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Sean Payton: "Sunday night games are exciting"

Quotes and video from Sean Payton's post-practice press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Opening Statement: "We have two practice squad transactions. We signed tight end Orson Charles to our practice squad and terminated the contract of tight end Nic Jacobs. He was signed to Jacksonville's active roster and then we signed center Alex Parsons to our practice squad and terminated the contract of guard Antoine McClain. We had a very normal Wednesday in regards to the schedule. I thought the tempo was good and I thought our work and practice went well."

After watching the film, what do you get from the missed extra point on Sunday?
"Yes, we just felt like it came off low. The protection was good. It was just a lower trajectory kick."

Can you talk about Curtis Lofton and his contributions. It seems like he's been pretty consistent this year and that he is coming off his best game so far.
"He did play well this past weekend. He's a thumper when he tackles you. Obviously he's one of the quarterbacks of our defense. He'll get the signals in from the sidelines, communication, all of that. It went very well (on Sunday). He's been very steady (and) healthy and that's important obviously at your Mike linebacker position with what we do defensively. He plays in the nickel as well."

Jonathan Vilma was such a vocal guy. Is Curtis the same way?
"Yes, they're different players still. Guys can lead in different ways. I think Curtis is certainly one of our leaders. He's a captain and also a guy that's actively involved calling the game."

The way the offense performed last year against Dallas when they set the NFL single-game first down record and the club total yardage mark, what's the difference between that type of performance and what you've seen so far in three games?
"I said this in the team meeting this morning, both teams are entirely different. Their defense is different. You see them structurally doing things differently. A lot of the personnel, almost their entire front, looks new. That game took on a certain way and went in a certain direction. I think this will be a real good challenge for us. This is a team coming off of two (straight) wins. They obviously came from behind last week and got the turnovers they needed and won on the road. Both of their wins have been on the road which is tough to do, so you see them playing with confidence. What they're doing offensively with their commitment to run the football has benefitted their defense."

What has been the message this week? The first week it was tackling. Last week it was situational football. What is the message?
"Still the detail. There are a lot of things from the game we just played that we have to clean up. The message is pretty simple. We're really in a race to improve and just like every other team in our league is, we're very early in the season. There's a number of things that you can address on film that when you're in weeks 14, 15 and 16 you hope you're not seeing."

You mentioned some differences in what you've seen last year out of Dallas. But this is the fifth time in six years the Saints will have played the Cowboys. Is there some familiarity with them based on how much you guys have played them?
"The way the schedule works, it's kind of been the same way with Chicago. There are a few NFC teams (you might end up playing more than others). You rotate NFC divisions (schedule rotation) and then you're getting two at large teams if you will with like standings. In this case, Dallas is one of those teams. I was going through it in my mind with some of those teams we've played quite a bit. San Francisco would be one. Seattle seems to have been one. Obviously we've played them in the playoffs, Chicago. You kind of all of a sudden the way the schedule shakes out, end up seeing a few teams maybe more regularly in the NFC than you would normally. I think more than anything else though it's studying the tape (and) looking at the changes. Both teams and both rosters are different now and the scheme has changed some and really as quickly as possible (you are) getting as familiar (as you can) after three weeks (of the regular season) and the preseason and who's doing it."

Photos from inside the New Orleans Saints locker room after the team’s win against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, September 21, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)

It doesn't seem like your team is taking as many deep shots down the field on offense. Is that accurate?
"At times we are. At times the ball comes down to underneath coverages. There are some plays where it's called for a down the field throw and a Brandin Cooks completion where he makes a play behind them where there's a deeper throw on top of that. Sometimes the progression takes you to an underneath throw."

Do you maybe try to break the tendencies with a team you see so much like Dallas?
"It happens more in the division."

Similar to a division opponent?
"It's so early in the season, I don't know if those specific tendencies exist. We try to study formation, personnel group and play calls. Where in this formation trying to make sure that nothing's 90 percent or above. You're going to have an 80, 20 or 70, 30 percentile split, but more than anything we're looking at our self-scouting, formation self-scout."

What do you see in the Cowboys defense that's maybe a little different in what you've seen, as they do not have some players you had become familiar with like DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee?
"They're playing a little bit more down safety defense. You see both safeties support the run extremely well. They have the confidence outside in the corners. You'll see a pressure package in the nickel that is really something you have to spend some time on. That will be our work tonight and I think it's a very active front. They're doing a good job of rotating guys in and they're fresh and you can see on tape the energy and effort."

Corey White's worked his way up the depth chart the past two seasons. How valuable has it been having him in the mix?
"Corner is a position where you never seem to have enough of them. The thing he brings is a physical presence. He's a good tackler and so that transitions well when he comes inside and not just plays outside. I think he has good ball skills and a real good football sense as to what's going on. When he plays outside he can separate it when he comes into the nickel position. But overall, his tackling ability, ability to cover and all those things have helped him."

In the return game there haven't been that many opportunities with so many touchbacks on kickoffs. But if given the opportunity what do you want to see on kickoff return and punt return as well?
"You cover the kick return aspect during the week because each weekend on TV you see a penalty and all of a sudden the ball's being kicked off from further back. It's going to be a return ball. And then if the ball is not in the air as long and you are catching it from the end zone, Travaris (Cadet) is smart enough to make a decision to bring it out. Anytime you're bringing it out, the thought is let's get past the break even point which is the 20-yard line. I think he has unique ability and last time he gave us some really good returns when we needed them and I think each week with the punt return game a lot of it is hangtime, directional punting. Guys have gotten good at locating punts and getting them in the air long enough to where they force you to fair catch it more than you want. But, one of the things we measure each week is the plus minus field position starting point after kickoff and fielding punts and those are hidden yards you're trying to win."

Dez Bryan has become one of the most talented wide receivers in the league. What do you see from him and the challenges he presents?
"He's big, he's physical, he's exceptional with the ball in his hands and so, he's tough to bring down. He's a guy that can take an intermediate pass and make it a long one. You can see he plays the ball well over his head and he's tough to press. He has the dimensions you look for with the size and speed and he's very good running after the catch."

Do you have to wait for the defense to be able to create turnover opportunities?
"No, I think when you pressure a quarterback with a dog or blitz you're hoping the clock is quicker for him. In turn maybe an opportunity comes or a ball comes out earlier than he wants to. I think getting the hands up looking for a deflection (is important). Those are all little things or details. I think you see it every weekend when you're tackling a ballcarrier, that effort to separate the ball from the ballcarrier (is important), all of those things. We see a lot and we have to continue to work at it."

Do you think the Cowboys are much harder to defend now with their recent success running the ball?
"I think it's a fact that the balance makes it more challenging. I think that it complements the defense and sets up the down the field play action pass opportunities. Anytime a team is two-dimensional rather than one dimensional, I think it makes it more challenging, yes."

Do you think the Cowboys will be extra motivated because of their record last year?
"I don't know that it really comes into play. I think that again and I mentioned to our team this morning, the rosters are different. This team hasn't beaten Dallas. Last year's team did. There are a lot of new faces here and there as well. Both teams are early in the season looking to get another win here and this will be the second game home now after losing their home opener. I'm sure they're looking to play better at home. We're looking to play better on the road. No, I don't (think they are extra-motivated because of last year's record)."

Do you enjoy playing against the Cowboys because of your friendship with Jerry Jones and other people with the Cowboys?
"Yes, listen there are a lot of people I'm close with there. I've said this before, my three years there are really important and rewarding. I learned a lot. I think playing on Sunday night, playing in a primetime game is exciting, I think for players and all of us involved, but typically you could pick a team, go there and there are ties. I've said this all the time, there's ties for some people and there are maybe some teams and some cities where there aren't many for myself, but having coached there, I think it's obviously a storied program."

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