New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - Conference Call with New Orleans Media - Monday, November 5, 2018
What were some of the things that stood out from the game?
"The end of the first half stood out. The interception we get with Alex (Anzalone) converted into a touchdown. That was significant after we had just scored. I didn't like the way the final (defensive) series (of the first half) played out where they ended up getting a field goal. We'll get that corrected. That needs to be cleaned up. I thought in the second half we made some key stops, particularly the fourth down stop. Obviously, the play to Mike Thomas on third down when the game had gotten closer was significant. All in all, enough to win, but a lot of things that we need to clean up."
I know Todd Gurley had the 24-yard run, but other than that it seemed like you did a pretty good job with him. What has made this defensive front especially play so well this season?
"I thought all season we've defended the run pretty well. We thought that was going to be important in this game. They present some challenges though in that they can go either direction a lot of times with what they want to do in the running game. Some of the challenges we dealt with were not as much run-related, but they were more tempo-related., with a long huddle, up to the line for two seconds, snapped the ball real quick and get into the passing game which makes things hard or stresses you defensively. Relative to the run game, I was pleased with how we fit it. I thought we won that battle, clearly, whether it was total yards, rushing yards, total attempts. We felt that was going to be important."
I think Drew (Brees) brought it up last night, but situationally was that maybe one of your better games last night in terms of third downs, red-zone offense, all that stuff?
"Yes. I think the first thing that comes to mind is periodically you'll play in games where you don't have a lot of third downs. I felt that was one of those games. So our first and second down efficiency was real good. When we got to third downs, we converted. We converted two fourth downs. We were able score the touchdowns we needed in the red area and make enough big plays in the passing game. I thought we blocked them well up front and I thought our protection was good and our running game was good. I thought up front we did a good job against a pretty good run front."
If you could expand on that, you had a different plan in this game than you did against the Ravens when you were trying to neutralize that front, but how has the offensive line handled these different challenges week after week?
"Yes. The teams are different. How we play a game was different. There was a flow to it. There was a rhythm to it at home where all of a sudden you just felt the momentum going. Drew had a hot hand and guys were getting open. I thought they blocked well. There's some hurries and some hits, but relative to what we had seen on tape, I thought our guys really did a good job of handling the front. We got a lot of five-man rush which meant a lot of man coverage or three-under zone pressures coverage. So we were able to make enough big plays, enough to score the points we were able to."
The guys in general were saying that (Aaron) Donald and (Ndamukong) Suh were even better than they look on film. Could you see that from your level on the field?
"Donald's probably one of the better defensive players in the game right now. He is real active, extremely strong, leverage, great flexibility, plays hard. He's as tough a defensive lineman as we'll see all year and we see every week real talented players. Then Suh inside at the nose, we just knew that the challenges weren't necessarily going to be chip edge threats as much as they were going to be interior threats."
You and Drew (Brees) both mentioned how the defense crashed down on Alvin (Kamara) for that touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. With the way defenses pay attention and decide to defend Alvin (Kamara), does it open up as many things in your playbook as you've ever had with a player?
"There is flexibility. It depends largely on who we put on the field with him. In other words, if I put a tight end, and Mark Ingram, and Zach Line, and Mike Thomas and then Alvin (Kamara), there's a better-than-good chance they're going to treat him as the 'Z' receiver. And then there's times where we'll put him on the field with Mark (Ingram), (a) couple other receivers, and a tight end and then they are probably going to treat him as the nickel or third receiver. So in each of these personnel groupings, the plan has to have a starting point relative to what we hope to get coverage-wise on him. And the play we hit yesterday was a man scheme – a third down scheme where, these guys did a ton of double here, double there. Single the rest of the players. The underneath coverage jumped on Alvin. Drew did a great job of seeing the vertical run by Mike."
What did you think of P.J.'s (Williams) tackling and awareness on a couple of those plays late in the game?
"He had a good game. He played a lot of snaps. We were almost a 100% nickel. So, three linebackers played in the game. Mainly it was A.J. (Klein), and Demario (Davis), and Alex (Anzalone). P.J. I thought had a good game with a lot of responsibility relative to what he was seeing."
Just to clarify, Manti (Te'o) was inactive just because of the matchup against the Rams and the way they run their offense?
"Strictly the type of team we were playing. And we brought up the extra corner and down the one linebacker. Had nothing to do with how he's playing."
Do you think your defense is where you want it to be when it comes to forcing turnovers the last couple games?
"Yes. Those have been good plays for us. We still have to improve our red zone defense. That is the one area that is bothering me relative to where we are at. And we are almost at the bottom of the league. That is an area that has to get better for us to have success as a team."
Are you speaking in terms of keeping them off the board in those situations or keeping them out of the end zone?
"When we talk about red zone defenses, it's generally just touchdown efficiency right now. When a team's inside the 15, just finding ways to force more field goals. The touchdown efficiency number that we're on right now is absurdly high."
Do you have any halfway message or assessment?
"Nope. No halfway report cards or any of that. None of that. The point is though, and it is a good point, there's eight games left. In other words, there is a ton of football left. There are a ton of things we have to improve on and we need to improve on, or it is going to hurt us later. And I mentioned one of them right now – red zone defense. That that has to get better. Those numbers – you can't find any team having success later in the season with the numbers that we currently have. We have to find a way to improve that."
What is something that's red zone defense specific as opposed to just defense specific?
"Red zone defense. How we're playing fronting coverage. How are we forcing a field goal? Currently, we're last in the league in that area. In other words, the average, just take the trips in, touchdowns scored, do the simple math and we're just under 80 percent. So 78 percent of the time you enter our red zone, you are scoring a touchdown and that is not good."