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Sean Payton Press Conference Transcript - Monday, October 19

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    **Opening Statement:**  

"Really the only injury was Scott Fujita. It is a calf strain. We'll get a better feel as this week goes on what the extent of it is and whether it's realistic that he has a chance to play this week or not. We won't know that until later on. After watching the tape, there were a number of things that we did well, especially early on. It was an important win for us and we begin quickly on Miami and that's going to be our approach today."

You've said you were pleased with the rest your team got during the bye week. Is that behind the approach of them having the day off today?

"Today is really one of your classic Mondays. They're coming in because they have this league meeting that we initially scheduled for the bye and pushed back. It's a mandatory life skills meeting that they're going to be at at 2:30. To answer your question, during the bye we tried to get them away and get a few of these guys healthy and we were able to do that."

How is the offensive line improving each week?

"Looking at the tape, I thought we did a good job. I thought we were consistent and we ran the ball later in the game when we needed. We thought the ability to keep Drew (Brees) fairly clean and allow him to look through his progressions was important, and I thought they did a good job. Certainly Jermon Bushrod coming back off the injury and the rest of those guys up front did a good job. One of the players on New York's team that's real good is Justin Tuck. He lined up against (Jon) Stinchcomb and that's a tough matchup because he's a guy that is very well respected by all of us that watch the tape, and he can be a handful. From that standpoint, I thought we did a good job. We were able to allow Drew time and that was important."

Does the thought process change in moving from a team that is chasing to being a team that is being chased?

"The challenge always is just to try to keep the focus on the next game. The challenge is trying to really work and convince and convey the message that we're trying to improve week to week. The necessity of doing that in our league where teams can quickly turn things around is important. I think the focus really is more internal than external. The focus is on ourselves and working to improve and really putting the tape on and watching it without any bias and trying to correct the things – regardless of the outcome – trying to correct the things that we see that need to be corrected, and reaffirm or reassure the things that we did well and make sure that we continue to do those things well. I think it's easier after a win to put the film on with these guys and talk about the areas that we need to be better at. I mentioned the kicking game yesterday; the coverage units, specifically kick coverage. They had two returns yesterday that led to a touchdown and a field goal. Those are just some of the specific things, but in all three aspects of our play there are things that we can look at and say that we need to get better on. I think the focus is really that; each week it's trying to look at how we're preparing."

Are you surprised with where you are after five games?

"No. We're playing good football and doing a good job of taking the ball away and protecting the football. We're doing the things that give you a chance to win games. I don't really look at the schedule in probably the same way that you would and try to map out a record or any of that. We just try to play and focus on the game that we have that week. So to answer your question, no."

Has the margin of the victories been surprising?

"What's most important is the win. It's hard to predict how each game is going to unfold. Sometimes a game unfolds differently than you think; Buffalo was one that in the second half unfolded a little differently than we expected. We just have to pay close attention to what's happening in the game. In regards to the margins, you guys know that more often than not you're playing within a touchdown of somebody. We just have to keep working on being focused and understanding that there are going to be games where we fall behind. You're not going to go 16 weeks the same way that some of our games have unfolded already. We just have to keep working to get better."
Is it easier to keep the team level-headed in a small market as compared to bigger cities?

"I think it starts with the players in the locker room. It's one thing to try to preach or sell something to a team or to an individual but we have guys that understand what we're talking about. They understand how long the season is and they understand the roller coaster season that every team goes through in regards to your 16-week schedule. There's a lot to that and I think we have experienced players with leadership that understand that. I think that helps. It's certainly more challenging in a larger market because there are generally more distractions, but I think our players have handled that part of it pretty well."

Is this how you expected your season to have played out in the past few years or did you make a lot of significant changes that allowed this to happen?

"In each year we've made changes and in each year you try to get prepared for the start of another season and we have tried to do that throughout each offseason in hopes of always getting better. The one thing we've been able to do right now is that we've been somewhat healthy and that has helped us, just looking back and comparing it to prior years. But there's so much ahead of us now. Obviously you like getting off to a good start, you like winning an NFC game like we did yesterday – that's important and we treat that importantly – and yet the focus quickly shifts now and we move on."

What were some of the special teams breakdowns that you saw on the film?

"There's not one individual player, just some of the coverage units. There were two big returns where we lost leverage. Obviously we gave up a PAT block with pressure inside and we have to get that cleaned up. The two things that came to mind were the returns. We have to find a way to get Reggie (Bush) more working room get him some more opportunities; he's too good of a punt returner. We'll keep harping on that and working on that, and that really affects everyone – not just offensive or defensive players. There are a lot of guys on those units and we'll look closely at that film."

Could this game in Miami be a potential "trap game"?

"I don't think so. We're talking about a team that just won their division a year ago and is playing now in the last few weeks. This is a real good football team. This is a team that has changed and gotten their program going in the right direction and has gotten the right leadership and all the things we're talking about here internally. This is a team that has done that and in a quick period of time turned things around. They're extremely well coached. Of course I know a number of people there. I've worked with Tony Sparano; he and I worked together for three years in Dallas and I have a great deal of respect for what he and his staff and their players are doing. They had a big win last weekend and this will be a tremendous test for us."

Is he the kind of guy who's going to come up with some things in having an extra week to prepare?"They'll be well prepared. They have done a great job there in a short amount of time – really in a year-and-half to where they're at now."

The Dolphins held the Colts to about 15 minutes of possession when they played them. Is time of possession a major concern for you playing Miami?"Any time you struggle defending the run – and they're the number one rushing team in football – generally you're not going to be on the field as much as you want to be. The ability for us to play the run well is going to be important in this game.

Do you think the call you made for Reggie Bush to run the ball with 15 seconds left in the half surprised the Giants? Is that a call you could've made last season?"It's a call that we could have made a year ago easily, only because we had one timeout left. A lot changes with 15 seconds and you don't have any timeouts. But when you have that one timeout in your pocket, you can quickly utilize it and still get two more plays before you kick a field goal. Having one timeout allowed us to be a little bit more flexible. It was something we had worked on during the week – and if you look at the copy of it, we actually had the receivers run routes rather than block because of the type of coverage we were getting. So it was kind of a voided play; it was a play where the receivers are going to try to get covered. Reggie did a good job of skipping it outside and breaking contain. I do think that any time we're in that red area, I think it's important to get to one of your one-back runs because you're in the no-huddle offense and the timeout allows you that. To answer your question, I think it was really more timeout-oriented than we're running the ball better this year."

Why is the Wildcat offense so difficult to defend?"If you take the quarterback and extend him in the formation, defensively you have to cover him and now the direct snap to the runner has basically given you another gap. As soon as you put the quarterback under center, people would argue that you're playing 10-on-11. This goes back to single-wing football where the ball was snapped directly to a runner. What it allows is that it allows you offensively to get that advantage back from a numbers standpoint. You'll see variations throughout the country in college football with quarterbacks that can both run and throw it, but this is a team that utilizes this aspect of their offense very well, better than anyone. That will be a tremendous challenge for us."

Can you envision other teams running it or is this kind of a fad?"There are a number of teams that have aspects of it but this team runs it better than anyone."

Does it present trouble in being able to simulate it in practice?"A little bit. You only have 'X' number of practice reps during the week. So how many snaps – do you have just a period a day devoted to it? It does force you to devote more time and try to quickly teach the scout team players that are representing the look and how to do it effectively. All those things are factors."

Does the fact that it's Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – two proven quality NFL running backs – running the offense make it more challenging?"The design is very challenging, and when the design fits with personnel like you're mentioning, it becomes what they have when they run it. You have an effective package; good design, good personnel and now it becomes challenging. If either of those two are lacking with any type of system, you can struggle. But I think they have a very good design and a very good skill-set executing it."

Is there potential for long-term concern with Fujita's injury?"I don't think so."

With the trade deadline coming tomorrow, do you envision any moves coming up?"Nothing right now that I'm aware of."

Did you see any examples this morning of Saints euphoria in the city?"Not really. But I would say that our crowd yesterday was as good as it has been in a while, dating back to some of the games in '06. I thought it was outstanding. It was noticeably different, even than from the Jets game which I thought was just OK in regards to the crowd noise. I thought yesterday was deafening and I know there were some protection snafus that New York had trouble with because they couldn't hear the call. I think the fans know this, but it's an amazing advantage when it can be that loud. I know our next home game will be on a Monday night, but that was something yesterday. That was impressive."

How has your offense made your defense better and how has the defense made the offense better?"So often during the course of the offseason and in training camp, you're not getting ready for a specific opponent so you have to practice against each other. In order to get the most out of those drills, you hope that the competitive nature on both sides of the ball is high and you hope that the competition is created by players that want to get better. We still have practices during the week where there will be a period of our offense vs. our defense and it's not a simulated look for the team we're playing. We'll do that because we value that competition as being as important as the carded look plays. We'll spend a lot of time with Miami this week but there will still be a competitive drill or two in there and that's definitely something that both sides of the ball appreciated and understand that it's closest to what it's like in a game. They do feed off other to some degree and we as coaches are always trying to look to create or enhance that, and I think we've been able to do that so far."

What was behind Will Smith/Kendrick Clancy.aspx">Kendrick Clancy being inactive yesterday?"He was a healthy inactive."

Is one of the reasons this team is different from teams here in years past the level of maturity and leadership in the locker room?"Each year there is a lot of turnover so this is a different roster and any time you do that it's a different team, obviously. We're constantly trying to pay attention to who we're bringing in. A number of the key veterans that have been here are counting on us to bring the right type of guys in here and to make sure that football is important to them. That really is what we're always looking for – guys that we feel like are talented and have a real good work ethic to get better."

Will there be an effect of beating another one of the top teams in the league?"I don't really think so. I think there is a confidence level about this team that we have now. Two weeks before we felt like we were playing a very good team in the Jets and a few weeks before that we felt like we were playing a very good team in Philadelphia. We knew the schedule was challenging coming out with the both the AFC and NFC East on it, but I don't know that we looked at yesterday's game specifically that it was a big hurdle – I don't see that."

Was that something you did see in '06, beating teams like Philadelphia and Dallas?"I think it was different in '06. I think it was much different. There was a lot of uncertainty in '06 about what we had or what we were to begin with."

What lessons have you learned from the past two seasons?"I think when you look at the turnovers and you look at the big plays and our inability to be as consistent running the football – you could go on and on. I think what's important is you trying to improve as a team and looking closely at yourself without dusting it under the rug. As coaches we try to do that; we try to be critical of ourselves and pay close attention to what wins and I think we're doing a better job of taking care of the football and taking it away. That is one statistic, and I know you hear it every week, but one turnover adds a possession and takes one away. It's like the play yesterday where we had the interception that was going to be a touchdown but they called the helmet-to-helmet hit on Jon Vilma – which was probably a good call – they end up scoring on that drive, so that's a 14-point swing. A turnover has a potential similar effect. I think we've done a better job of paying close attention to those details and we've done a better job of really evaluating what kept us from winning."

Have you discovered something in your preparation to get ready for the game after the bye week?"Someone asked yesterday about the added film time and the game plan and really I think it was more about getting our guys away a little bit and getting them healthy. It'll be a hard time to change the itinerary next year and I'm sure Brees will be chomping at the bit to remind us what we had."

Has any team surprised you in the league to this point?"I think Denver has surprised us all, just with all the change that they've had and the success that they've had. Outside of that, it's hard. We don't get a chance to watch them all the same way."

Do you think you're on to something with some of the changes you've made in your overall routine and scheduling?"I don't want to say that this is an older team, but we're experienced at some positions and I think that we came into that bye with a few guys nicked up. We had to get healthy at left tackle, we had to get healthy at right guard, at running back, at cornerback – there were a number of players that were going to benefit from the additional week. What I didn't want to do was to practice last Wednesday and look at 14 players resting on the sideline and not practicing. So we tried to take a different approach. It was much different than it was the prior two or three years. But I think you have to pay attention to when you're at. When does the bye fall? We seem to have drawn some pretty good teams after the bye, so it was really just a coincidence."

Anything different other than the bye week and with the season in general?"I think you have to pay attention to your team and we've tried to do that. The schedule in our training camp has been somewhat similar but in bringing it back here there were differences with it. Just trying to be mindful of that as it pertains to injury and the health of our team and our guys have responded pretty well."

How did Troy Evans play in Fujita's absence?"Pretty well. It happened in the first quarter so we saw a bunch of snaps from Troy and I thought he handled it well."

What were some stats from yesterday's game that coaches really love?"The significant number and the first number that we felt was important was the turnover number and the second number was the third down conversion, our ability to convert third downs and defend third down. I thought those were two key statistics in the game."

Are you allowing yourself to enjoy these wins?"There's a reward, a feeling that you've done something, but it's very short-lived as you get ready for the next game. I think there's a confidence that comes with it for your team, but you really get about 12 hours and then you start with the next team."

Are you almost scared to feel too good about the performances?"There's so much ahead of us right now and there are a lot of things that we have to get better at. Certainly we're glad to get the win against a team like that and yet we have to clean a number of things up."

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