New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - Conference Call with New Orleans Media - Thursday, December 6, 2018
What's the balance when you're talking to the guys on the team about how you can win the division with a victory Sunday, but how do you balance not wanting to make it more important than any other game?
"I think they all understand at the beginning of the week, 'Okay, here is what the playoff system means.' And it is a brief education relative – but I think the most important thing is this team in front of us, this game in front of us, and finding a way to get to 11 (wins) period. Let's get to 11. And they're all smart enough to know that hey you're chasing other things that can enhance your possible opportunities down the road. And so it's that simple. And so the focus is really getting to 11 this week, and how do we do that?"
Is Mike Evans kind of a unique receiver because of his size and you combine that with his ability to stretch the field?
"He's one of those unique players. I think he has a great catch radius. I think he's smooth in transition. I think he's smart. I think he's savvy. I think he appears to be someone that is meticulous and works on his craft. So when you take a skillset, and then you take the other traits, the makeup traits, and the competitive traits and then you get kind of what you have and that's one of the better receivers in our league."
Coaches always talk about the race to improve, and obviously, you and Dennis (Allen) and the defensive staff have done a great job of improving the defensive side of the ball. What have you and Dennis done to improve the defensive side of the football since the beginning of the year that has led to making you better since that opening game against Tampa Bay?
"Well, that first game – conventional wisdom is, 'We have to play better defense.' And I would argue if we protect the ball, that was the difference. So last week (against Dallas) was a lower scoring game. You're going to get in those type of games. Now, to your question relative to the defense, I think we're generating a pass rush. I think the takeaways are obviously noticeable and I think you begin to gain confidence as a unit when you start having some success. And I think we've had some success and in each week (that) gets carried over, but the turnovers (by the Saints offense) were the difference in Week One."
I guess there's got to be schematic things that you're tweaking too along the way that play better to your personnel on that side of the ball?
"You're playing man coverages, you're playing zone coverages. Then you're trying to clean up the things that – the improvement comes from the details into each scheme. And so, yes, there's certain things week by week that might be different for that opponent. Absolutely. So I think it's probably a little dose of all the things we're talking about."
Is the way that Alvin (Kamara) gets defensed, has that changed at all from year one to year two? Is there more safety attention to him or anything like that?
"I'd say a little bit. I think it's more on passing downs. We've had a couple of weeks now where Malcolm Jenkins (vs. Philadelphia) had him on third down or passing situations. And then (Jourdan) Lewis last week. So it's a lot of defenses have kind of this Swiss Army knife player that when they get one of these oddball matchups and it could be a tight end (or) it could be a running back. Tampa Bay, they've got one as well (to cover an offense player like that), relative to when you watch the film. And because of the film (of Tampa Bay against Carolina), we see with (Christian) McCaffrey sometimes you can see or anticipate how it's going to unfold. And so I think (Andrew) Adams is that guy for them that plays in the dime. You know he'll take the runner or he'll take a tight end, whatever the matchup calls. In passing situations, it's a little bit more challenging if you're out there on first-and-ten with 21 personnel or 12 personnel."
It looks like it might rain and be windy on Sunday during the game. How do you prepare for that possibility?
"Well, it doesn't look like it's going to rain, it's going to rain. It's a 95 percent chance of rain. There'll be some wind. 10 to 12 miles an hour. We know the direction it will head from. Their locker room towards the pirate ship. I think the footing is going to be important relative to the shoes that we're wearing. Today, we're outside. Wet ball drills, the whole nine yards. So we're just understanding ball security, the conditions. We've been there before when we were sent in at halftime to go eat oranges for half an hour (due to an inclement weather delay), stretch, and then come back out and play. It's South Florida."
You've commented on these year one to year two jumps for players, have you seen (Ryan) Ramczyk make that jump this year?
"I definitely have, and he was outstanding in year one. But he's playing at a fantastic level right now. And I mean just consistent. He's had some tough matchups but he's playing extremely well."
Over the years, we've gotten used to seeing anything from mousetraps to bats in the locker room. Have you had to do motivational gimmickry or motivational ploys with this team?
"Yes. We've had our fair share of a lot of different things. Our Wednesday meetings have been a lot different maybe than in the past. What we've done kind of changes from week to week. But yes, clearly we're constantly looking at a new way to present something. All of that, it's kind of like a weekly project."
And you want to keep that message fresh with different things?
"Yes. And sometimes you present it a different way too, just from a presentation standpoint. But we're teachers (at heart). And so what are the best ways to teach certain lessons? Sometimes it might involve more video, a little bit more creativity now for these players where you're not just putting up a chart or a graph. It might be a movie scene with some player's head placed in the character and yet there's a message behind it that relates to a winning part of football."
Just following up on (Ryan) Ramczyk, is there a specific area where he's kind of made a jump this year?
"Obviously last year he started over on the left side. Quickly back over the right side (after Zach Strief's season-ending knee injury). I just think his technique and consistency has been outstanding. Remember coming in we had to give him the spring off because of an injury (suffered in college). His technique both in the run and the passing game has been real good."