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Quotes from Saints Coach Sean Payton's NFC Championship media availability - January 16, 2019

Saints head coach spoke to the media on Wednesday, Jan. 16

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - Post-practice Media Availability - Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Do you have a different appreciation for how tough it is to get to this point than maybe in 2006 when you got here in your first year as a head coach?
"A lot goes into it. Obviously, you have to play good football. We just finished talking about (how) as you set your goals to start the season, you start with trying to win your division. The second goal being to get the best seed possible and obviously it's a long season. As a coach this is my fourth (head coach and offensive coordinator) one and you recognize the journey is there's a lot that goes into it."

Talk about your relationship with Drew Brees over the years through those first two championship games?
"It was '09 or '06. Honestly when I get asked that question relative to his age (turning 40 yesterday) or our age you know it feels like maybe seven or eight years not necessarily 13. So, there's always a change relative to what we're doing offensively that involves who we're doing it with. So personnel is changed from the '06 team to the '09 team. Each year there's new pieces there are guys that have left and certainly you evolve offensively. His preparation, how we gameplan, all of those things though would be pretty constant."

What do you think of this Rams team right now?
"They're playing real good football. They've had a great season. Last week was an impressive win, areal impressive win considering the opponent Dallas all year long, we like as one of the top defenses and those guys (Rams offense) did a real good job in that game. Defensively, they did a good job. They've always been at the top in our league in the kicking game. I remember John (Fassell) when he was one of our ballboys at the Giants, Jim's son. He's been fantastic for them. It will be a great challenge, a real good atmosphere, good environment, two real good football teams."

Talk about the Rams and how they are different now with the addition of C.J. Anderson to their backfield?
"He's been a great addition. He's come in there. He had a fantastic game last week. He's a physical runner. When he gets into the second level of your defense, he's a tough guy to tackle. When you partner him with (Todd) Gurley, those guys looked good last week."

How do you think your run defense has altered the makeup?
"I think it's important. One of the challenging things defensively is if you have trouble stopping the run there are a lot of other things that open up offensively, it is tough to rush the passer. Then your first down and second down efficiency becomes that much better. Obviously if you're running the ball well, third downs become more favorable for the offense so there's a lot that goes into that. Time of possession swings in the favor of the team that is efficient there and so I think that's been real important and we'll get tested in this game. Sure."

What's the benefit for you calling your own plays and is there some something you have to give up in order to do?
"Yes, there's a give and take with it. I'm sure we're a little longer in our offensive meetings because you're pulled away from it occasionally. But the benefit (is) it's easier when the buck stops with you to call what your gut tells you to call. I've been a coordinator and not the head coach and called plays and you're wanting to manage the game. I enjoy doing it and will I do it forever? Probably not. And Pete's (Carmichael) done a fantastic job when he's done it. Back in 2011 was the first time I didn't. And. I think we had 600 yards offense and some fifty-something (62) points (in his first game calling the plays). So Pete did a pretty good job. But it's a process though it's not just it's tonight late, it's tomorrow night, late where you're really looking at what you're wanting to get to and putting the categories together and so there are a lot of those decisions that are made during the week that you get to on gameday."

Do you think tempo can impact both of these teams?
"The team we're playing in L.A. has great tempo. They give you up to the line quick count. They give you up to the line shift in there. So you get a number of different looks. And I said this before the late Jim Johnson who was at the Eagles and probably one of the better defensive coordinators that our league has seen know he always felt that type of thing along with shifts and motions were the offense's way to blitz the defense and so I think tempo is important whether it's on and off the field with your personnel groups and then certainly the ability to go on the quicker cadence the slower cadence. Good thing is we're at home and so that's a significant advantage relative to the communication."

Can you talk about how your offensive line handled Aaron Donald last time?
"I just finished watching the cut up. Part of that's credit to Drew (Brees). There were some near explosive hits. It's hard to say you're going to keep him in check. He's played as well. at that three technique position that we've seen in years. I mean. Arguably and I don't know if it's even an argument that he's the best defensive player today in football and his numbers, his production. It shows up in the run game, it shows up in the past the passing game and it's a challenge."

What are your memories of Andrew Whitworth?
"He is sharp. We had a chance to coach him in the Pro Bowl. He is a fantastic guy, someone that is a pleasure to be around. He's smart, extremely talented. When you you're around those guys at that game, Whitworth, all of those guys, there's a number of coaches on that staff that were close with either worked here, we know well and we have great respect for."

How is it different having Aqib Talib in the lineup for this game?
"He's helped them a bunch. I mean he's the number one. He's an extremely smart player. And he's played in countless, you know, postseason games.

What goes into the decision-making of fourth-and-one or fourth-and-two?
"Where you're at in the game, field position. How's the game going? There's a handful of things relative to a decision like that where you're out on the field and then what type of game you feel like you're in. That can vary and sometimes we spend a lot of time with the numbers and yet sometimes (you go with) your gut as well."

Are you more of a chicken sausage or Andouille gumbo guy?
"Next question. I don't like seafood. I know where you're going (laughter)."

What do you think goes toward the trend the last several years where a good team almost certainly has a good offense?
"I think the teams are playing good offense and good defense. What makes a good team? It's not just one side of the ball or the other. And obviously you need to have good quarterback play. We talked about defending the run. It's hard to get to where we're at now being one dimensional or just (passing). And I think when you look at the teams right now that are that are playing, what Kansas City did at Indianapolis last week defensively was real impressive. Considering what we had seen from Indianapolis offensively. To your point though relative to scoring that's the objective. So you have explosive players in this postseason. Guys that are extremely talented guys that are represented on the Pro Bowl the pro team whether it's at running back, quarterback receiver, tight end. But the same thing I would say on defense and I think that generally when the season's over with the best team wins and it's not just in one area where the team wins so much.

How much self-scout do you do?
"The bye gives us a chance to self-scout That's the benefit of that week not playing. Playing a team again in the postseason. I think I said this last week. It's pretty common. Feels like. It was a long time ago, from a standpoint of when we played them last. But at this stage of the season you have 16 regular season games. You have four preseason games. And in some cases you can go back to last year even though you know the staffs were similar. We played them in Los Angeles and so all the films there's at your disposal to do what you want with it. And now it's trying to manage that put it together and put together the best plan offensively defensively in the kicking game just like they're doing right now. But you try not to. You try to really look closely at what are the things that you feel like fit and make sure there's not too much. Guys are playing fast and they know what to do."

Did you have any comments about Marcus Peters?
"He's someone that we grew real close to in the evaluation process. He's from the Bay Area. We used to recruit you know that area where he went to high school and he's someone that we came close drafting him. The year we took Andrus (Peat) one of our goals going into that draft was Peat (or) Peters. And that's the truth. So I have great respect for him and all good."

You don't like seafood, do you like gumbo?
"I'm OK with it. It's just I'm more of a Midwestern steak meat and potato guy."

Is there something about the matchup with Michael Thomas and Marcus Peters that you saw in the last game?
"No, we got a lot of man in that game, a lot more man maybe than even expected. We've seen more zone in the last six weeks from these guys on defense. Wade (Phillips) does a great job. He mixes things up. He'll give you a four man rush. He'll give you a five man rush. So very quickly as the game unfolds you have to begin to pay attention to how you think you're getting defensed and the same thing kind of relative to the Eagles last week. From the prior game there was a certain plan. That's not uncommon For the second time around each side of the ball with both teams to look at new wrinkles and the key is quickly seeing it and then making the adjustments"

What do you see on film from the Rams on offense?
"They're precise, their tempo (is good). They give you a lot of things at the very beginning. Sean (McVay) cut his teeth under Jon Gruden. I cut my teeth under Jon Gruden. Plays that start off looking the same that are different. I remember that hearing that one hundred times (from Gruden) and Sean has taken his spin on it. They give you a lot of reduced splits. and they get access by doing that. It's harder to press some of those guys. They are very precise in what they are doing. They are outstanding in the run game. Aaron Kromer (who) is a close friend of mine is their line coach. He was here. They are talented and extremely well-coached."

The first four weeks, you auditioned so many number two running backs. What is it about Mark Ingram that makes it so hard for him to replace?
"It is a good question. We had a handful of players for the first four games and then inevitably all these games are important right? Week two's important. Is it as important as week 15? And we had to be careful and I do not know how well we did but we had to be careful not to use Alvin (Kamara) too much. So we had to have that balance. But Mark is someone who is extremely familiar with what we do in the third down, in the nickel, in the base. There is not there's not one thing I am looking at this call sheet where I am saying (he cannot do it). That ability to use either back's extremely beneficial and much easier on you when you are calling plays but when it has to be specific and all of a sudden let's say you lose one of the backs for 10 minutes, it just forces you to be a little bit more one-dimensional."

What do you admire about how he handled when things weren't going as well early in his career?
"He's been outstanding. That first round back in '11 with Cam (Jordan) and then trading back in with Mark has paid dividends."

When you were evaluating Michael Thomas what made you think he'd be special?
"His run after the catch. He was extremely physical, hard to bring down. Each year, you're trying to get as much information as you can and so you have a limited exposure relative to game tape. But he ran with the ball well in his hands. I liked his size and his strength. He was the guy we thought was the best receiver in that draft and I think it turns out we were right."

With only three drops in the regular season what makes him so efficient?
"He has strong hands in traffic, so he is not someone that needs his body to catch the football, He can catch it correctly thumbs together extended. His radius is extremely large. He's someone that is physical at the line of scrimmage. I told that story before about going out there on Thursdays and just playing a little bump and run, simulating what we get on third down and I've done that over the years with Mike Thomas or (in the past) with Marques Colston, Lance (Moore) and Devery Henderson and all those guys we've had and there was one day I was out there doing that. I'm telling you he took a release and I had a finger pointing sideways at a chest bruise. I felt like it was just in an automobile accident and that was the last time (I did that)."

How do you feel where some of the people you acquired this offseason helped your team make the next step?
"I think that's been a big part of it. I think we're in that talent procurement business and so 'well how can we do it' through the draft and then for us to sign some key free agent players, I think we got talented football players and I also think we've got leadership that has been a big part. All those things together (are) a big part of being in this position."

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