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Saints transcripts: Sean Payton conference call with local media | Monday, Jan. 3

Head coach on Sunday's win against Carolina and battling adversity

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
Conference call with local media
Monday, Jan. 3, 2022

What were some of your takeaways after watching the Carolina game film?
"When we finished and came off of the field (yesterday), we knew we did a lot of things well defensively. I thought the two-minute drill offensively was important, not just because of kicking that field goal, but when you can change field position like that and knowing you start the second half with the ball (was big). We made a few big plays when we needed them. We did not run the ball well until a few spurts in the second half. I thought Deonte Harty did a good job of fielding some short punts and protected field position by not letting those hit the ground. We did enough to win. It was an important win now with only one game remaining (in the regular season)."

Why do you not call more of the plays you call in two-minute drill in other parts of the game?
"Well, you can (call those plays), we've done that before and yet, you're also kind of wanting to have some balance in a game where you have some quarterback runs and have some play-action passes. You're hoping to possess the ball (longer) and certainly, it's by opponent and also by protection. The thing we did well is that we made some plays, but you don't want to expose your tackles to some situations where you're just getting straight pass rushes. Some of the runs we have in the gameplan we do not have in the two-minute package. You might have a draw or a one-back power. We have a couple runs, but part of it also is what your matchup is like and what you want to get accomplished."

Are you guys out of dealing with the Covid-19 surge this team's experienced the last couple of weeks, having to still limit practices and in-person meeting?
"I do not know if we are out of it, yet we are getting a lot of guys back again. We plan on having a normal Wednesday practice, so, I think there are maybe one or two players that will come back to practice on Thursday. Everyone else will be coming back Wednesday. So hopefully the bulk of it is behind us."

Was not having the pregame Who Dat chant or not wearing the black pants done by design after not having much home success this season?
"No, no, listen, I'm always mindful on social media, I can tell the reactions to what pants we're wearing. Usually, the captains are in charge of that. Relative to the Who Dat chant, it all started with Drew Brees way back when. With the powers that be, being the players, they figure out who's doing it each game. I didn't realize until the game really that we didn't have anyone do it yesterday. That certainly wasn't (on purpose). I'm in charge of a lot, but not the pant color, because that doesn't matter to me, so I figured I let the captains pick what they want to wear. With the Who Dat chant, that's been something usually the players handle. I know Drew (Brees) was responsible for a long time along with the veteran leadership about who they wanted each week. More than anything, that's just an oversight (for me). I'll blame our captains for that."

Are you proud of the culture you've built with all you've had to withstand this season dealing with all of the injuries, Covid-19 breakouts, and displacement during Hurricane Ida?
"I think it is probably a combination of a lot of things. It starts with the ingredients. That starts with the players we bring into the building. When you bring in makeup, we really make a point in doing that through the draft and in free agency. You bring in toughness, character. It is not always foolproof when you're winning two, three, four games in a row, but just as importantly, it allows you to handle adversity during a stretch where you are not playing well or with some of the things that showed up this year. Overall, philosophically, I think the players and staff here handled a lot of challenging things not always perfectly, but we have managed to keep our head above water, keep grinding, and keep fighting. That Tampa Bay win (two weeks ago) was big in so many ways. You're just looking at the number one goal, outside of winning the division, is making it to the postseason. We have the opportunity to do that this weekend and you know; you just want to find a way to get into the tournament. We know it has to start with us finding a way to win this game (at Atlanta)."

How did you explain the must-win situation this weekend to the players?
"Well, guys will hear me periodically bring up a comment maybe that's made, and I'll say that it isn't a must-win game. I'll always follow that up by bringing a game up we play earlier in the season, that the must-win games always come down to those wins that keep a team's playoff hopes alive or not. When you enter the playoffs, those are must-win games. This past weekend (vs. Carolina) was a must-win game. This weekend (at Atlanta) is a must-win game. In other words, prior to that, there's other things that happen, so it's not necessarily a must-win game. They've heard me on the other end say, 'Hey, we're going to play in important games, this is an important game, but don't let anyone tell you it's a must-win game.' So, when these games come up, then we say that, and I think they understand it."

Have you in your career game planned for a week where you only had four new offensive linemen starting?
"Yeah, and that gets back to an earlier question about the two-minute drill, how do we reduce the exposure, how do we do the things we do well, how we utilize Taysom Hill's skill set, and honestly, early in that game, for the better part of the first half, we had trouble making it back to the line of scrimmage rushing the football. We had trouble in the passing game, and we made enough plays in the second half to orchestrate that touchdown drive (to seal the game). When you're in the midst of it, I don't know that you're thinking, you're only thinking about your personnel relative to the gameplan, how we can help guys relative to protection. Some of the challenges Carolina presents are some unique pressures where you need your tight ends or running backs in the protection, where maybe you're not going to be able to help the tackle. A lot of that comes from third-down planning and first and second-down planning."

Where would you like the offensive line improve from their performance yesterday afternoon?
"Well, there's a lot, there's a handful of clips from yesterday where we can grab and improve on immediately just by IDing certain looks in the run game. We pass-protected fairly well for the most part, but there's a handful of plays in the running game that there's a lot more to those plays than we blocked or ran yesterday. So, we need to clean that up."

Do you feel like Taysom Hill's finger injury is a non-factor now?
"I'd have to ask him that. He had two throws yesterday that he just missed. I don't know if it was grip-related, but he also made some really good throws. I imagine that he's feeling more comfortable and getting healthier. I think that'd be a good question for him this week. I think (his finger) is feeling better."

What was your takeaway from Will Clapp playing center yesterday? Why did you not play Cesar Ruiz at center like you did earlier this season?
"Yeah, it really just came down to making one move or two moves. We decided to make one move and we left Cesar right where he was at (right guard) rather than make two moves. We feel like Will's strongest position in our league is at center, so that played a lot into that decision."

Was there any significance beyond the touchdown reception by Alvin Kamara to seal the game in the fourth quarter?
"No, we put a drive together. We broke off a long run to get us down there (in the red zone) and we converted a third down or two. We got really the right situation for Alvin's (Kamara touchdown) play; it was more of a man-to-man look. We got Taysom on the move with a run-pass option, Alvin was the first pass read or Taysom could keep it. It ended up being the right look at the right time."

Did you believe that the Panthers center was moving the ball and caused the two offsides penalties earlier in the game?
"Yeah, everyone has a silent count when you're playing on the road. Generally, teams use the guard to tap the hip of the center to say, 'Here we go'. A lot of times you have a silent two-count where the head bops once and then the head bops twice and so, sometimes when that movement takes place, the ball can move. Technically (the ball) is not supposed to move, so when you're really focusing on the ball, it kicks up a little bit and you can be earlier. It was just about alerting the officials, that was all."

Do you know why the officials huddled for several minutes in the third quarter trying to figure out what down it was?
"Yeah, so two things happened. They called intentional grounding and there was confusing to whether it was third or fourth down. It was called correctly as fourth down, but New York had it as third down for whatever reason. They worked through that, and we were set to kick the field goal, but Matt (Rhule) correctly challenged the spot of the ball. He was correct when he said the spot of the ball was at the 39-yard line. So, two things happened, it was going through the down and distance. That was just mechanically and saying come on, let's go, it is fourth down. We will take third down, mind you. Once it was ruled fourth down, the placement of the ball was challenged by Carolina, properly. So, then it was back under the hood to see where the grounding foul occurred and then they changed the spot. So, we punted instead of kicking that longer field goal. That's what led to that fifteen minute of time or however long it was. Credit to the crew, the crew had it as fourth down. It was unusual. I'm not sure what specifically happened, but it took a little longer than usual."

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