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Sean Payton: Luke Kuechly is around the football on every play

video and quotes from Sean Payton's Thursday press conference

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Opening Statement: "I know it is Thursday, but for us we really treated it exactly like we would a base Wednesday with our installation and scouting report meetings in the morning."

What are you looking to improve on offensively?

"Shoot, pretty much everything.  There will be some key elements to this game, conversion on third down. I think both teams are converting third downs.  Both teams defensively are getting off the field.  I think that will be an important statistic that will lead to time of possession that will lead to scoring opportunities.  There are a number of things but that third down statistic will be important."

How has Cam Newton evolved and improved?

"Number one he is protecting the football extremely well.  They do a great job with their giveaway, takeaway ratio.  They are one of the top teams in the league (in the category).  I think that he is very instinctive when it comes to, people say well he can make plays with his feet, I think that the thing that is very difficult is him on the move making decisions down the field or deciding to run.  I think that he has very good instincts when it comes to finding receivers, extending plays.  I think that he has a very good command of what they are doing offensively and most importantly he is winning."

In the offseason you talked about how to prepare for mobile quarterbacks such as Cam Newton who you will face on Sunday, do you think a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense is better to defend a quarterback like that?

"I think that it is not specific to the quarterback, maybe it is more specific to what personnel they are in.  When you are seeing zone read, seeing some of these plays that force you to really be on top of your gap, your assignment, and your fit.  I don't know that it's as much 3-4 or 4-3 or under or whatever the front you prefer to play.  You do have to understand force patterns.  You do have to understand fits specifically (in) the running game because he is someone, in generally someone running that offense they have someone that can keep the football and that can extend the run.  They become a runner.  That was kind of a big point of emphasis for us and I think a lot of teams in the offseason.  These guys do a very good job of it and yet it is not just the only thing they do.  They do a number of things in a conventional fashion.  He does as well, the quarterback Cam (Newton).  They do those very well."

After forcing 15 turnovers in the first seven games, you have two in the last five games.  Is there any reason why all of a sudden your defense isn't forcing other teams to turn the ball over as much?

"I don't know specifically. We've had our opportunities. We've had our hands on a handful of balls.  Hopefully they come and we get a clump of them this weekend.  I think that statistic is important.  I think that protecting the quarterback and affecting the quarterback is going to be a key element.  It is (an) important game and I think when you look at, I mentioned third down, I mentioned the turnovers, those are all things that are going to really point to the team that wins."

Are you confident in the offense's ability to bounce back?

"Absolutely.  I think I am confident because I know the group we have.  We have guys that are experienced, guys that understand what is at stake.  It is a big game.  I think we are pretty good at that window of whether it is a win or a loss, moving past it."

You have never seen Luke Kuechly in person.  Has he impressed you?

"I think, shoot, half the teams we are playing I haven't seen in person.  He is obviously playing extremely well.  He's very active.  He's around the football on every play.  He has great instincts and awareness. You can see him key in diagonals formationally as well as anyone.  See formations and understand what he is going to have to defend.  He is a great tackler.  He is playing outstanding."

Coming off the road loss, how much is it a boost to be back at home on Sunday night?

"I think there are a lot of things.  It is playing an important game with regards to the division (race).  It's a Sunday night game at home, those are things that you get excited about.  I think at this point in the year playing in a division race like we are. I think both teams will be ready and excited.  I don't think it's a game where you have to worry about whether teams are going to be fired up to play.  I think there is a lot at stake and both teams understand that."

You are all creatures of habit; do you have to dial back that practice on Saturday at all?

"We did it a few weeks back before Atlanta.  Now it was a different set of circumstances and yet we are creatures of habit so today is Wednesday.  When you look at the practices we've had at this point of the year that you are having, most of them don't have shoulder pads.  If they do, it would be on a Wednesday.  It is just adding a little bit more to that Saturday and we are playing Sunday night.  I think we will be able to handle it."

Can you talk about the job that Curtis Johnson has done at Tulane with them making the New Orleans Bowl?

"Shoot, I am happy for him.  I am excited for their team and their school.  It has been over 10 years I think since they have been to a bowl game.  Look, when those guys work as hard as they work, and then have that success I think it just helps.  It is going to help in recruiting and certainly give those players confidence going into next year.  It is not surprising. He has done a great job."

Do you spend any extra time returning a missed field goal after the Auburn play?

"I think in our league it was Ed Reed and Chris McAlister.  I'm sure, it takes an event like that (final playoff of the game in the Iron Bowl) and all of a sudden everyone quickly dusts off that.  It is a play that we work on in training camp.  It is a play we work on in training camp. It is one of those special situations."

What would be the fallacy on the line of thinking that because how the defense struggled against Russell Wilson it would necessarily be a concern against Cam Newton?

"There are differences in the teams (Seattle and Carolina).  I think that we got behind on the eight ball in that game.  I thought we handled the running game fairly well.  I think the big plays hurt us more than anything else. There were a few of them.  The third down conversions, but it would be the same question you would ask after the Jet loss or the same question you might ask after…(a loss to another opponent). This is a different team and yet, none the less, a team that's playing at hot as anyone in the league with their win streak.  It will be a great challenge."

When you look at what Ron Rivera has done in Carolina, is that an example of why coaches and teams need to take a little while to let systems get in and evolve?

"Yes, I think in each situation it is different.  I think Ron (Rivera) and his staff have done a great job.  That clock's quicker now maybe than ever before.  There are some great coaches, Hall of Fame coaches in our league that may never have seen year four in today's game.  That's just the way it is.  I think they finished last season on a high note and have done a very good job of adding some pieces and components that have helped their team for this year.  You see the results."

Do you feel like your fourth year was one of your best?

"Yes. I think typically in year one you are probably at a program that has struggled and then there is always that sense of urgency to get things going.  We always tried to stay away from the plan as far as the year two plan, year three plan and really approach it as the plan is to win now.  There is no different than coming into this season. I think it varies by owner and who is making those decisions."


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