New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with Local Media
Friday, October 16, 2015
Dannell Ellerbe seemed to show up a lot on the stat book; how did he do?
"Real well. He is one of our most athletic linebackers. The challenge for him, and for us, was just being patient with his toe. He had a pretty significant turf toe (injury). I think many kind of didn't see the vision for him. We felt like, when he was going to be healthy, he was definitely going to be an impactful player for us. It was great to see last night. He moves well, he's got really good football instincts, and that is a big plus when you are playing at linebacker. His effort on the one caused fumble and then the recovered fumble, he was very good."
With those missed field goals last night, were there any issues with the snaps or holds, or were they just misses?
"They were just misses. I thought the operation was fairly clean (and) the protection was good. It is something that we have to keep working on. We are going to play in a game that is going to be a bit closer than that. That one could've easily been real close. We just have to be better."
You said that Delvin (Breaux) had some one-on-one responsibilities with Julio (Jones); what are the skills of his that made you feel that he'd be a good guy to leave one-on-one with Julio?
"He has been playing with a lot of confidence. Number one, he has the size. I think that's important. We've got a group of corners that are big and that was probably one of our big goals this offseason. I think the other thing is his foot quickness. We were going to be smart. We didn't just sit in man (coverage). We were in and out of man and zone (coverage), with probably a lot more zone later in the game. He was going to star Julio in all of those man (situations) and travel with him in certain zone coverages. It is understanding the leverage (and) understanding where he is lined up. I think Kyle (Shanahan) and those guys in Atlanta have done a really good job of mixing up where you find him. Sometimes he is in the bunch, sometimes he is in the slot and sometimes he is sitting at X. It becomes more problematic as you put your coverages together. He was very competitive. He had a close play down in the red area and almost intercepted a ball. Most importantly, we stayed on top of him. That all being said, great players like Julio and Matt (Ryan) get together and there are some combinations inside with some chunk plays. All in all, he has really been doing a good job. One of the big points of emphasis here in the last few weeks was just reducing these penalties and I was pleased last night. I thought that was important for us."
Obviously when you have as much turnover as you did last year, with 25 new players on the roster, you have a vision for how you see things. Do you get frustrated that you haven't yet, just as a matter of circumstance, been able to see that vision play out? Are you anxious to see that complete vision on the field together?
"There is a process that takes place, and obviously you want to win and you want to have success. At 2-4, no one is happy with where you sit right now. There is only one way to approach that and that, each week, is to look closely at the next game but pay attention to the things that you have to improve on. To your overall point, when we talk about a vision, there are obviously some younger guys playing and I think that last night was a good team win in all three phases. (We'll) keep working at it and continue to get better as a team. We did a good job with the takeaways-giveaways last night. That is something that also has to continue."
What were your thoughts on Tony Hills and how he was able to step in only nine days after you signed him?
"It was impressive. He enters the game and it is tough because he doesn't get a lot of reps. He has been here long enough to maybe have one hotel bill. All of a sudden, he is pretty much going to start the whole game now because Andrus (Peat's) injury came early. He handled that, and I thought he handled it well. He settled in, especially when we were throwing it like we were. I really liked the look in his eye at halftime. I bet he and I had maybe eight words with each other in the short time that he has been here. I challenged him a little bit and he responded. I was really excited for how he competed. His energy on the sideline was really positive."
You said you challenged him a little bit; was it something you said at halftime?
"You just jab a guy in the chest and you say let's go. The look in his eye was right."
Now that you have had a few hours to reflect on that blocked punt, what was your take on Steve Gleason being there and how closely that resembled the one back in 2006?
"There are so many ironies to it. Steve is there each week for us and we see him before we go out on the field. What was very similar, I can remember like it was yesterday the sequence of events leading to Steve's blocked punt. Each week, we would have a certain rush in so every week it would be very common for each team to have a block of the week, or a way for us to get after a punt. In '06, (Special Teams Coordinator) John Bonamego felt real good about the block we had. It was just a matter of when. John and I had talked briefly before the game about when we might want to do it, maybe earlier than later. Sure enough, when they are three-and-out and are punting for the first time, John turned to me and said hey, you want to rush this one, and we said let's go. Jump forward to last night, Greg (McMahon) and Stan (Kwan) have had this rush in and have worked it a few different times. I said to Greg, let's look to do this possibly on their first punt. Let's see where they are at, field-position-wise. Sure enough, it was another situation (where they were) backed up a little bit and we went ahead with the call. It was fantastic to see. Our players did a good job with executing it, Michael (Mauti) and all of those guys. One of the big challenges in the kicking game, in order to block a punt you have to be all in and feel like you have the chance to, and 20 times not get home. On the 21st time maybe you have that chance. There is a mental discipline to doing that. Those guys did a great job. Shortly after, during the game, all of a sudden on the jumbo Tron, you see Steve. I know it was important to him and obviously a pretty cool moment."
What's the balance you have to strike with a younger team, making sure the team doesn't get too low after the Philadelphia loss, versus the high of the Atlanta win?
"I think we have to pay close attention (to that). One of the challenges as a coach in tough losses is there are some things that you have to look at closely, at the mistakes, and sometimes in a big win you have to pay close attention to the mistakes made. That could go by the wayside otherwise. When these guys get back in here, we're going to be coaching them hard. There were a lot of positive things in the game and there were a handful of things that we're going to take that we have to be better at."
What went into the fourth down call near the goal line?
"Well, the fourth and four was a no brainer freeze. There was a part of me, I just wasn't ready to concede a field goal. Typically you run that no brainer freeze and its third and two or fourth and two and you get a jump, you get a first down, but in this case we weren't going to get a first down, but we were going to get half the distance. It would be very easy for us to just take a delay of game and kick the field goal. We sent in the heavy personnel with a little bit of motion and Drew did a great job with the snap count. We got them to jump which put it at fourth and two, and now I felt strongly that there was going to be a great sense of us running the ball if we sent goal line (personnel) in. So we sent goal line in and we have had this play action pass in for four weeks. I said to Drew the night before, 'we have to call this so we can get to another play to work on because we have had this up for too long,' and guys did a good job with protections, play fake and the timing was right and half of your goal line success comes with the timing of calls. So after we got the fourth and two there was that sense that we were going to run the ball and it was just a simple pop pass."
What do you attribute the offensive line improvement from the first half to second half and do you think that's an area that will really help this offense get things going?
"Two things, our run defense and our run offense we have to improve on. I think in the second half both sides of the ball were better. I think that there was an attrition that took place with the lead and we were able to. We knew that time of possession would be important. We didn't want to get into a game where we were just throwing it. We got to a few schemes and in the second half our guys settled in and we were able to have some success, but the time we held the ball was going to be important. That one time we held the ball on that one scoring drive that followed their first score of the second half was very important to keep it a two-score lead. "
Is Keenan Lewis still on a pitch count after coming back from that injury?
"Yeah, we have to be smart with his injury and coming back. That will just progress as he gets better."
Did you all learn anything from these quick turnarounds that could be used in a normal week of preparation?
"Well, I think on a short week, number one, the numbers tell us that a fast start is important. There were remarkable numbers on Thursday night games last year for the teams that scored first. The key is, really, they're out of the pads and time spent on the field is more of a mental approach and what's going to be most important is the energy and the things necessary to play a physical game. In turn, how does that apply to a longer week? Well, the schedule would be similar, there would just be more days. We were able to handle that at home for the first time in a while. I can't recall us having a Thursday home game. It's been a while since we've played a Thursday home game, but we handled the schedule well."
How much of Seattle's old defense did you see in the Falcons from Dann Quinn?
"I mean that's what they do, they're very good at it. You put the film on and that's the package. Dan has done a great job with it on film. Those guys have done a great job of taking the ball away, they run well. That's the one thing, they run to the ball and get to the ball with great passion."
How were you able to take advantage of that then?
"Well, you're going to get a little more zone than man. I thought Drew did a good job of hitting the throws in the zone windows. We made some throws off the boot leg and misdirection to Ben (Watson). Both teams threw a lot of naked (boot legs). The long play fake where the quarterback ends up on a boot leg, but I think our first and second down efficiency was solid. I can't recall a bunch of third and tens or third and eights or nines. The other thing about that defense, and they're very good at, is you have to be patient in attacking it. It's very hard to get behind it. It was one of the mistakes on Monday night a few years back against Seattle that we really struggled with, and we played a little bit more patient in the playoff game, came up short, but you have to be smart with the football and know where the zones are and then be able to sustain drives."
Was there a game plan for Ben Watson going into the game?
"I would be misleading you if I envisioned Ben having that many catches for that many yards. All of a sudden, progression-wise, it happened. Sometimes that's how it works and he did a great job. He was big in the play action passing game. He separated in a couple of the man looks he had on third downs and Drew has a ton of confidence with the location. There is one play action where the linebacker is really right in his hip and Drew just does a great job of kind of putting it on his ear. It was a real good effort by him. I was happy for him. I don't know that we went into the game saying alright Ben we are going to target you this amount of times. Sometimes it happens within the progression of the play."
Going forward will you make him more a part of the game plan because of his performance?
"He is always a part of the game plan. We value his ability, and answering the question last night was one where on the back end of a few of these boots and on some other plays we have a route where there is a progression it's Cooks, it's Ben so I don't know where we are ever just saying on this play we are throwing it to Ben, and I think that Drew did a very good job of seeing the coverage and making the reads, but that was a great effort by him."
You get a mini break after 5 games, how advantageous is it to have those breaks coming that far apart and what do you and the staff do these extra couple of days to prepare?
"Well, two-fold, number one there is a plus from an injury standpoint. Whether it's Thomas (Morstead), Terron (Armstead), a few of our guys nicked up, getting Keenan (Lewis) healthy. That is the first thing that comes to mind. Secondly, we are really looking closely at these past games we've played and not fooling yourself as to what you haven't, and I've got a few mental notes as to things that I think need to change as we start up next week. When our players get in here we will hit the ground running and get working on Indianapolis, but just as importantly work on New Orleans with what we're doing well and what we're not."