SAINTS HEAD COACH SEAN PAYTON
(opening statement )
Obviously, that was a big win for us. Credit Tennessee, it was a hard fought game. I thought both teams played hard, fought through some adversity and it was a gut check win for us. A lot of things early on didn't go our way. We had some calls maybe that could have went either way. We just kept fighting and won a good game on the road against a good team so I credit them, Mike (Munchak) and staff. We knew going into this game they were going to be a tough team to play especially here and that makes the win even that much more important.
(on grading the offense today )
We felt like we played a really good defensive team. I thought our third down numbers, just looking at them, were good 11 of 18. We had to at times be patient. I thought the penalties in the first half hurt us. They make it tough on your drives to stay on the field. I thought we eliminated some of that in the second half but overall it was enough to get the win today and fortunately that is most important so a little bit different game. I thought we ran the ball fairly well especially later in the game but all-in-all one thing we have to do better job with is we had 11 penalties for 95 yards. We have got to be better there.
(on Jimmy Graham's performance)
There were kind of crazy sequences of events. We had an additional game-day spot with Sedrick Ellis. We thought Sedrick was going to play today but in pregame his hamstring felt tighter than normal and so we had a decision between a couple of players and we brought up (Michael) Higgins our third tightend in event we needed depth at that position. In about ten minutes after we did that, we turned in the inactives, Jimmy (Graham) had his back get tight in pregame warmups. In fact he came into the locker room and we thought at that point it was a good chance he was not going to play. So at that point it was a matter of just calming down his stiffness. It was one of those where he was having trouble really moving. Fortunately, the doctors did a good job and he was able to handle that and I thought early in the game that he still saw effects from the stiffness in his back and I thought probably after the first quarter he felt a lot better. We were fortunate that he was able to get back in the game and make some plays but that happened during pregame warmups. Again, not having Sedrick in the game all of a sudden was a little bit of a shift we really didn't expect.
(on Tennessee Titans' big plays late in the game)
We can't point to one defense, there are a couple of different defenses called and they made a couple of big throws and catches especially in the middle of the field. There were a couple of them that were real good plays by them and credit them. It wasn't just one defense, it was a couple of different looks. It went back and forth obviously. Late in the game they became one dimensional to get back into the game so you are going to see more passing attempts than rushing attempts. The stops on fourth downs, especially the last fourth down was big.
* (on taking over the play calling late in the game )*
We kind of went back and forth. Pete (Carmichael) has done a great job with it so I continue to lean on him and we'll do that. I think collectively as a group we all have a pretty good handle on it. Pete has done a great job so he continues to work with it and periodically I will interject and continue to try to have the input, but we kind of work on it together so there wasn't any big change or anything like that.
(on replay turnovers )
You guys probably had more angles on Jimmy Graham's touchdown and I get the question so I don't know. That's really hard on the field and honestly it really doesn't matter because it's called and then you have to get on to the next play and we talk to our players all the time about that. What you find is if you belabor it then you are just wasting energy and I think that the players need to see our reactions that way. I thought that Graham's touchdown was going to be overturned based on what we saw however it wasn't and we ended up taking a field goal.
(on an explanation by referee Mike Carey)
He just felt like he couldn't tell if that last foot, heel or if heel toe was in the green or if heel toe in the white and I get it. That was the initial call on the field.
(on being surprised that Mike Munchak didn't challenge the spot following the Jake Locker sneak)
I probably wasn't, I don't know if the spot was a bad one actually. I thought from our vantage point that they were going to get the first down. I thought it was spotted correctly. I was surprised that it didn't earn the first down because on our sideline the marker looked like it had made it but when the chains came out. I think he has done a great job and they had a good plan coming in. I made a decision late on third down to throw the football which stopped the clock with an incomplete pass. It was kind of an attempt on our part to win the game but obviously left more time on the clock. You play in those situations to be aggressive and to try to win games and you hope your players follow through. I thought our guys did a good job despite set backs and adversities we had.
(on the tackle before the fourth down play )
It was a significant tackle because I think if you freeze that play a second before he makes the play it looks like, just based on the space that he is going to get the first down. It was a huge play. Then they went with the quarterback sneak. We thought we may get a bootleg there or some play action. I thought Jake Locker did real good job coming in with the injury to Matt (Hasselbeck) and give him credit, the team rallied around him and he did some real good things.
(on your emotions during the final play )
Probably just as wound up and I don't know if you ever get use to it. You get excited about it and it comes down to it was a play. Win or lose, there it was. Fortunately, We won and coming here against a good team that's playing well. I thought we handled the running game well and that was significant. The way that Chris (Johnson) has played as of late was a concern of ours and I thought we for the most part did a pretty good job of handling him and again, that was going to be a key element to this game. We ended up with 111 rushing yards. We thought that battle was going to be important and I thought we did a good job the noise and everything else that goes with winning on the road.
(on how Jake Locker complicated things )
It changes a little bit in regards to, one of the things you have to emphasis is we feel like he is a player that does a real good job on the edge and creates plays so you just have to make sure you are working on your contain and not getting behind the quarterback in your pass rush. He's a different player than Matt (Hasselbeck). Sometimes your guys ask that question when the second guy comes in. Sometimes there are some similarities but certainly he is different.
(on the final two plays)
It came down to the little slant that they threw and Tracy (Porter) did a good job anticipating that and then we blitzed on that down and then we played coverage on the last play. He got flushed to the right, that concerns you a little bit, because he is someone that can create in space and we came up with the play when we needed it.
(on the Titans' defense forcing short pass plays )
Well they are number one in the league in pass defense in regards to giving up big plays and they do that better than anyone. Going in we felt like we were going to have to have longer drives and we were going to have to be selective in regards to our big shots. Drew (Brees) made a great throw to Marques (Colston) on, I think, a first down play that lead to a touchdown. I think you saw that on film that they are very patient defensively and they are very sound and do a good job of forcing you to be patient offensively. I thought we began to do a little bit better on that. I think the key was the penalties. When we finally cleaned that up we started moving the ball.
SAINTS QB DREW BREES
(on how offensive penalties hurt the Saints in the first half and how they were able to rebound in the second half)
Yeah, we came in at halftime and I believe we had eight penalties at halftime, and it just felt like on a few of those drives we got ourselves into first-and-20 or second-and-15—just long-yardage situations that are tough to convert, especially on the road against this defense. So we came in here at halftime and we felt like we had the ability to run the ball and throw the ball effectively, be balanced and put together drives, but we needed to prevent the penalties from thwarting those and stopping us. We executed very well coming out after halftime. We went all the way down the field on the first drive and got a field goal and then to come back with two consecutive touchdowns after that, so we put together some solid drives in the second half.
(on how tough it was to watch that last Titans drive at the end of the game)
Well you're sitting there kicking yourself saying, 'man it shouldn't come down to this.' As an offense, we had an opportunity to seal the deal; get a first down and win the game—not even let our defense have to go out there again. I've got a lot of respect for that team and their coach. They did stop us, Jake Locker came back in with a gutty performance led them down and our defense came up with two big plays on the goal line to get us the victory.
(on his two touchdown passes to Marques Colston)
Yeah the first one was third-and-10 or third-and-long and they were in a prevent-type coverage, and it was one of those things where I was trying to use my eyes a little bit and was trying, obviously, to push the ball down the field and get the first down. I think the protection was great, they had a three-man rush, and Marques just kind of popped through the defense, kind of out of no where—I think maybe defensively they thought it was time to throw the check down and so everyone kind of stops their feet and Marques just continued through their defense. It was a great job by him recognizing that and seeing it. It was a big third-down conversion that results in a touchdown and helps us to regain the lead because I believe we were down 10-9 at the time. The second one was a great job by him in man coverage, kind of working on his route, it was a down-field route, but with the bump coverage it took a little time to develop. Great protection and he did a nice job of putting himself in position away from the safety, away from the defender on the inside and also beating his own defender to a place where I could throw the ball. It was another big play, as you look at coming out in the second half after a sluggish first half and all the penalties, and just not our type of performance and we come out with three really nice drives. It seemed like time was just clicking off the clock. It didn't seem like we had a whole lot of opportunities. I know we converted a lot of third downs today, it seemed like we were in a lot of third-down situations. We converted a lot of the third-and-short ones and put ourselves in too many third-and-longs, but did a better job in the second half.
(on Marques Coltson catching all the balls that were targeted to him today)
That's good (laughs). Yeah (we're really getting into a zone), I don't know how much I buy into the whole, 'you're completing 80 percent of the balls you throw to this guy as far as targets versus the ones he catches' because we're going to call plays for everybody. We call plays that might go to one of four guys, it's just a matter of what the look is and who has the match up. I can tell you this; I have a ton of trust and confidence in Marques—as I do really, with any one of our guys. You talk about a big-time performer, I mean fourth quarter, we need some big plays and we got two of them from Marques.
* (on if it helped when Jimmy Graham was able to get his back loose and get comfortable on the field)*
It was good, it was good. I know he wasn't 100 percent, but he was battling and really did a great job. It didn't affect the game plan really, we still executed everything we had intended. I felt like we rushed the ball very well today. Just providing balance in everything we're doing. I know we had a lot of pass attempts, but it really felt like we had a great mix going—a great flow, great tempo and rhythm. I think for us, we would just like to have those trips down in the red zone result in touchdowns and not field goals. We had the two big plays from outside the red zone, but the one at the end of the half would have been nice. That was a ball location on my part; I think if I give Lance (Moore) a little better throw I think we have a touchdown. Then a great catch by Jimmy Graham coming out in the third quarter, but you don't always get those.
(on if he feels like he got away with a mistake when Titans DT Jurrell Casey batted down a pass late in the fourth quarter)
No, it wasn't a linebacker it was a defensive tackle that dropped out. I knew it was a D-tackle and those guys don't typically have good hands, but I just kind of threw it out to (Chris) Ivory and he just kind of stuck his hand out and knocked it down. In hindsight, I wish I would have just tucked it and tried to run it and get it—otherwise you just keep the clock going and we'll punt it.
SAINTS WR MARQUES COLSTON
(on the Saints not scoring a touchdown until the fourth quarter)
It was just one of those games that went back and forth for a while feeling each other out, and we were just able to make enough plays down the stretch to get out with a win.
(on his two fourth quarter touchdown receptions)
The first one was just a great play call against that defense, and Drew (Brees) was able to find me down the middle. The second one was another great play call and he just put it up there and let me go get it.
(on his second touchdown reception being a perfectly placed ball by Drew Brees)
Yeah, definitely (was a perfectly thrown ball). Meach (Saints WR Robert Meachem) did a great job getting that safety out of there and Drew just threw a great ball.
(on how nervous he was during the Titans' last drive)
We've got all the confidence in the world in our defense, and they showed through today. They made all the plays that were needed to get out of here with a win.
(on if his first touchdown reception was the highest he had to go up to get a ball in a while)
Yeah, definitely in a while, but it's good to know I've still got it.
(on if he thought it was a defensive breakdown on his second touchdown when he had a linebacker covering him)
No, I just really had to stay disciplined with the route—when things are that open you have a tendency to panic sometimes, but with a guy like Drew you just have to be in the right place.
* (on how disruptive it was in the first half with all the penalties that were called on the Saints offense)*
It definitely slowed some drives. First-and-15 and second-and-long are hard to come back from—we definitely shot ourselves in the foot early, but we were able to recover from it.
SAINTS TE JIMMY GRAHAM
(on if he knows how he injured his back during pre-game warm-ups)
Literally I was in pre-game running routes and just caught an awkward ball and everything kind of shifted. I'm going to figure it out and I'm going to see what's going on—it doesn't matter the pain, doesn't matter what I'm going through, I'm still going to play.
(on if his back injury was something he dealt with this week during practice)
No, it literally came from no where—and I hope it goes away just as fast. It's probably going to be a rough night for me, but I'll be ready to go come Sunday.
(on the television broadcast mentioning that he was wearing large cleats today and that it may have impacted his potential touchdown reception that he was ruled out of bounds)
Yeah, I think that's just that I have big feet and I was (wearing some longer cleats for the surface), but (Saints Head Coach) Sean (Payton) is real particular about what he wants us to wear and I'm not going to get yelled at on the sideline for not wearing the right cleats.
(on if he agrees with Sean Payton saying today was a gut-check win)
We knew what kind of game it was going to be coming up here, and obviously they have a great team. It was a test to prove that we can win on the road in close games and to prove that because that's all everyone has been talking about lately—definitely a gut-check win for us.
(on how much the Saints defense stepped up today)
Oh definitely. You've got a fourth-and-one right there where they just hit them in the mouth and stopped them. Then you had seven seconds on the clock and the ball is on the five-yard line at the very end of the game. The hat is off to the defense today. Jonathan Vilma did a great job leading his crew, and definitely a great team win today.
(on the Saints staying within their offense despite not scoring a touchdown in the first three quarters)
Well I think I was in there in the third quarter (laughs), but I'm not sure. I don't know what kept out, I guess, but the thing about it is that Drew is such a good leader that his confidence and the way he leads us out there is just next one, next—he doesn't pay attention to what's happened or what hasn't happened. He's always talking about what's next.
S MALCOLM JENKINS
(on stopping Chris Johnson just short of the first down marker in the open field in the fourth quarter)
We were just running to the ball. We always teach population to the ball. Once we see the ball declared, everybody goes and I was able to make a good tackle, which stopped him short of the first down. We were able to get a stop on fourth-and-one. It was a good play for us.
(on stopping the Titans on the last play)
We were going to show him another blitz and make him think we were coming and then drop back out. The guys did a good job covering early and take away some of his reads. Once he got out of the pocket everybody did a good job running to the ball and Jo-Lonn (Dunbar) made a good open field tackle and game over.
(on responding after Nate Washington's big catch in the fourth quarter)
We had like 15 seconds to go. You can't dwell on that play. We had to get back and get to the line. I think guys did a good job responding to the situation. We gave up really two big plays at the end of the game to let them back in that, we really shouldn't have. We did a good job of playing a team game. Our offense put up points and we got some stops when we needed to. We battled.
(on how they kept their heads in the game at the end)
We are used to it. It wasn't much there. We were locked in. We were just moving on to the next play. The game is on the line at that point. We can't waste time in and out of the tank or try to motive guys. I think everybody is on the same page. We kept our head down and kept going and made some good plays at the end.
(on winning this big game on the road)
It is huge. This year, we haven't played that well on the road, but I think we are a pretty good road team. To win the game against a good opponent in their house this late in the season is big for us. To keep the momentum that we have going and to get that under our belt is huge for us.
DL WILL SMITH
(on stopping Chris Johnson)
We wanted to stop the run early and force them to be one dimensional. We did a good job with that. We expected good quarterback play. (Matt) Hasselbeck had to step out of the game and (Jake) Locker came in and we had to adjust our game plan.
(on stopping the QB sneak on fourth-and-one)
It was a gut check. It wasn't looking in our favor at that particular time. We had to do something that turned the flow of the game. It was a huge fourth –and-one stop. All the guys got great penetration. The quarterback tried to sneak it and that didn't work. We knew it was an important play of the game and we got one later on with Jo-Lonn's sack.
LB JO LON DUNBAR
(on the last play of the game)
On the last play of the game we were in coverage. I just see (Jake) Locker trying to make a play. I figured he was going to run the ball. There was tight coverage on the back end so when he took off as if he was running I just took off with him. I was supposed to be in coverage, but hey, I made a play.
(on who deserves credit for the fourth-and-one stop)
It was the whole defensive line. Those guys reestablished the line of scrimmage. Another thing that Gregg (Williams) talks about, reestablishing the line of scrimmage and those guys did that and we just ball hawked. That is just a credit to the defensive line right there.
(on the big plays)
We are trying to mix up our coverages sometimes and mix up our packages and sometimes they are going to get skill guys in better positions and that just happens. We can't let the ball get over our heads. There are no excuses for that. We have to shore up that aspect of the game, but it is just a great win.
(on his thought after he made the final tackle)
I was just hoping they didn't throw a flag. I kind of grabbed him by the helmet. That was my first thing. I was looking up to see if they threw a flag or not. It was definitely a lot of relief to see those guys jumping and with that excitement you can't put a price tag on that. You can't really explain that. When a team comes together and they become a tribe it is hard to explain that enthusiasm.
DB ROMAN HARPER
(on the defense giving up some big plays)
Never panic, I get a little frustrated, a little angry, but never a sense of panic. Always understand that as long as they don't cross our goal line we have a chance, we did a good job of that. Even early trying to hustle and play hard. They made a couple of plays on us at the end. (Jake) Locker made a couple of clutch throws, but at the end of the day we were able to hold them off and get the win. Big games like this will always be able to help you and make you stronger and a better team at the end of the year. We need to go thrugh something like this.
DB JABARI GREER
(on the stress of the situation)
I think that is why people like professional athletes. When everything is just tight and crunched and all the pressure is on we are able to elevate ourselves to a place that few people get to experience. I think people see that and acknowledge that and want a piece of that.
(on the final play)
It was incredible, the thing about professional football is that the only thing that you really remember is before and after the play. When the ball snaps everything goes silent. I like to relate it to that scene in Gladiator when they are about to go into the Roman Coliseum. They are right behind the doors and they hear the banging outside, but they hear the calm inside. They are just about to go to battle. It is a feeling that few people get to feel. I wish everybody could get to experience it, but it is special. It is definitely special.
LB JONATHAN VILMA
(on the defense making a play when they need to)
I think that is us being resilient. It is about our mental toughness more so than our physical toughness. We just have good character, strong character, strong willed guys. You can't just find that, you can't coach that. Fortunately we have a lot of guys like that. We never stop believing. We will get it done.