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Roman Harper: "We have to be better at starting games fast"

Q&A with New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper

New Orleans Saints Safety Roman Harper
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, December 9, 2013

The team has been pretty dominant at home, but 3-3 on the road. With two road games coming up down the stretch, are you anxious to see how the team handles road games going forward?
"It's not so much about being on the road that really causes us problems. It's the fact that when we don't have success early, how guys respond and things like that. I think that's been the biggest, in my perspective from the outside looking in at times because I was injured earlier this year. When we come out and we play fast early, we get off to good starts offensively and defensively, that's when we're at our best. We've got to try to find a way to, no matter where we're at location-wise, be able to come out of the locker room and start fast. When we do that, we have success."

Can you talk about getting back to playing the way this team is used to playing?
"It really feels good to have a great win against a division opponent like that, especially one that was as hot as they were. (It was good) For us to go out there and have a dominant victory the way we did defensively, to really play well up front, to have some great coverage sacks and things like that. Great overall team win. Offensively, for us to put up as many points and yards and to be as successful as we were on third down against a great defense who has really been one of the top two or three all year. To have success against those guys is really a nice step in the right direction to where we want to go."

Can you talk about the play of the secondary in general last night? It seemed like you guys gave them pretty much no opportunities to get open for a good part of the game.
"Well the big thing is I think we were confident last night and had a good sense of swag about us. We played together, and I talked to the guys earlier about (how) last week it seemed like we played sometimes for ourselves. When you're playing defense, it's all about playing for the guy next to you. It's all about playing together. The tightest group is the group that wins on defense. We've got to be able to do it for each other. Up front, we really played well last night. Whenever you play well up front, it always helps the secondary out because now we're not having to cover very long. Cam (Newton) is a tough get-down too, but overall I think we did a great job of covering these guys and really trying to nullify them and take away what they like to do."

Do you think this was the best the secondary has played this season?
"I'm not going to sit up there and say that, man. It's different situations that go into each and every play. It's not like we were clean on every play. I think we made some big time plays down there in the red zone. Kenny Vaccaro played really well last night. Malcolm (Jenkins) had a couple of great plays. Corey (White) and Keenan (Lewis), everybody really was all-in last night. We were all on and we all had a sense of focus and urgency last night, and you could really see that. If we come like that every game it's going to be tough, because we're definitely talented. Sometimes mentally and some other things kind of get in the way of us performing at a high level."

What makes Marques Colston so special?
"Just consistency. He's always been Drew's guy. People want to start looking at Jimmy (Graham), look at Jimmy, next thing you know you almost forget about Marques Colston because he's not talking. He's not doing a lot of things to make noise or anything. He's just slowly but silently just continuing to just work and kill you. These past four or five games he's really picked it up for us. His numbers were kind of low early and you could definitely sense his frustration because he's always been the guy. Whether he tells you or not, he wants the ball. He wants to make the catches. He wants to be the guy. All he does is make big plays for us. I've seen it for eight years now, and it just seems like nothing has changed…besides the routes. He's not running as many fades as he used to. Now he's just running across the middle making some big plays for us. It's a thing of beauty, man. I was so happy for him last night, and I really thought he had three touchdowns. The old Colston would've jumped over that guy, is all I'm saying."

There was a record number of touchdowns yesterday even though there was bad weather all around the league. What's the primary challenge for a defensive player in those conditions?
"Man, just trying to keep your feet up under you. That Detroit and Philadelphia game, I don't know how you even play in something like that. That snow was everywhere. They couldn't even kick the ball, right? Yeah I saw that game and I couldn't imagine being in something like that. Being from Alabama, I had never seen snow once growing up. It's definitely different, and I think being a defensive guy you need to try to keep your feet up under you. You've got to understand that receivers aren't going to catch the ball well. It's going to be just an ugly game. You've got to be able to tackle these running backs. I know that's tough and people are sliding and falling all over the place; footing is definitely a huge issue when it comes to something like that. I wouldn't even know how to explain that because I've never been in anything like that."

What do you think about playing a Super Bowl in those conditions?
"It can't be that bad. It can't be. Cold you can deal with, but three inches of snow – and it snowed hard the whole game – I don't know how, I have no idea. If it is man, it is what it is, and the NFL I guess they get what they want by putting the Super Bowl in New York."

How much does this team embrace big games in primetime at home?
"We understood how last night was a big game for us divisional-wise, where we want to be, playoff position-wise. We needed that game and we are definitely a hungry team. Last week we were embarrassed on national TV, and everybody saw that. Everybody felt it, and nobody liked it. Going forward, we knew how big it was. Sean (Payton) had the Ying Yang Twins come, it was pretty entertaining. We knew that we really wanted to get this thing going. The crowd was into it early and that's always a big key for us, especially at home. We had been able to take advantage of that crowd noise."

What are the difficulties, maybe emotionally, of embracing that or just having these big games back-to-back?  Is it hard to switch focus from week-to-week like that?
"Not really. Once you start to do it for a while, you kind of understand that the more we win, the bigger each game is going to get. It comes with the territory. You've got to understand that this isn't even playoff football, and the intensity is starting to turn up more and more each game and that's a good thing. We've got to get these guys prepared for playoff football, which is going to be the most intense. Everybody is going to do something they haven't shown you before. They're going to do everything they can to win that game, and that's how it is. As much as we can get this, kind of, right now will only prepare us for the long haul. At the end of the day, that's what you want. You want to be in big games. You want to be in primetime games where everybody can see you, all your peers are watching, all your friends and family back home can see. This is what you always dreamed of doing when you were little. Now that we're all fulfilling our goals and our dreams, it's kind of fun playing in front of everybody."

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