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Sean Payton: Steve Smith's longevity is impressive

Quotes from Sean Payton's post practice press conference on Friday, December 6, 2013

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post-Practice Media Availability
Friday, December 6, 2013

Opening Statement: "For us, (today is) just like a Thursday, in regards to the emphasis.  Tomorrow will be a little bit different practice than we normally have on a Saturday."

Ron Rivera has this reputation of being a riverboat gambler. You've been aggressive in the past. What goes into your decisions? Do you use analytics? Is it strictly gut?

"Generally it is a combination.  We will look closely at situations, timing in the game.  A lot of times the decision to go for it on fourth down or hypothetically a two point play is based on whether you still have a play you like.  Sometimes, say in short yardage situations, you've run a play you really like, converted, maybe you would run another one.  A lot of times it depends on if you have that play still that you haven't shown.  That factors in more than you think. I think it also is based on the game in itself and how it is unfolding, what you are doing defensively and what you are doing offensively and paying attention to that and trusting your instincts when the time comes.  Each game is different."

There is so much pressure on you guys as play callers, it seems like it is rare to see guys go for it on fourth down.

"Again, I think a lot of it is if we are playing and getting off the field on defense, it is easier to do or if you feel like maybe you need to shift momentum.  A good example last week in the Seahawk game, we were at seven and they were at maybe 20, I can't think of the exact score, but it was a third down situation where we max blitz because I felt like I was an important stop.  Now they converted and made the play to their slot receiver and it was a big play for them, but there was a case where watching that game is it was unfolding we were talking to Rob (Ryan) and saying hey, let's go after them right here.  I think we can get the ball back right here.  We could follow up the drive we just had.  There are some risks there and obviously you credit the team you are playing to make the play.  I think a lot of it is how that game is unfolding.  There are times going into it where it is a game you are planning on doing something specific, that would be look specific, whether it is special teams, whether it is offense or defense and you know going in you want to do this based on what you've seen on film."

I know early in your career you went for it about 20 times and now it is less.  Do you think it is because you have a better team?

"Yeah that might be the case.  I didn't go for it at all last year, so it should be less. But again, I think as the game is unfolding, 2009 would have been a season where we would have not done it as much because we were playing with a lot of leads.  A lot of it is how the game is unfolding and how you feel like the opponent is and to back with what I said do you have something you like. If it is something that is unfolding during the game other than a play you just want to run, you know you want to run, so fourth down decisions I think are more game related.  We typically don't even look at the two point chart until the end of the fourth quarter and then at that point early in the fourth quarter, if that game is unfolding a certain way, we still might not look at it.  But if points are hard to come by then you might look at that earlier in the fourth quarter.  That would be a good example.  But those same things go into playing defense too or using time outs and trying to protect field position.  We are pretty aggressive that way at the end of halves, just trying to make the game longer if we are not on offense and get that extra possession."

Did you call a timeout last week to try and get the ball back?

"Absolutely. And that came, if you recall, that came, that second quarter for us came with a slight wind and that came after a second down stop where the first down play happened.  I just recall talking to the officials saying if this is a play that is in bounds and short of the first down, I am going to want a timeout.  It was an incomplete pass maybe and all of a sudden there was a play where the clock was running quickly and we called a timeout.  Now they converted but we were trying to, once again, make the half longer, the quarter longer."

Rivera mentioned analytics, do you have charts that tell you the odds for different situations?

"The charts, I don't, we have a lot of studies that we do specific to game situations.  That wouldn't be one where I am paying attention to a chart because if the left end is pressuring you, that doesn't show up anywhere on the chart, those type of things.  That is more game related."

Have Lance Moore's snaps been lower than normal because of injury?

"No, not at all.  Look the challenge in a positive way is there have been weeks where we had five receivers up.  Recently Nick Toon has not been.  It is just trying to balance the receiver depth with the four of those guys.  Now when you have a game where you have possessions and snaps like last week, then everyone's pitch count drops.  In the nickel situations, the red zone situations, his role is very important, but it can vary week to week.  Now there has be a season or two where he has been in the base and receiving more snaps.  A lot of it depends on how much sub we are going to be in and how much nickel packages we are going to be in."

What are some of the challenges defending Steve Smith?

"He's very competitive. We had a chance to coach him in the Pro Bowl in 2006.  He has a great feel and instinct for routes.  He is explosive.  When I say that his stature, he is very strong in the lower body which allows  him to get in and out, start and stop very quickly and change directions.  He is extremely competitive.  He was fantastic coaching for that one week, just working with him.  He is someone that doesn't feel the pressure.  In fact I would say thrives on situations of making a play where they need it. What's impressive is the length of his career and his ability to do the same thing.  That hasn't changed much.  His skillset combined with his competitive nature and instincts have been outstanding.  He will be the first to receive a retirement card from me when that happens."

How strange is it that you are playing the Panthers in two out of the next three weeks?

"I don't think it is unusual to be playing a division opponent one week and then another game and then, in fact I would guess that in the last four years you can look at NFL schedules and find that every year. The league has done a good job trying to move division games further back in the schedule.  I think what brings attention to that is that two teams are both at 9-3 and competing for the division so that might be harder to find.  I think that is why the question is asked.  It is exciting to be in this position.  I'm sure Carolina feels the same way and each one of these next few games here are going to be very important.  It is kind of like a home and an away baseball series.  The focus is on this game and it is not looking ahead passed it. Obviously it is an important game.  You want to play well in your division and certainly when you are playing the other team that is tied for the lead in your division, at this point in the year, it becomes more important."

Do you consider this a rivalry game because most think Atlanta is your rival?

"I think this and I say this with all do respect, I don't think in our league there are rivalry games.  I think Michigan/Ohio State is a rivalry game, Army/Navy, Auburn/Alabama, and Georgia/Florida.  In our game, divisional games carry more weight and there are times where there are certain teams have competitive games.  When we first got here, Tampa Bay seemed to carry a lot of weight because they were the team that just won the Super Bowl and won the division. I would think that would change within divisions much like you might say San Francisco and Seattle.  I don't know if that has a long storied history, it just carries significance because those are the two teams that are at the top of their division.  This year obviously Carolina and the Saints are a game of importance, but I don't know that in our league that same thing exists like it does in college per say."

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