New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with Local Media
Thursday, December 17, 2015
How much do you look at the plays per game stat?
"That is a good question. We just finished talking about this in the team meeting. I think it would be a little bit more directly related to third down (conversion) percentages and third down conversions. We have had some games where we lost the game this year and it feels like we only played a half a game on one side of the ball offensively like at Washington or even down in Houston the team breaks up offensively and defensively and one side of the ball is going to watch 75 snaps and the other is going to watch 45. I think the third down numbers, when you start having the percentages like we just did against Tampa Bay, the ball possessions and number of snaps total goes up. We have always talked here about tempo, but that's in and out of the huddle and down to the line. That is something that as a team we just talked about that needs to be quicker because I would say we have always been a fast tempo team, however not as it is discussed in today's football where it's tempo at the line of scrimmage, no huddle, next play, next play how many plays can we get run. That wouldn't be us, and yet we do want to get to the line of scrimmage with plenty of time on the clock for the QB to change the play, stay with the play or snap it early."
Are you seeing better communication and alignments on defense?
"I thought the challenge last week was the running game and then the receiving threats (in the passing game). I felt like we had a real good plan going in. Delvin Breaux is playing amazing football. He was injured a few weeks back, but if you really charted his production as a corner the last month he has been fantastic. I thought we were able to get off the field on third down and the communication has been streamlined. I said after the game, I felt like after the game there has just been a noticeable amount of fewer miss alignments or MEs (mental errors) and half the battle is getting the personnel on the field you want and getting the defense communicated and get aligned to it."
Do you feel like this has been a productive three weeks defensively?
"Past Tampa Bay I can't even remember. I know it hasn't been good because we haven't won a lot of games in that stretch. We did a lot of things well and against the team that has that balance that concerns you with the running game and the ability of those two receivers and the tight end to get the ball downfield and I thought we were able to keep the ball in front of us. Defending those over the top plays, if you will, and tackling I thought was good, but it will be at a premium Monday night."
Why is that in particular?
"It's a team that plays a little bit more in space offensively out of a three wide set with Calvin (Johnson), (Golden) Tate, Lance (Moore and) the tight end (Eric Ebron). Pick two or three of the running backs and all of them are explosive in the passing game and so you're are going from one team that we just played that is a little bit more tight end, fullback condensed formations on first and second down to a team that is going to be spread out more, and so when that happens eleven to the ball and just as importantly the leverage and the ability to play in space is going to be important."
Has Stephone Anthony played better than you envisioned?
"He played pretty well this past game. He has a lot on his plate as a signal caller and I said this during the season, with each game you see improvement. By no means is he a finished product. There are a handful of things that he is continuing to work on - the communication of getting players lined up and recognizing the formation, the back is off strong or weak, the tight end just shifted, how that affects the front, there are a lot nuisances that he is learning and I think he is learning well."
When you describe the alignment issues, is that solely communication or have there been changes?
"There have been some changes with regards to fronts and coverages that we want to play a little bit more frequently, and like I said there would be anytime there's a change like that. There is going to be a noticeable difference in certain things that we want to do, and I would say we have done the practice work and meeting time on it. We changed a little bit in the way we are installing it and so I would say the players have responded and yet there are still a handful of things that we want to improve on. Having Dannell Ellerbe back was significant for us. He is someone that is a run and hit player that is smart and he brings something to the defense."
When you talk about communication on defense, is that mainly through Stephone Anthony in the middle?
"Offensively, you send in the personnel that you want to send in. If you want to send in receivers or tight ends, and you send it in with a play call or package of plays. Defensively, you can go ahead and send your personnel in and play it, which some teams do regardless of what you see. You'd probably play a little bit more zone (coverage). Typically in our league, you see what the offense is substituting just as they're going onto the field, and then you make your call (whether it is) nickel, base or dime. DA (Dennis Allen) hits that little walkie-talkie button on his headset and he's got until the :15 second mark to tell Stephone hey, we're going to run (this or that play). (Stephone) then communicates that to the group. Oftentimes, the back end is detached. On any given play, they're kind of maybe 15 yards downfield coming back. They might get that signaled. They being the safeties and/or the corners. They might get that communicated via a signal because they are 20 yards away from Stephone. As that signal-caller, the first thing that he has to say all of the time though is base or nickel, to make sure that the group stays on the field or gets off of the field. No different than when I send the play into Drew (Brees). I'd tell Drew alright, let's go 21 personnel or let's go 11, and right away Drew would say 11, 11, 11, and then it's on to the play call. It puts everyone in the huddle in the right frame of mind, in regards to what personnel we're going to be in."
A couple of guys on the team have mentioned that they've been on teams before where guys start to check out this late in the season, and yet have not seen that here. Do you think that here guys are more invested in this situation than you would normally see? Why do you think that is?
"We say this all the time – we try to create a culture and we mentioned this last week, but this is our livelihood. This is what we put on tape as players and coaches. Every week, you get measured in our league. I have said all season that we have a young, hungry group of players that are coming to work and want to please and want to be coached hard. Obviously, there are areas that we're going to have to improve in. It's back to that tough loss in Carolina and we talked about that photo with the guys on the bench. If there was a picture taken last week when (Tim) Hightower gets the first down in the four minute drill, and right at that minute everyone knows that we're on a knee the very next play, (you would see a great reaction). You watch it on video and you see the bench, defense or offense, (you will see) guys are fired up. You have got to be excited and passionate to play this game well. If not, then you would just turn over and then all of a sudden, that becomes accepted. That's the case in life. It's not just football. The concern that we all had, and we talked about it after the Carolina loss last week, was man, they laid it out there. We played with great effort. It was not flawless, obviously in a high scoring game. We felt like we were going to win the game and had a great work week, and then lost. It's easy to be discouraged or come back saying we just laid it out there (and lost). Collectively, we just have to find a way to regroup and do that again. There's some mental toughness involved in it. That gets back to the makeup of the guys that you're looking to sign to be on the team. You get enough of those guys and then all of a sudden you turn the corner. We've seen it happen before. It is entirely different than last season."
With regards to Willie Snead, do you think there is any merit when comparing him to Lance Moore?"
I think that's fair. I think that's a fair comparison early on. He didn't have a chance to play over in Europe because there is no longer a European NFL league over there. Coming up, he is kind of one of those guys that we'd say he started on first base and not necessarily on third base. I'd say he is similar in how he transitions. I'd say he is similar with his football intelligence. He has naturally good hands and good zone awareness. There would be a lot of fair comparisons that you could draw with him as a player. I say that as a great compliment to Lance. For eight years here, all he did was get open and make plays."