New Orleans Saints Center Max Unger - Conference Call with New Orleans Media - Monday, November 5, 2018
You guys have done a good job protecting Drew Brees. Is there anything that you contribute that too?
"We've got a pretty good protection plan kind of coming into these last couple weeks. We've put some pretty good lines and it's just kind of something we've been focusing on and Drew is getting us in the right situation and he's gotten the ball out of his hands on time and that's pretty big for us."
Was the defensive front you played yesterday, was that the biggest defensive challenge so far?
"It was definitely one of them. Interior defensive lineman, like Aaron (Donald) and Ndamukong Suh are pretty rare players in the league. It's a tough challenge stopping those guys and I think that we did a good job kind of staying out of really unmanageable passing situations and I we knew that was kind of critical going into this game."
What was your experience going up against Aaron Donald?
"Yes. He's an elite player in this league. He is a legitimate gameplan threat that's disruptive and again, the best. You'd be hard pressed to find a better defensive player in the league. It's about management, getting into situations that are favorable for us and having a solid protection plan for a guy like that and it was a tough game."
What have made you guys so good in third down situations and in the red zone?
"Watching the Rams game last year and some of the other stuff, we have struggled in the red zone a little bit. It is just an emphasis as far as in practice and being mindful of sticking to our plan when we get down there and then the second part of that question was third down. Right? Just the efficiency. Yes, our third down numbers have not been awesome, going in this year and they've kind of been going up trending in the direction we want them to be. But it's (not) just kind of analyzing the team that we just played, but being in positions where we're not in long third down situations and if that means two, three-yard runs on first and second down and we were okay with being in that position and that's kind of the plan that we're able to stick to."
Does Taysom Hill play a part in that efficiency? Someone who can play in so many different situations?
"I'm continuously amazed with Taysom and what he's been able to do. You're talking about a guy that played exclusively quarterback at the beginning of last year and special teams. Now he's like a cog in the machine. The sky's the limit for him. It certainly is an interesting wrinkle in our game plan and I think that it definitely is shown to be pretty effective."
Do you ever think about you know how many muscles you pull trying to hurdle players like Alvin Kamara?
"My first question is how and my second is why? I see it and I mean like (players) chasing them down and I see I go, oh my goodness my head's up and I'm just like imagining the worst possible scenario, but he still landed on his feet and I would blow out most of the muscles in my lower body if I tried to do that to answer a question."
Are you shocked when you see him bottled up and then he is able to gain a few more yards?
"When he has the ball, I never know what is going to go on. I've been caught standing around a pile when I thought Alvin (Kamara) was down and got blown up. Anytime he has the ball in his hands and until I hear the whistle I mean it's full tilt go because he has continued to show that he can get out of some pretty insane situations. That's kind of whenever he has the ball, its go until you hear the whistle."
Midway through the season, what are the things that you have been impressed with and what are the things you think you guys need to work on?
"I think that we've put kind of a string of good defenses. I think that we've been able to stick to the gameplan that we've all wanted to and we've been able to execute it and that is running the ball effectively on early downs and sticking to it throughout the game. We are getting enough production early on to be able to carry the momentum and being able to run the ball later in the game as a positive. Quite a bit of improvement on that. As far as improvement goes, we talk about third down earlier. Our numbers were not where we wanted them to be earlier in the season and they're turning in the right direction. But again, that's something that we historically have been very good at and this year it's not where we need them to be, so that's probably the number one thing that we need to improve on."
Have you seen Larry (Warford) grow in the offense since last year? He looked like having more of that extra year and continuity with you guys (helped).
"Yeah. I forget that this is his second year here. He steps in, it feels like we've been playing together for certainly more than a year and eight games. Larry's a monster. He has been playing really well and I can't say enough good stuff about what he's been able to do and it's just been an awesome addition to the line."
You guys probably haven't looked at much of the Bengals film yet, but another tough matchup against some stud defensive linemen this weekend. What do you know about Geno Atkins in particular?
"Yeah. I'm trying to remember the last time I played Geno. I can't remember off the top of my head, but this is a very good defense. Their reputation around the league is that it's very very physical defense. Obviously, him being another challenge in a string of insane defensive lines that we've had to play this year kind of in a row. But again another very difficult challenge and we'll go check the film out and kind of see what we want to do."
New Orleans Saints Linebacker Demario Davis - Conference Call with New Orleans Media - Monday, November 5, 2018
Todd Gurley came into this game averaging 100 rushing yards per game and after a pretty good first quarter you guys were able to slow him down. What was kind of key behind that? How much emphasis did you put on stopping him?
"That was the goal for the week. We've got to be really good in the run game. So we put an emphasis on stopping the run. I think you know they are very tough. They were a very good team, very tough opponent, the top rushing team in the league. I think it's just a credit to our coaches doing a good job of getting us prepared. Our front has been playing lights out all year. It's a testament to the guys inside, outside, setting the edge. They have just been phenomenal. Just a wholehearted team effort. The position that our offense was able to put us in a lot of times helped us in that area as well. It was a good team win."
Do you feel like the defensive line gets overlooked a little bit?
"I don't know about being overlooked. Not inside this building. We know how much they mean to our defense. You know they've been an anchor for our defensive unit. All of those guys have been playing lights out. AO (Alex Okafor), Cam (Jordan), Rank (Sheldon Rankins), Big Ole Davison (Tyeler Davison) have been huge for us."
Coach Payton said the one thing that has been kind of nagging him is the red zone defense ranking. What do you guys need to do to get better there?
"Execution. Coach (Payton) is putting in the gameplan. We have to be able to execute it. That's the goal for us to be good in the red zone. So if we execute, we do well and if we don't we don't."
What would you say is the level of concern in that area? I mean, you guys have won seven games in a row and sometimes winning can mask that stuff. Is it a major point of emphasis for you guys or do you think it's something that can be fixed within a week?
"We have our goals and all of them are important. So you have to be good in the red zone, (and) you have to be good on third down. You have to be good on first and second down in the pass game. You have to stop the run. (We) have to find a way to get takeaways. Those are our goals every week. When we do those, we're usually successful. When we don't, it's not a good day.
How big was (Alex) Anzalone's pick last night just kind of setting you guys up to take that big halftime lead?
"Takeaways are always huge. He's been playing some really good football for us. I think it's been back to back games with creating a turnover. Something our coaches have been emphasizing is to create takeaways. He has done that and put our team in position to go up another score. Turnovers are magnified when they happen on the other team's side of the ball. So that was huge to happen where it happened on the first play of the drive. That was a big play."
Do you think 'opportunistic' is a good way to describe this defense, or would you describe it some other way?
"I don't know how I would describe it. We just try to go out and execute. We've got another challenge in front of us this week. Go on the road. We've always got to play good defense on the road. I know the coaches are going to have us a gameplan and we have to be ready to execute."
I know you haven't really looked ahead to the next opponent, but you've played in the same division with the Bengals before, what are some of the challenges that they present?
"A well-coached unit. Really good quarterback (Andy Dalton). One of the top receivers (A.J. Green) in the league that has been there for a long time. Some good (running) backs (Giovanni Bernard and Joe Mixon). They rely on their tight ends a lot. They have some phenomenal players and weapons over there. It is going to be a challenge to go into their place. They play well at home. That division is always tough, so it's going to be a challenge for us."
Has anyone ever tried to hurdle you like Alvin (Kamara) hurdled the guy last night?
"No. I don't think I ever – nobody ever tried it on me. But AK, he's special. That guy jumped so high off the ground, he probably could have jumped over anybody."
I think that the casual fans have the impression that you have less territory to cover when you're playing defense in the red zone so in many ways that should be easier to guard against that, but is that kind of a fallacy or an oversimplification of what it takes to succeed in that area of the field?
"I just think it comes down to understanding how teams want to attack you down there. And being locked into what they're going to try to do. Just understand, traditionally, how teams are going to try to get the ball in the end zone down there. And just understanding, knowing your assignment and doing your assignment. I just think it comes down to that."