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Steve Spagnuolo Discusses Defensive Performance, Previews Broncos Matchup

Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spoke with the media on Monday to discuss the defense's performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and to preview the contest against the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football


New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

Media Availability

Monday, October 22, 2012

Opening Statement:

"Obviously, (I'm) happy with the win, happy for the team, and happy for Aaron (Kromer) to come away with another win as a head coach. Just moving to defense, we probably made just enough plays to win the game. I'd start off saying that. Certainly the goal line stand was big and that obviously was generated by the fact that Malcolm (Jenkins) was able to run him down. That was a huge play. I thought we had an interception earlier in the game. I know the official saw it differently. Jonathan Vilma put the pressure on the quarterback and Roman (Harper) does what he's supposed to do in trying to secure the catch. Obviously, the official underneath the replay system might have gotten a different view or whatnot. We thought we had one there. The red zone defense, it might not look good statistically and I know they scored there a couple of times down there, but we forced them into 21 red zone defensive plays. That was a lot. The way the game went, making them earn anything was really kind of important. So there were some good things in there, even though they did score that one touchdown. Most disappointed really if I was to say anything, and I think the guys feel the same way, is that we weren't as a defense, after our offense did a tremendous job, able to close the game. There were two series there where we could have basically closed the game. We did it in the San Diego game two weeks ago and that's a great feeling to know you helped your team by closing it. When I look at both those drives, what I see is this – in both of them, within four plays, and the first (drive) we'll call a two-minute drive (even though) it was at ten minutes, but within four plays they're in the red zone and then the other one it was two plays and they're in the red zone. So we never really got a chance to be in a pin-your ears back and rush the quarterback two-minute because we let them out of the bag too early. To me, that was the biggest disappointment and it is certainly going to be an area that we're going to need to focus on."

The play that won the game in the end, with the thought process of pushing a player out of bounds when the quarterback is out of the pocket, a lot of people say that's a sign of a growing defense. Do you agree?

"It was smart. If you noticed, and everybody was focused on where the ball was thrown, but Malcolm (Jenkins) did the same thing to another receiver on the other side of the field. He actually forced him. That's good football. Good players do it in key situations in this league and two of our guys actually did it on that one. Patrick Robinson knew exactly what he was doing because as soon as the guy caught the ball, if you watch him, he goes right to the official. Good officiating. I want to make sure I get that out. Good officiating on that play."

How much presence of mind does it take for a defensive back to know that a quarterback has gone out of the pocket and to push the receiver out of bounds?

"Yeah, the scramble and the whole thing and you're allowed to do it, make sure the ball's not in the air when you do it, otherwise it's going to be a penalty for defensive pass interference. Again, there were two instances on that one play. That means a number of guys are being coached well and guys are embracing it and did the right thing."

Once Patrick Robinson pushed him out, did you know you guys were going to get the flag?

"I had no idea. I saw touchdown and here we go to overtime. I was a little bit crushed. I was looking for a knockdown sack or an interception. I didn't know it until the end and then somebody said, 'Hold on a second.'"

A lot of people look at stats, and I guess you could say stats don't measure heart. That's what Malcolm Jenkins showed on that play and a lot of other guys have shown that.

"Can I use that quote that stats don't measure heart? That's an awesome statement and I wish I would've thought of it. Trust me, I'm not a stat guy. I never have been, both ways. I've been fortunate and blessed where the stats up there are phenomenal and you're at the top of everything and I still haven't looked at them because I just don't believe you do that yet. I'm going to admit that it crushes me to think of what, I mean you're looking at that and you're saying these guys can't stop anybody, but that's not really the truth because when we've had to, we do it. The explosive plays still kill us, but there is a lot of heart in this group. It's amazing. The guys are amazing. Malcolm's play right there, and we all know which one I'm talking about, is evident of how these guys play. I would piggyback that by going back to the red zone plays. To force them into 21 red zone plays in two drives says the same thing. In other words, they get some big plays to get into the red zone and we don't just fold the tent and let them score in two plays. I agree with you one hundred percent."

What did Jonathan Vilma bring?

"What doesn't he bring? I loved having him there. I complimented both him and Curtis (Lofton) right after the game. It didn't matter whether we won or lost. I thought the way they handled the week was terrific. The rest of the team is looking at them, and you talk about two pros and how they handled it. I'm glad we have both of them. Jonathan Vilma is the epitome of team player and an inspirational guy that I think all the guys kind of feed off. I'm sure glad we got him (back)."

This week, you're playing against a difficult quarterback who runs a no-huddle offense in high altitude. How much are you worried about your guys getting a little gassed?

"We're no different than any other team. People have to go up there and play them, so that's what we'll do. We'll have to find ways to do some things to kind of off-set that. It is a concern. It is different. I'm hoping that maybe the nighttime will change things, although the altitude doesn't change at night, but I'm thinking maybe from a temperature standpoint. I haven't thought about all of that. Certainly my mind has gone to Peyton Manning and the no-huddle. I haven't seen a lot of his tape. I watched a little bit of it in the bye week, but he's every bit of good as he has been. It's going to be quite a challenge."

Is it fair to say that a guy like Brandon Stokley is kind of a survivor in the NFL? What do you say about a guy like that?

"It says a lot about him. Obviously he must be in great condition because you don't play out on the edge here in this league without being able to keep your speed and whatnot. I think between the two of them, I'm talking about him and Peyton (Manning) working together, I think they feed off of each other. I did see the end of the Chargers game and the throw and the catch, it's two complementary guys that are on the same page. They've played a lot of football together. I think when you can do that, you can play for a long time."

How has the injury bug affected the linebackers?

"David (Hawthorne), we're anxious to get him back. It was good to see Jonathan (Vilma) out there. I tell you what, he almost had that interception. That would've been an exceptional play. It was a great play just to get his hands on it, but that's the kind of feel he has. We're working through that. The great thing about this group of guys is they're all about unit. They put unit before self. If we keep doing that and hopefully the coaches can do the right things, I'm talking about how we implement them and get them in there, hopefully we get some good play out of there."

What is it going to mean for the defense getting Joe Vitt back as a position coach?

"It means a lot to me. Joe has been here for so long. He brings such great energy. It's just like having Jonathan Vilma out there. We're starting to add, and hopefully instead of delete, (add) people and personalities with what we need to help get us through the next wave of tough NFL football (on the schedule)."

Are you satisfied with the defensive players getting your system down?

"There are still some kinks to work out, but we're going into the seventh game of the season. Nobody's in there saying, 'We have to learn the system.' The system is in place. We've been doing the same thing for seven months or however long it's been. Some of the things that creep up could happen if you've been in a system for three years. The game's not perfect. The guys aren't perfect. Somewhere along the way, the guys just have to make plays. We would've liked to have made a few more. If we make, I'm calling it two two-minute drives, one was at ten minutes and I know one was later on, but in those two drives there at the end, if we come up with a play and we had them both inside the 20 (yard line) where they began, I'm feeling a little bit different because we're able to close the game. I don't want to lose the fact that we gave up seven points in the second half. They rushed the ball 15 times in the second half for 13 yards. There's a lot of positive in there. I'm just stuck on not being able to close. That's where we want to get to."

Can you talk about Cam Jordan's play when he ran down Josh Freeman on fourth down at the goal line and how he's grown?

"Two things happened on that play. You saw everything went one way and then they came out and had only one wide receiver run a route. It was a tight end and Roman (Harper) did everything he was supposed to, so it gave the quarterback a little bit of indecision. He couldn't pop it right out there. Now the quarterback has to decide, 'Do I wait for the tight end to come open or do I run it?' While he's deciding that, Cam Jordan is doing exactly what he should do. He recognizes pass and he runs right down the line of scrimmage to get the quarterback contained. Really I think it needs to be fixed, but it was a sack-(forced) fumble. It's a pass play. He tackles him behind the line of scrimmage and the ball came out. That was a sack-(forced) fumble and a great play by a defensive end on the goal line."

Can you expand on the working relationship between Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma? You described it as a friendly competition.

"I didn't say a friendly competition. What I said was that they're two pros working it out. You should've seen them working together on the sideline during the game. Here Jonathan is kind of playing a different position because he's not right in the middle, and yet they're feeding off of each other. They did it all week in practice. I was just very, very impressed with the character of those two guys and how they operate. It wouldn't always go that way in this league where there are a lot of egos and there's a lot of pride, but yet they're both about team and winning football games."

Do you feel like Jonathan Vilma and Curtis Lofton are pushing each other?

"Yes, and I think that's happening a lot around our roster. The leaders kind of generate that – the Drew Brees' and the Roman Harper's and the Jonathan Vilma's, and certainly you can put Curtis Lofton in there, too."

Do you have any thoughts on increasing Jonathan Vilma's playing snaps?

"You have a guy like that, I think you try to find a way to do that. We'll work through it this week. It's a different challenge. It's not a fullback in the backfield and a running back, and (the issue is) are you in three linebackers or two (on the field). Once we get a look at it, Jonathan Vilma needs to be and we will find a way to get him on the field as much as possible. Going into this game, it's like when Jonathan and I talked, I was going to protect him from himself a little bit because he would go out there and play every play, trust me. But he hadn't played in a whole year. I don't know what the snaps were for him, but it was about right the first time through and he probably had to knock a little bit of the rust off. As we get going here, and hopefully we'll have him all the way through, we can just keep building."

What was going on with the penalties on Roman Harper in the red zone?

"I won't comment on one of them. The other one was probably legit. He was just being aggressive in the red zone, playing the coverage and you get a penalty. We certainly don't want to get those in any situation, but I don't get as concerned about the aggressive penalties. Face mask (penalties), we can get rid of those. We didn't go offsides, but that would be another one or some kind of unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Even when a corner is getting called for being aggressive at the line of scrimmage, that's what we do."

Is closing out the game your biggest concern for the defense?

"In this particular game it was. We closed it out in San Diego. I can't say it's been an overall (concern), now maybe those are the only two situations we've had. One we succeeded in. When it's all said and done, we kept them out of the end zone at the end so I guess you can say we did. But it's just not the way I kind of envisioned closing out the game."

What went wrong on the first three possessions of the game and were there any adjustments that were made after them?

"The very first play, we just didn't defend it right on the coverage. It was easily defended and we had a bust. The second one was the running play. We just had a misfit on a run. It shouldn't be a 36-yard run. It should be about a four-yard gain. All the guys that were involved with that know that."

Do you ever think about how things would be different if the fourth quarter against Kansas City wouldn't have happened?

"I don't go back there often, but I'm human. Yes, it would've made a difference."

Could you talk about John Fox?

"I have a lot of respect for John. He has a great personality and he's done a great job everywhere he's been. I thought he did an outstanding job in Carolina. He got that team to the Super Bowl. He's doing a great job now. I think he and John Elway are working great together. I don't know a lot about the ins-and-outs behind the scenes and all that, but John Fox is a good football coach. He's proven it again. Certainly he being there, Peyton Manning and the rest of the weapons they have is going to make for a great challenge for us."

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