New Orleans Saints Linebacker Craig Robertson*
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, November 28, 2016*
How much do you think the adjustments at halftime you make are working right now?
"The adjustments that we have (implemented at half) have been working well, but we just have to come out in the first half and not give up stuff. Because a lot of the stuff we give up are just mistakes on our end and we have to just focus in on those mistakes that we are making in the first half, because we are not making them in the second half."
How close would you say that this past game is to being the best you've have played defensively all year?
"The best team (defensive performance), I wouldn't say that that was the best team, just because we had a lot of mistakes early on, but in the second half that was one of our better second halves that we've had this season."
What has been the consistent theme with the first half issues for the defense?
"Mental lapses and stuff we can't have (happen). The direction we want to go we just can't have those lapses mentally."
Other than guys coming back from injury, what do you think has been the biggest key for you guys on defense?
"Really just how guys are preparing for each game. (Players are) Putting in even more, extra time into the gameplans and into watching film and actually knowing our opponent. Guys are honing in on how to be a pro, as far as our young guys in there, understanding what it takes to be good in this league, not just on the field, but in the classroom as well."
Can you tell me what you've seen in Sheldon Rankins first 3-4 NFL games?
"Like I said before he doesn't act like a rookie, he doesn't carry himself like a rookie and he doesn't play like a rookie either. Just for a guy to be that smart early on it's hard to fool him on stuff and he's been a great help for us since he's been back."
How much do you feel like familiarity even more than the scheme has helped you guys kind of play better lately?
"When you look over and see somebody and you know how they play and how they are going to (cover) with certain routes. It makes everyone play a little bit faster knowing, ok he has this or we have this together so we are going to play together we've been doing it for 3-4 weeks and it's just like camraderie you have, the trust that you have between all 11 guys on the field and anyone who touches it and guys are just going to play fast and the most important thing is we are having fun while we are playing. That is a big thing for us."
How have you seen Dennis Allen molding this defense into a unit that has worked and had success?
"He has been doing a great job. All of the coaches have. Just giving us tips and keys and honing in on stuff through the week, keeping us focused, preparing us and letting us have fun at the same time. I think last week was one of the best practices that we've had as a whole week. That is just a hats off to our coaches. They are preparing us like no other and we're just taking it out on the field."
With the injuries that you guys had at key positions, what did you think of the way that the coaching staff had to change everything right when the season was starting off?
"When you have injuries like that, it's always next man up. We didn't change (everything). It was not a whole focal change. It was little tidbits here and there that we changed. We still have those tidbits now with those guys back. Honestly, it's just guys playing with confidence and going out, playing fast and having fun knowing that we have each other's back. Nobody's playing scared. I think that is the biggest part of the stuff that is going on."
It seemed like the team as whole was as locked in yesterday as we have not seen them; what do you think are some of the factors that went into that?
"There is only one factor and we just know that we have to win. That's it. Not really too much more than that. We just know that we have to win."
When you see how well the whole team played, does it make you think how do we bottle that? Are you confident that it can be sustained from here on out?
"It has to be. It is not something where you figure out how to bottle it. That is what you know right now. We don't control everyone else. We just control ourselves so we have to focus on ourselves right now."
What has it been like for you with the three-safety packages? What does that change for a linebacker?
"Nothing. You're just playing and that safety is just like a linebacker."
What have you seen from Vonn Bell?
"The kid can just flat out play. He is showing who he is. He is just a guy that is relentless. He is a good cover guy, a guy that can come up and hit you and a good blitzer as well. Just a young kid that can do it all. I am glad he is on our team."
New Orleans Saints Tackle Zach Strief
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, November 28, 2016
What does that say about Mark Ingram that he has had two of his biggest games after games where he has had to leave early?
"I would even add in after a game with some fumbles. I think he is a guy that deals with adversity tremendously well. He's a tough player and the guy doesn't like to be off of the field. He has been resilient for us and has a ton of passion for playing and (he's) a guy that we have tons of faith in."
You guys looked like you could do anything you wanted on offense yesterday; why does it look so easy in games like that where you guys are motivated yet so hard to do on a weekly basis?
"I would tell you that I don't know how exceptionally motivated everybody was by the Rams game so much as the fact that we're essentially in a win or go home situation right now. The Seattle game – you talk a lot about these things that have happened in the past, and obviously the Seattle game for some of us, was a team that we have lost to three times in their place and we finally have them come back to the Dome, yet 90 percent of this team wasn't a part of any of those games. I think sometimes that stuff is a little bit overblown. At the end of the day, there are games where we have executed well in and there are games that we haven't. This game yesterday, sometimes things get rolling and we have been on both sides of those where the momentum in a game could become overwhelming. That being said, we had a really good plan really for both of those games. Execution was what it was but I don't know how much I would put into a guy being exceptionally up for a game because of the opponent more so because of the situations."
Is there a realistic belief that this could turn into a run and that you guys have figured something out or do you think consistency is the biggest battle that this team faces?
"I think that is a dangerous kind of thought. We have a game coming up this week that has nothing to do with that game. It's a different defense with different personnel. We're going to have to execute as well as we did this week to win it. Momentum can help and I think this team right now feels like its back is against the wall. We don't have any room for error. Maybe for this team that is what we need is to be in that situation. That is something that is not going to go away any time soon or throughout the season. We're in a win or go home mentality. We'll use that and I think this team has a lot of fight. I think this team recognizes that we can be a dangerous team in the playoffs but there is only one way to go to get there."
What did you think of the Lion King theme being played during the game? I don't think I have ever heard that in the Superdome.
"I think it is unfortunately a pure coincidence that we are playing the Lions the next week. It was a reference for this team and applies to the back against the wall mentality that we have right now. I'm sure somebody will eventually say what the meaning behind it is. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Detroit Lions and it really had nothing to do with the Los Angeles Rams. It was something that was brought up this week about us and this team. It is kind of the mentality that we need to have."
As the season goes on, what is still impressing you about Michael Thomas?
"I think the thing that we have all noticed more and more as the season has gone on is the guy is just extremely competitive. He was in training camp and he has always been kind of a fiery competitor but I think as he has gotten more comfortable just in his standing in the locker room and in the offense. I think that competitiveness has really come out in him. He plays like that and he is a wide receiver that plays angry. I'd compare him to a guy like Steve Smith, a guy that uses emotions to fuel his success on the field. He's a very aggressive and confident receiver. For a guy like that, that is only going to grow with time as he gains more and more success, and obviously with Drew (Brees') trust increasing in him week by week, I think you'll see even more of that. That's a dangerous thing to combine that much talent with that much competitiveness."
Does he do a lot of trash talking by chance?
"I don't know. Obviously, Mike and I are not next to each other very often. Usually that stuff is kind of on the edges. I have not really noticed anyone in our offense being big at trash talking. That's not something that's usually a part of our kind of mentality. I think it's usually in response to a team that wants to start that. I think Mike speaks with his play. I think to him, trash talking is getting a cornerback one-on-one and having the mentality that that guy cannot cover him without help. I think you see some of that. I think you see him take balls away from people. I see him attack balls at the highest point. To me, that is more where that comes from with him. Obviously, it is an emotional game for all of us and there are games where words are exchanged on the field. But our offense isn't really big into that."
Is there any more you can give us on the Lion King theme?
"It's one of those things where it's for us. It's just not for you. I am sure that it will come out eventually but it has to do with this team, the position that we're in and the mentality that we need to have going forward."
We all saw on Wednesday that Sean (Payton) brought you guys into the huddle and gave you a little speech; after those two devastating losses, how hard was it for you guys to find inspiration or motivation or was that just natural?
"When coach brought us up that day, that message was about that we had a chance to spend some time with Marcus Allen. We had a chance to hear from Marcus Allen on one of our road trips this year (San Francisco) and one of the things that he really talked about and stressed with us is that it is Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. These games are decided before you walk on the field. That's been stressed the last few weeks and how important it is to have a great, not just a good day, but to really push each other and really stress the importance of preparation. That is really what that huddle was about before that. It was kind of a reminder that this has to be exceptional and it can't be good. It has to be exceptional and you have to expect more out of yourself and your teammates. Again, I think this team feels that we're better than our record shows. At the end of the day, we are what we are. We're 5-6 and we put ourselves in this situation but this team still has a chance to do something special. I think there's confidence in the building that we can still do that. To me, that is more the motivation to keep going is to prove that to people outside of this building. I think that there are a lot of proud guys in here and a lot of guys that have a lot of pride in this team and in the way that they play. The only way to show that is to win games. I think that is the motivating factor that I think the team has used so far."