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Saints transcripts: Sean Payton conference call with local media | Wednesday, Jan. 5

Head coach looks ahead to Week 18 matchup against Atlanta

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call With Local Media
Wednesday, January 5, 2022

What are some of the impressions about how Atlanta is playing right now?
"Having played them already, they're fairly healthy defensively, so scheme wise you're seeing it for a second time. I think they are doing a pretty good job forcing takeaways. Offensively, they've managed to run the ball pretty effectively and be pretty effective with the explosives. (Cordarrelle) Patterson is having a crazy good year. You see him (out of) the backfield, you see him in the backfield, you see him outside. So just looking at it overall, they've been kind of back and forth a little bit, like us, relative to their wins and losses and anytime you're playing a division team like this on the road, obviously we're going to have to focus on our plan and be effective when we get there."

Do some of the ways they use Cordarrelle Patterson remind you a little bit of how you use Alvin Kamara?
"I think it's different, it's a good question. He lines up so much at receiver and runs receiver routes and so we do that some with Alvin. Yeah, I guess there's some similarities in that they go both outside and inside and yet, this guy's built just differently, they're different type players."

Did the Falcons do something different to protect Matt Ryan in the first matchup to give him more time in the pocket?
"We felt like we mixed it up pretty good defensively. We let one get over our head. I think we'll have a good idea, the offense changed obviously with the coaching staff change and we felt like and we still do when you watch it, the rhythm and timing of the passing game is a half count to a full count quicker, as far as his routes and where he's going with the football and that's just an offensive change."

Do you find Matt Ryan's scrambling ability to be deceptive?
"He's always been able to flush from the pocket, if you go way back he's been one of those guys that climbs heavy off of those naked boots and gets the ball downfield and so a lot of it's dependent on who he's had running the offense for him. But he'll climb up and then peel off for 10 yards on third down easily, he's a good athlete."

How have you seen Thomas Morstead catch on since he got the job in Atlanta?
"I follow him on social media because every time he lands at the opposing airport, he always sends a tweet out and I used to get on him about it. I said if the terrorists were tracking us Thomas, they'd just follow you on Twitter. Listen, I'm excited he's landed (a new team), he obviously still has a lot of gas in the tank and he means so much to us, relative to his time and history here. I'm one of his biggest fans."

Is it a little weird seeing him in red and black?
"No, isn't it the league though? Was it weird? I don't know, I just think that is our game. That's the NFL."

The story you told about a Hail Mary and the halftime act after a similar connection between Jameis Winston and Marquez Callaway in Washington, was that in Atlanta?
"We're playing at Atlanta. I want to say afternoon, it's at Atlanta, Terrance Copper catches it, so (20)06-(20)07, end of the first half and there's a young band by the name of Sugarland that hadn't really hit it yet. Now, within the next year or two, they're going to become real famous. So they were playing halftime, one song, at a game that really was, you know, it wasn't like it was a national TV night game or something. They just were playing halftime at a game and Copper caught that ball in the old, it was the old Atlanta stadium. And if you recall the end zone that we ran out into our locker room was right there where he caught it. We ran off the field and as we were running off the band was getting ready to come out with the entertainment crew and quickly get on a makeshift stage, sing a song and it was three or four years later that I had a chance to meet both of them. I think it's a two-member band obviously or two singers and they commented on that, the timing of that play and then being introduced when everyone's just quiet and upset. It was always kind of (a) chuckle."

Is there a level of chemistry with like the running backs and the offensive line?
"I think the chemistry comes, the cohesiveness with five guys up front working together, I think becomes with that group. We did not rotate or change as much last week with the runners. And so a lot of it has to do with just the same five guys working or experienced guys working on what we're trying to do in the run game. And I don't think last week's first half struggles had anything to do with chemistry. I think it had a lot to do with us not blocking things."

Does this year's record require an asterix or an explanation?
"No, none is needed. I can't recall playing in a game where you looked at it and you said after this game, we have a chance to be 9-8 and going into the postseason, or 8-9 and then just put that one away and file that one away and that will just, whatever, you'll be able to tell (or) explain to anyone why we were 8-9. But 9-8 and into the postseason is exciting to me, and it's going to require us to play well in this game."

Since we haven't even seen Ryan Ramczyk be like on the practice field, questionable, like we have with Terron Armstead, I mean, if he actively working, is there a hope he'll play before this season ends?
"We'll see. Obviously, we're hopeful for both of those guys."

Can you shed any light as to why Ryan Ramczyk is still on the COVID list? It's been 12 or 13 days.
"Honestly, I don't think he'll be on the COVID list this week. Are you sure he's still on the COVID list?"

Well, I kept looking and everywhere I saw he was still on the list. And so that's what I want to ask you today. Is he seriously sick?
"No, he's not seriously sick. He had symptoms."

A little tongue in cheek here, but how many yards should (Marquez) Callaway have had in the last game? And what kind of job is he doing developing a rapport with Taysom Hill in the last few weeks?
"He played well last week. He had a couple drops he'd want back, but, the play he makes coming out of the end zone to switch field position was significant in that game. He's just that big target with strong hands. Each week, he does something that's impressive and I'm encouraged."

Can you take a step back and just point to how challenging this season has been for you, the staff and the team? I mean, from a coaching perspective with the hurricane and the COVID. I mean, it has to be one of the most extraordinary coaching situations you've dealt with in your career. Can you speak to that?
"Yeah, I'm trying to think of a good way to describe it. Like there's a certain bar or temperament for news that you normally have. And then when it keeps coming and coming and coming via text or in meetings or, hey, by the way, pretty soon that bar gets raised because you just keep getting, hitting the side of the head and at some point you have to smile and then bow up a little bit and get ready for the challenge still. That is the thing I think our staff's done a great job with, is you keep getting different curveballs and it gets back to that mantra where no one really cares about your challenges. In fact, there's a group of people that are glad to have them and so it's a little bit of that grit and toughness that you talk about when you're putting your team together and you're doing that for, obviously this is unique, but you're doing it for adversity. This stretch here is, I don't want to say exhausting, but it's one of those where it's just get on to the, nothing surprises you. And then it's, I mentioned the two players that I met briefly in the locker room getting fitted for equipment before a Monday Night game that have never been here before putting shoes on, and I've just never seen anything like that before. So it is what it is. When you go all the way back to the start of the season, it feels like two and a half years ago we were evacuating to Dallas during the hurricane. It doesn't feel like that's part of this season, at least to me it doesn't. It feels like that was a long time ago."

With such a unique situation do you end up exchanging phone calls with either mentors or other coaches even in the league?
"Yeah, absolutely."

Has there been more of that this season?
"Maybe a little bit more. I mean, there's a group of guys you stay in touch with. I mean, I think across the board everyone's dealing with similar type problems and then the challenges of staying healthy to begin with and then dealing with that I think that it keeps you busy certainly."

I know we usually talk to you about the red zone offense, but defensively I think you guys are ranked number one in the league by a pretty wide margin. What has made you guys so good down in the red area?
"It's huge. I think number one, we're playing with good eyes, playing good zone. I think we've gotten off the field on third down. We talk about that play, that third down play in the red area that if the offense converts a lot of times leads to a touchdown and in that drive and I think that we're rushing the passer. I think DA (Dennis Allen) and those guys have done a real good job. It's not complex with a ton of scheme. But ultimately, if a team gets inside the 20, your goal is to force them to kick field goals."

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