<span> <span style="">New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton</span> <span style="">Monday, December 21, 2009</span>
<span style="">Opening Statement:</span>
"The schedule for us this week is pretty much the same as it has been. Thursday these guys will practice and we'll get them out of here in the afternoon and then Friday we'll push things back to the middle of the day. For the most part the workdays will remain the same. After seeing the tape and going through it yesterday with our players, there are a number of things that we have to get back to work on and clean up obviously. We credit Dallas; they did a good job in the game and their players did a good job and made the plays when it counted. Our focus will shift now to Tampa Bay after yesterday's film and grades on the Dallas game."
Were the unblocked guys the most disappointing thing from Saturday's game?
"Three times it came up where from a mental error or a miscommunication, and that typically hasn't been an issue and hasn't come up a lot. The front that they play is a little unique; it's a 3-4 front and yet they'll leave it on the field in some nickel situations. Those are things that we can easily correct and we have to correct as we move forward. You want to do your best; you're going to lose some one-on-one battles in blocking, but you don't want to lose battles to where you just turn a player free and put your quarterback at risk like that."
Are those things that you could have corrected during the game?
"It's a mental assignment. Whether it's sliding the line to a direction or having a back block to it. In fact, once it happens you know exactly what happened. It's just being right on with each look you get."
Were you surprised that DeMarcus Ware played?
"No. Knowing him and the feedback that we got later in the week, the feeling was that he would play in nickel and third downs. But you don't know how much he's going to play and he's a good rusher. Certainly at the end, there were a few plays where I wish I would have done a better job of giving help to Jermon Bushrod down the stretch there. That's a tough assignment for any tackle to have and we've typically done a pretty good job formationally with our protections in accounting for a real good pass-rusher and that's something that in hindsight we would have done better."
Did the fact that you were trailing prevent you from keeping more guys in to block?
"No, you can still help and give a presence over there with a back. In a good portion of the snaps we did a pretty good job of handling him, but you get a critical snap like at the end of the game and that becomes tough."
How do you and the players balance dealing with the loss and looking at where you are in the standings overall?
"One thing we've tried to do is to really be honest each week as we've gone through the season. We've had some good wins and we've had some wins where we were able to put the tape on and see things we needed to clean up. The mindset we've taken throughout the course of the year is that after that 24 to 48-hour period after the game is over with, by the time the players come back in on Wednesday they're ready for the next challenge and the next step. As a competitor, it's painful whenever you lose. For the players, coaches, all of us, there's a sting to it because of the momentum that we had gained throughout the course of the year with the wins. That being said, our plan will be very consistent with the way we've approached each of our weeks this season. Wednesday when they're back the focus will shift clearly to Tampa Bay and it has begun to do that already."
How important is the idea of momentum going into the playoffs? Have you lost some momentum in recent weeks?
"We're 13-1 right now. I think the most important thing is focusing on securing the one-seed. That's what we have to do right now and obviously we have to look closely at the things that hurt us in a loss like that. The big plays, special teams, offensively – really we have to look at all those areas and look to try to improve like we talk about improving week to week. I think we'll have our focus. Obviously it hurts to lose a game but we'll respond to it."
If you clinch that one-seed does your attitude change regarding resting players?
"Really the focus we've tried to take throughout with all of the questions surrounding the what-ifs is to leave that to everyone to write about. The only game we can play is the next one, so that's where our focus will be. I know that right now our plans are to have a great week of practice, clean up the mistakes, get ready to play a team coming in off a big win in Seattle last week in Tampa and understand the turnover aspects aspect of the game, the field position aspect of the game – the things that keep you from winning games, which certainly hurt us the other night."
How much can rust be a concern if you do rest players and have a bye week in the playoffs?
"We're not resting them. We're playing right now. There are only two weeks left in the regular season and we're full speed ahead with this game that we're playing. I'm not really dealing with the hypotheticals, I'm just staying focused on this game right now."
How do you address the fact that you've gotten off to slow starts in recent games?
"We work on and make a point of emphasis of starting fast. That's an area that we haven't done as well with lately. Falling behind 14, you don't feel like necessarily you're going to get away from running the ball or doing some of the things you want to do. When it got to 21 later in the third quarter it became a little bit more problematic but to answer your original question, I do think that's an area that we've talked about and we have to become better at, starting with the field position and getting the stops that we want. I said the other night that third down was a pretty telling statistic in the loss."
What does it mean to not have the potential of playing for 16-0 anymore?
"It's what we said after the game. I just think that when you work all week and you invest a lot of energy and effort into a gameplan and you're able to do that with success for 'X' number of weeks in a row and then you come up short in a game, it's painful. Someone asked a foolish question if there was a sense of relief and the answer to that would still be no. That is a foolish question. The feeling is pain because there's a competitive side to wanting to win each game you play. We'll swallow it and get on and make the corrections and be ready to have a real good workweek this week. That's the thing that hurts with losing."
Is there any additional sentiment because it is the first loss?
"Certainly when you get to where we were with three weeks left in the season, there's additional pain there. We hadn't felt that way in a long time. We hadn't felt that feeling of how it feels to lose a game in a long time. There are two aspects that drive you; how it feels to win and the feeling of accomplishment of having done something together as a team and then the pain of how it feels to lose. Both of those things are motivational factors in athletes and coaches. Both of those things drive you to do well."
Does a loss linger longer than a win does for you?
"No. We're asking of our players the same thing. It stings and there's that 24 to 48-hour period and we're not going to in any way, shape or form lose that game twice. I don't think so."
Did Tracy Porter play a solid game?
"Yes and he played more snaps than we anticipated and felt good. It was good to have him out there."
Are you still somewhat in flux at cornerback with Randall Gay's injury?
"We'll see where we're at. Wednesday we'll have a better feel for who's practicing and how much work they're getting. But it's good to have one of your starters back in Tracy. I thought his rehab has gone well considering the injury and when it happened. He felt pretty good after the game."
Do you feel like Porter's full go?
"He played 60-something snaps the other day."
What was Randall Gay's injury?
"He got dinged. We took him out and held him out to see how we responded and we'll see where he's at this week."
Was there anything you were required to do in handling him?
"No. There's a protocol involved. We'll follow that and see where he's at."
Can you talk about David Thomas' contributions?
"He played more snaps the other night because of (Jeremy) Shockey being inactive. He's provided versatility at the fullback position with Heath (Evans) being injured. He played more tight end and wide snaps the other night. He's someone that's smart, picks things up very quickly and does provide versatility for us and that's important. He played probably the most amount of snaps last weekend and handled them pretty well, but he does have that flexibility. He makes good decisions, all those things, because you do know what you have in the player."
How is Reggie Bush?
"We'll see this week. It's just a mild hamstring. He felt it get tight. I expect him to work this week. It wasn't anything real severe. We'll see on Wednesday."
How much football did you watch this weekend?
"Not a lot. A little bit of last night, but not much."
Do you see the result of Saturday's game as an isolated event or do you see a correlation with the close finishes of your last three games?
"No. It's a different team, a different game, a loss. The other games were wins. I don't think you're going to win in this league by 14 or 21 points. I think it's unrealistic. You do want to pay attention to what you're doing well and what you're not doing well and there's some things we have to get better at. They're easy to point out, certainly in the film yesterday, so I think like I said, each week, you kind of turn the page to the next challenge, being very careful to pay attention to what just took place. I think we'll continue to do that."
How much do you think in the back of your head about preparing for the eventual playoff contest as well as preparing for the upcoming opponent?
"I do think you want to be battle tested and react for the upcoming challenges. I think it's an area we're pushing for right now, to first secure the best possible seed. That's what we're playing for right now and that's what's important. We're playing to improve and to be operating efficiently. In the meantime, there's a handful of guys nursing some injuries, with a chance to get back here in the next couple weeks. There are a few fighting through those injuries, but all that being said, it isn't until you play that last game that you truly begin to turn the page and look at that next challenge, because first, you don't know who it's against, when you have a bye. There's some uncertainty. All those things are for future discussion. Right now it's about still preparing to play Tampa Bay and to play better than we did last week."
Did Carolina's win last night take a little bit of sting off of Saturday night?
"No, I think certainly it's helpful as you look toward what our goals are and we need to win. A win secures the one seed for us right now. That's something that really has never been accomplished here. I've been somewhere where you're a one seed. That can be a big advantage if you take advantage of it."
Will a point of emphasis this week be getting back to the run/pass balance you had earlier this season?
"I think that obviously we're striving for that balance and I think that it helps you in a lot of ways when you don't become one dimensional, so clearly you don't want to be in a position where everyone knows you're going to throw the football. We found ourselves in a little of that hole the other day when falling behind. It's much easier obviously when you're playing with a lead in the second half, to be able to find those carries. Generally it's the result of playing from ahead or playing with some points, so all those things we want to work on and look to improve on."
Have opponents been throwing some unconventional things at you the past few weeks defensively?
"Not really. I don't think so. At this point in the season, teams get into doing certain things real well, so there's really not a lot of curveballs or wrinkles, it's maybe how much man or how much zone, but pretty much the same."
Do you buy into the theory about teams having momentum heading into the postseason?
"I think it's important to work on improving each week. Certainly as you get ready for the postseason, you have that mindset you're ready to play. I've been a part of teams that if you look down the stretch in 2006, we had the bye; we won the first game and lost in the NFC Championship game. I think we collectively coming off a loss just like we did against Dallas, obviously we focused on the importance of a win, our first win here to secure the one seed. In regards to playing as the end of the season finish, I think it's important to be playing with confidence. It's important you've cleaned up the mistakes where they don't end up costing you a playoff game."
Can you update us on Sedrick Ellis?
"There's no update now really in regards to any injury, which is pretty normal for a Monday."
Was he injured the week prior to this game?
"No, it was something we ended up holding him out. We expect he'll have a chance to go this week."