New Orleans Saints Center Max Unger
Conference Call with Local Media
Monday, October 26, 2015
When the offense and the special teams do what the Saints did yesterday, with the fake field goal, the long pass to (Brandin) Cooks and the first down completion to (Marques) Colston to kind of end the game, what does that say about the mindset and the mentality of the offense?
"We tried to seal it, obviously, a little bit earlier, but we wanted to end the game with the ball in our hands. We were able to do that. It took most of the fourth quarter (to seal it) and you don't want it to be that way. You want to end it and have good clock-churning drives. We figured it out in the end and I thought it was a step in the right direction."
Was that the kind of aggression that you were expecting when you joined this team? I guess you came from a team that would run it and punish you down the stretch. This was more of a daring way to do it, so to speak.
"I think the calls were the best opportunity that we had to go win the game. I think we're going to call plays that put us in the best position that we can be in when the game is on the line. I thought we dialed it up and two guys made a heck of a play to seal the game right there."
On the fake field goal, you also were downfield on that. Were you the secondary receiver on that?
"Oh yeah, I was wide open. I should have got that ball (laughing). Really, I don't know why I was out. I guess it was to kind of put one of the guys in a harder position, (thinking if he) should go cover Ben (Watson) in the flat or cover me down the hash. Ben made a great play. It was interesting being downfield legally. That was kind of cool."
When you guys ran that in practice, was the ball ever thrown to you?
"It was not. We only (practiced) that a couple of times but coach was pretty serious about getting it called in the game. It was on the right hash and it was just the right time in the game to execute it. It was pretty cool."
Do you have any type of pass-catching history?
"I have never caught a ball nor scored a touchdown at any level of football. I was a little nervous when they called the play that I was actually going to get a chance to do it. It didn't happen though. I'll have to play a couple of more years to try to get one."
Was that your first time downfield on a pass play?
"Yes, I think it was. I had a play in college dialed up, like a tackle screen, but that never got called. That was the first time."
What was the specific reason that the running game clicked so well for you guys yesterday?
"I think we had a good plan going in. They are a pretty stout 3-4 style defense and I think we had a good plan, as far as a good variety of runs. Just executing those multiple runs, outside and inside, man plays, tight zone and wide zone, so we were able to kind of not run the same thing over and over again. It kind of kept them a little off guard. It was awesome. I know Mark (Ingram) and Khiry (Robinson) had awesome games. We just have to let this game be the standard, as far as our ability to run the ball."
On some of the runs, like on Ingram's 35-yard run, it looked like you were able to get to the second level and get to the linebacker. Is that something that you guys on the line were able to do more of yesterday?
"Yes, the front oftentimes dictates who you'll block all game. A lot of the time, you can go a whole game and block very few linebackers. A lot of the times, we'll be on them the whole game. (It was) just the scheme and the types of runs that we were doing. We were getting up to the second level quite a bit."
In practice last week, was there more of a sense of confidence? It seemed like the team was playing more cautiously the first few weeks.
"It is just building confidence. We are trying to stack the wins back-to-back. It is a good feeling when you put these wins together and you can build some confidence. You're able to get to your game plans more. We definitely felt that. The defense played a heck of a game and we were able to feed off of that and the turnovers in the first half, and we were able to carry that into the second half. When you throw wins together, it definitely does build confidence and kind of lets you let it rip out there."
What has allowed the turnaround in the past month?
"1-3 is not where you want to be and we kind of realized that you can't go out there and not just cut it loose. I thought we were playing a lot looser. It is one of those things where you are going to have to trust your game plan and your talent. We know that the talent is there and it is just our ability to go out and actually execute the game plan, and do it with total confidence. I felt that we did a pretty job of that this past game. That is starting to show up, and like I said earlier, that is something that you build on. When you start stacking the wins together, your confidence grows and your ability to kind of expand the game plan also grows. That's fun when that kind of happens."
Do you feel that this streak has allowed guys to do away with the feeling that the season was getting away from you and (that the team was) having to go into rebuilding mode?
"In the NFL you don't really get to do that anymore. You don't really get to rebuild in this league. I think everybody knows that. We do have quite a few young players and they are starting to realize that the expectation is to win games and be successful. I think we're kind of putting that together. You don't really get to (rebuild) anymore."
Being 3-4, does that afford an opportunity to look at the rest of your schedule and kind of see how other teams are doing record-wise, and see how they stack up?
"It is a funky year so far. We have a lot of undefeated teams and we have a lot of teams that are at or below .500. It's a tight race, and this is kind of how these divisional races have shaped up these last couple of years, with them being back loaded. Obviously, winning our division is the highest priority. You understand it but you don't really have to pay too much attention to it. Our goal is to win games every week, and I think that if we can do that then obviously our goal will be there at the end of the season."
(ESPN analyst) Mark Schlereth said the other day that offensive line play in the league is as bad as he has ever seen it. He blamed it on the college game and the spread offenses. What is your take on that and how the college game is affecting play in the NFL?
"I wouldn't say that. I think, honestly, that it is becoming more of a passing league, more and more as the years go on. I don't know if he is referring to the run game or the pass game. The more you throw the ball, the more chances there are for people to get pressures up and get sacks up. Those numbers increase as you throw the ball (more). I don't know what the rushing numbers are these days but the pro-style offense is a lot different than the spread offense and it takes a little while for players to transition to this system. Some players do it better than others. I don't necessarily agree with that assessment. I think that there is some good (offensive) line play out there to be had."
Joe Vitt was given a game ball after the game; what was your thought on the week that he had?
"He had a rough one, that's for sure. The cool thing is that it was his 600th game in the NFL. He didn't back down and he really didn't change anything throughout the week. He was in there doing everything that he normally does, with one good leg and one good arm. That is pretty impressive. He couldn't really be held down. Nobody was going to tell him that he couldn't do something so (I have) a lot of respect for him."
The way that this team has dealt with so many injuries, does seeing a coach going through that kind of push guys to come back from injury?*
"Everybody is trying to get out there. Injuries are a tough part of the game. Obviously, you want to be out there. I wouldn't say that anybody is trying to stay off of the field. Obviously, Joe is quite a bit of inspiration, being out there on the cart screaming at people, but we're all trying to get out there. Everybody is trying to get out there."
New Orleans Saints Safety Kenny Vaccaro
Conference Call with Local Media
Monday, October 26, 2015
I saw that Joe Vitt got a game ball yesterday; what kind of week was it for him with everything that he went through?
"I am sure that it was a pretty unusual week for him. As far as being at the office goes, he was the same old Joe Vitt. (He was) fiery, getting onto it and making sure you were doing everything right. The scooter that he was riding may have slowed him down a little bit but not with his coaching."
Can you compare your play from last year to this year? Are you a significantly different player, a better player?
"Like I have said all along, I think I am a healthier player. I think Dennis Allen has showed me a lot, and my position coach Crime Dog (Wesley McGriff). Overall for me, it is how I have been taking care of my body this year."
When you are in that situation and you are not healthy, how frustrating is it to know what you can do and not be able to do?
"It is frustrating, but at the same time when you are out there, you have to hold yourself accountable for anything that you do. I am one of those guys that it's going to be hard to sit me on the bench. I am going to play through any type of injury so I can be on the field. I am not one to sit. Unfortunately, that came with some bad play at times last year."
I know that you guys are reluctant to talk about injuries but with this being last year, what were some of the things that were bothering you last year?
"First off, the ankle injury that I suffered in the last game of my rookie year is a year and a half injury. I came back in four months. That bothered me a little bit throughout the year. Then, I had a Grade-2 hamstring tear in the first series, on the first drive against Atlanta Week One. In the middle of the season, I hurt my quad. It didn't show up on the injury report but it showed up in my play. I hold myself accountable for that. I have to be better through injury, I guess."
As a safety, who are or were your role models?
"All of the great safeties (such as) Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu (and) Ed Reed. I watch Sean Taylor's highlight film over and over. Really though, Earl Thomas. When I was a freshman in college, it was his last year at Texas, that was his All-American year and was the year that he got drafted in the first round by the (Seattle) Seahawks. He kind of raised the bar and set the standard for how a safety should play, to me."
Can you talk about your aggression? Is that a natural thing for you or was it something that you had to work on as you were growing up? Is that something that is just part of you?
"I was born like that. From preschool to intermediate, whether it was dodgeball, kickball or anything, I have been that way my whole life."
The defense got credited with 12 deflections yesterday, which is a ton in the NFL. What do you attribute that to and how good did you guys feel out there? Can you guys continue to play like that?
"You can credit that to the pressure that we were getting by the defensive line. Guys were getting their hands up also. You can credit the coverage and being in position to make the play and make the pass deflection. Yes, I hope that we can continue playing like we're playing and giving the offense more opportunities to score."
You seem comfortable in any positon, but is there one that is more comfortable for you or one that you prefer more than the others?
"This year, I have kind of been all over the place. I have been used in blitzes, I have covered guys (and) I have been in the box. I like having a variety of roles. I just want to be able to make plays. If I am around the ball early, I can dominate a game. That is the best fit for me, just wherever the ball is at, try to get me to it."
You're not being used quite the same way that you were your rookie year and that variety of positions, are you? Is it a little more strong safety with a variety?
"Not necessarily. You guys were talking about me and (Damian) Swann earlier, before he got his concussion, how we switched around. That is the same thing as my rookie year. To be honest, it hasn't changed as much. (I'm) playing a little bit less nickel and more strong safety, but if you watch the tape, you can find me in a number of spots."
You like that right?
"I don't mind. Wherever the coaches want me and I could help the team, and puts me in position to make more plays, I am willing to do that obviously."
After winning the last two games and getting to 3-4, does that afford you an opportunity to look at the standings and see what other teams are doing to see where you stack up?
"I think the best thing for us, because we put ourselves in a hole those first three games, is to put our head down and take it step by step or game by game. (At) 3-4 right now, we don't need to be looking at playoffs. We need to be thinking about beating the New York Giants this weekend."
Can you reflect on your mindset when you were in that hole and how you got out of it? Do you feel like the defense has played significantly better in the last few games? What would you attribute that to?
"I think we're playing better on D. I think we're being more opportunistic, getting takeaways and getting sacks. At the same time, we're still letting the opposing offenses put up points. We have to stop that. We have to help our offense out and try to keep that to a minimum. We're a young defense and we're only going to get better from here. Stephone (Anthony), (Hau'oli) Kikaha and those other young guys are playing better and better each game. We're (also) getting guys healthy so you can attribute that to the takeaways and the pressures."
Does adversity sharpen everyone's focus? Is it the natural progression of the season, especially with so many new people on the team, learning what everybody's capabilities are?
"I think it is a little bit of both. It is seeing guys make plays. When you lose, everybody dials down and everybody wants to correct what is making us lose. I think it is a little bit of both. (It is) young guys are getting better, us jelling together as a new defense and honing in on our mistakes, especially in losses."
With the Giants coming up Sunday, have you taken any time to admire Odell Beckham and some of the catches that he makes?
"He is a great player. He has already proven that early in his career. I think a lot of guys do the one-handed catches in pregame. He gets more (publicity) for it because of his big catch against Dallas. He is a great player (with) great hands. He is a great all-around receiver, not just catches."
What kind of message does it send the team when you see the offense execute a fake field goal, (convert on a) 3-and-7 from his three (yard line) with a 47-yard throw to (Brandin) Cooks and (complete) a 20-yard pass to (Marques) Colston to close out the game? Does that say something about the aggression that you are going to play with overall?
"Yes, definitely. That is just our offense though. I think that is what we've held our hat on since coach Payton has been here, being aggressive and attacking guys. I think that is what we're staying as. We expect that out of the offense. They have been the juggernaut of this team for a long time now. That was nothing new."
Approaching the midpoint of the season, what are you impressions of this team? What kind of team do you think this is?*
"I like this team. We have fighters on this team. I think we have guys that can handle adversity. I think we mesh together (well). I think we have nowhere to go but up. We have a lot of young players but everybody has a lot of heart on this team. I truly mean that. Day in and day out, guys come into work with a smile on their face, regardless of what happened on Sunday."