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Q&A with Sean Payton about Thursday night's win

Quotes from Sean Payton's conference call with New Orleans media on Friday, October 31, 2014

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Friday, October 31, 2014

Was this your best game defensively this season?

"Look, we had the takeaways that were real important in the game.  I think, believe it or not, last week against Green Bay, although there were a lot of yards given up, the significance, and the takeaways in that game against a real good offense, was a good game for us.  It was good to see the pressure of the sacks, a lot of the things that directly affect the turnovers."

How much consistency have you seen in the past three games compared to the first five?

"I think we've gotten better.  I think that we've been able to eliminate some of the big plays.  I think offensively we've been a little bit more balanced.  I think there are a handful of things that have been improved.  We are still a work in progress on our punt return game.  We had several penalties on that unit last night.  There is a point at which we are going to have real good field position and the next thing you know we are on our 20-something yard line close to before the end of the half.  We had a penalty that set us back there and we had two in the second half.  We have to work on that.  That has to get corrected or we have to figure out or replace the problems on that team."

What did you feel like walking off the field last night?

"It was certainly unplanned.  It was more just that I was real proud of how they worked and handled what was a short week and handled some of the challenges within that week.  Same with the coaches, shoot, by the end of the three or four days I think half the staff had a cold or a cough, just not a lot of sleep.  I was just excited about how we responded going on the road and playing a division game.  A year ago we had a real tough loss there and it is just one of those things that was very gratifying.  It was more about being happy for the players and happy for the coaches to get a win like that.  I think you have to play this game with emotion and that can carry over after wins and losses."

Do you feel like this team is starting to develop an identity and can you identify that yet?

"I think we will see.  I think the key is going to continue to make the corrections, get better.  We will put this tape on and I know there will be a handful of things that we are going to be looking for and yet it was enough last night."

You were not happy about how the schedule fell for you guys, is that something you will bring up at spring meetings for a potential rule change?

"Yeah, it is not even a rule.  I think it is just more common sense.  There is no rule.  I think, look, it is a challenge and yet it is a very simple fix.  It's as easy as just making sure those teams that are playing on that Thursday play on either the early or middle game.  I am sure they will look at it.  But in regards to that rule or suggestion box, I think that is on the third floor of a second story building."

Did Mark Ingram do anything in the last two weeks to earn more of the time share?

"He certainly is and yet the key is just the durability. He has been outstanding. I think that Sunday and what he did last night, he had a lot of touches so we are going to have to, as we get guys healthy, break those up, and yet to his credit he has handled that work load and I think our guys up front, I think it is all kind of come together to some degree. Now it wasn't as clean as you hoped last night and yet there were some tough yards and still effective."

Can you compare Tim Lelito's progress from last year to this year?

"We felt we had good competition in training camp, and generally when you have that you are preparing players to play. Even though only one of them can start, we felt like he really progressed in training camp.  I think those snaps that he got throughout training camp and the preseason were valuable.  We felt like in his rookie year a year ago he had some games that he played in and did a good job at guard and it was good to see him get in there last night.  I think a young player like that in a game like that, a couple of games like that, you can really see a swing, an improvement in his game, and I think it will help him."

Has Tim Lelito met expectations or exceeded them during these last two games?

"Not having seen the film yet, I think most importantly we are winning. We are doing a good job upfront. I think our expectations for him are high and I think he's answered the bell. I don't know if it is somewhere in the middle but I think that getting the chance to play like he is as a young player is, there is just so much that goes into playing that position when you are playing a defense that moves around a little bit, there is a lot of pressure on that player. Not only, forget the snap, but the direction, the Mike, the identification of where we are going, a lot goes into it."

Can you talk about how satisfying it is to see Shayne Graham be so consistent?

"That's a good thing.  I thought he has kicked well for us now the last few weeks.  He has tremendous leg talent.  I get on him sometimes just about keeping that edge and that focus.  There is nothing wrong with that.  He knows that every once and a while I am not going to pet him.  But I think to his credit he works at it and he does have a strong leg.  I think that the last couple of weeks at practice you can see the elevation he's having."

Do you look at a season in quarters and what are your goals for the month of November?

"I would say we used to.  There was a time where you broke it into quarters and talked about winning three of the four and all fit nicely.  And then Drew (Brees) back in 2009, I will never forget it, said, 'hey, can we not just look at this thing in quarters with the idea that we are going to concede a loss in each one of these four weeks.'  It completely makes sense.  Ironically that year we won 13 in a row to begin the season.  I would share with you, I know we are at the midway point but I don't know if I would have known that a week ago.  In other words, we have a stretch of good football teams we are playing and so the more we can just focus on San Francisco and really nothing past that.  We are playing the 49ers.  We will have a chance to get some guys rested, come back and have a good week of preparation.  We know it is a good football team we are playing, it is a real good team.  I think that shorter goal, or that shorter span if you will, of where you are looking is better for us right now.  Now there are some things about it we need to as we progress and put our teams stats up there, we are getting better in these areas.  Those things we discuss, but really with regards to teams we are playing and where we are at this season, our focus is strictly shifted to one game here which is the next one at home against a good team."

What have you learned about this team and yourself?

"I think there's a toughness.  It has a chance to kind of sharpen your sword if you will.  It has a chance to develop.  I've said this to them, having been where we've been and knowing how difficult that is, you refuse to go back.  Hopefully you are becoming more resilient and a little bit tougher both mentally and physically I think for all of us.  It is a tough league, each week.  It is tough to win on the road especially.  To get one last night like that was important.  We felt like we should have had one in Detroit."

Can you talk about Drew Brees' dive over the pile for a touchdown?

"Yeah, there is no check down.  There is no playbook.  Honestly Drew has a pretty good sense of where that ball is on the half yard line.  We know they play a 6-2 defense, Miami the same way back in 2009.  I am trying to give you a good analogy here, but there is that moment where we are deciding whether to go for it or not and it's like that buddy that convinces you, let's go out for more dessert and you just let him go do it.  When I know what he wants to do and it's like, go ahead.  But he has a conviction about it and he knows we are close enough to do it and of course the depth of the linebackers is significant.  It is not really a play in the playbook, or it is not even listed in goal line.  It is we are close enough and you are playing kind of a gap 6-2 defense and the linebackers have some depth so now it is a matter of really keeping your feet clean, getting a clean snap, but he is so athletic and he can jump.  Usually I am able to sprint down there.  My big concern when we do that is the side judge for whatever reason doesn't see it or isn't paying attention.  In Miami I was able to sprint down and kind of alert him that this thing is going to clear the plane.  I am watching it right with you, almost accountability here.  We are going to call this touchdown together.  So I wasn't able to get down to the end zone last night, that was Drew."

Do you think Drew Brees got as high as he did five years ago?

"Yeah, I think, shoot, he looked pretty elevated to me.  He has big hands.  Ball security is another issue to worry about but it looked significant, the difference being I think five years ago we were down 21 points.  I think it was an important play for us in the game last night.  The series before the end of the half was significant, 7-0.  They were going to start the half with the ball.  We were able to make a few plays, convert a third down, get out of our end, extend the drive and then come up with a pass interference call and then the touchdown to Jimmy (Graham).  In the amount of time, that was a significant possession."

Do you want your guys to relax this weekend?

"In a way, little bit, lift weights, mentally, physically get ready to come back next week for San Francisco.  I think a lot of guys are tired.  I know the staff is.  We will be ready to start up next week."

Can you talk about how every year is completely different?

"Well they are.  If you go back in 2006 I think we were 10 wins, division winners and the number two seed.  It really varies year to year.  You kind of set your goals.  The start of the season you want to play well enough to win your division and then you want to earn the best seed you can, etc.  But when you are able to win a road game in your division obviously it is important.  But each year that number count can vary to what is good enough to win it and then what the seeding numbers are. Ten wins as a two seed, that's not pretty normal."

When you are playing a quarterback like Cam Newton, how important is it to make him have to throw the ball a little bit more than he wants to?  And can you talk about the job Keenan Lewis did last night?

"Keenan was outstanding.  I think with Cam, he obviously outside the pocket can be dangerous.  I think we try to make him throw everything from inside the pocket.  I think our rush did a really good job of being able to create that clock in his head.  Sometimes when you have those pressures you can have at quarterback almost in that allusion that that's the case with every play.  He threw some balls high, missed some throws outside, but I thought our guys upfront badgered him pretty well and yet he was still able to make a few plays in the game."

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