out, I thought he did real well."

What was it that made the defensive line so successful this week?"I thought they played with a great effort. They got off on the snap count real well. I think at times they benefited from us doing a good job on the back end with the quarterback having to hold it a little longer. Overall, I thought they played with great effort."

How much of the secondary's success can be attributed to the defensive line?"If the quarterback has time, it's a lot harder to cover guys. If you're able to reduce that time, the decision process that the quarterback has to make shrinks as well and it becomes harder to play quarterback. It's a huge difference."

There has been a lot of money spent on the defensive line. Is Sunday's the kind of production you expect to see out of them?"If you can't rush the passer in our league now, it's hard on your defense regardless of who is playing corner. We saw some real good corners two weeks ago and saw a good corner last week in Nate Clements. Those guys are all high-priced corners, but if we're able to give (Drew) Brees time, it's harder to play that position regardless of how talented you are. It kind of goes hand-in-hand."

Will Adrian Peterson be the toughest running back you've faced?"We've seen some real good runners both at home and on the road, but this guy is the best we've seen to date. That's no slight on anyone that we've played to date, but there's something else about him and the guys blocking for him are something else. We had Steve Hutchinson over at the Pro Bowl, and he's the best left guard in the league. They do a nice job of getting the running back downhill quickly into the holes and he's big and strong – he's exceptional."

Are teams ganging up on him to try and stop him?"They're trying. He does a good job even in some of the down-safety defenses to still break runs. They obviously are seeing more down-safety defenses because of his skills and trying to force them to throw the ball more, but they do a great job with design and he seems to get his yards each week. The key is just to contain him and minimize the big plays. If you're not on the right course and you're not taking the right angles, then all of a sudden and eight-yard run could be 38 and a touchdown. He's that good."

Do you expect them to have extra motivation coming in with a 1-3 record?"I expect a great effort from Minnesota and I expect a great effort from us. It's a Monday Night Football game and I think that still means something in our league. There's more time leading up to it; it's a nationally-televised game and I think both teams will come out and play with a lot of energy and a lot of effort. It's going to come down to the execution and avoiding mistakes and turnovers – the things that we keep talking about. But I think it will be a great atmosphere."

Has your team done a good job of stopping the run against run-first teams?"We've had some good challenges. Fred Taylor of Jacksonville a year ago was trying to go for 10,000 yards. We have seen some real good running backs. This is a different team and a different back and they present a lot of challenges. As good as they are in running the football, they're equally as good at defending the run. It's a physical team and we're going to have to play extremely well."

Are you eager to see a better effort in a physical game?"This will be a good test for us. This will be our best test of the year in regards to both fronts and what we're going to see, and I think our players will see that on film when they watch it and study it closely."

Is on your offensive line where you'd really like to see that physical effort come through?"It's a great front defensively and we're going to have to be able to get Deuce and Reggie going. Sometimes you have to be more patient, but this is a real good group and they present challenges unique to some of the teams that we've played so far."

Is Meachem's yards-per-catch average being over 40 coincidental or is there something about his strengths that lead to him catching long balls?"Some of the throws obviously have been down the field throws and those numbers jump up real high. There haven't been a lot of underneath throws – some of that is coincidence and some of that may be by design. He's someone that I'm sure will be effective on slants and hooks and other routes other than throws that are just long passes. It's just dependent on the play type, and some of it is coincidence with where Drew has been throwing it."

Has he done a good job in running down some of those long throws?"No question. I thought the play at the end of the second quarter last week was pivotal. It was a close game going in at halftime and all of a sudden there was another score. That gave us a little breathing room at the half and that was a real big play in the course of that game."

Was he able to use body position to keep the safety from breaking it up?"It was a little bit of a skinny post-corner route by Billy Miller and then a post by Robert and they zoned it off with a corner sitting on Billy and fortunately we were able to get Robert on a safety. With the safety playing square, it was hard for him to turn and run right away with the receiver as fast as he is. Drew had to hold it a second to adjust in the pocket, but he did a good job on the route."

What are the challenges that Adrian Peterson brings?"He's a big, strong, physical player that has great speed. He has great vision and they do a great job in the offensive line of creating those holes. He's one of the best backs in the league, if not the best back in the league right now."

How much of a difference does Jonathan Vilma make in this type of match-up?"He's the quarterback of our defense. Getting us organized in and out and getting our alignments and calls made, for him each week, that's a big challenge and he does a great job with it. In this game where it's going to be loud – I think the crowd noise is a plus for us – but there's a challenge for our defense to operate in that environment and we try to simulate that as much as we can."

Does Vilma save you a lot of yards with all of the plays that he makes?"We talk about leaky yardage, and that's yards after contact, and in this game against this player, that's an important number."

Has he graded out well in that area?"Yes. I think that this is not only a tremendous challenge for our defense, it's a tremendous challenge for our linebackers, starting with Jonathan. Their fits have to be clean and their alignments have to be just right."

How tough do you think it will be to run against the Minnesota defense?"I think it will be challenging. They play great run defense. They're strong inside and their linebackers run well. With that being said, I think it's a good challenge for us and the big thing here in the next couple of days in our gameplan is deciding on which runs and how to handle the running back rotation. It's going to be important. We're going to have to have balance."

How important will it be to try and loosen them up a little bit with some throws to keep them honest?"When you watch us play, I think every week we're going to take some shots. We're getting the ball down the field real well now, but we're going to have to have balance and we're going to have to work on time of possession, especially in this game."

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