New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve SpagnuoloMedia AvailabilityTuesday, November 6, 2012
Opening Statement: "Praise God, is all I can say. It's good to get a win. The most gratifying thing really from our standpoint on defense was at the end of the game to look up at the scoreboard and see that there was 13 points and we had won a football game. We were happy about that."
"The stats don't look good, so if we get hung up on those that would kind of be a downer. I was disappointed in the 77-yard reception for a touchdown. Those are the things we are trying to eliminate but I will say this – our guys did create negative plays. We had sacks. We had tackles for losses. Certainly the turnovers were huge."
"What I was really, really proud of – I know all the coaches – was the way we played red zone defense. And especially rising up to the sudden challenge situation…they get the turnover on the kickoff and we have to go out and play redzone defense and we held them to a field goal. I thought that was pretty good."
"Our guys played fast and confident. They just kind of geared it up a notch. There are still things there that we need to clean up. The explosive plays and some tackling there that just has to be better. We just got to keep getting better. But I do think we took a step last night."
"One of the reason for a few of those explosive runs was we were really aggressive early in the game and pretty much continuously through. Sometimes when you do that, you're rolling the dice a little bit that something can get out and it did a couple of times. Again, it was offset by plays some plays that we created. Bottom line is we won the game and we are happy about that."
Because of how successful you guys were with a more aggressive approach last night, will you lean towards that approach going forward or stick to a game-by-game approach?
"I don't know that. I haven't had enough look at Atlanta. I'm only worried about the Atlanta Falcons right now. I think people, just by nature – football fans, coaches, players do the same things - think the answer to everything is to just blitz. That's not necessarily true, especially when you're playing a pretty good quarterback. (Michael Vick) is a good quarterback but we felt like we could do some things. They had an injury in the o-line early and that made a difference and we were cognizant of that. But going into this next game, I don't know what it will be. It will be whatever we have to do to try and win a football game. Our guys play well aggressively. We'll continue to do that."
But you don't always have to blitz to be aggressive?
"You shouldn't have to. Defensive football is about being aggressive all the time."
Do you believe the Eagles ability to pitch out and cut back in was in part because of how aggressive you guys were?
"A little bit because when you commit a certain number of people in a blitz scheme to maybe expose or take advantage of something on a pass play and all of a sudden it turns into a run – we can't always guess right – sometimes there are some holes there that need to be covered up by fast play. Sometimes we fell back in and did that and sometimes we didn't. You just have to know that it may happen once in a while. However, you have to offset that with a big play of your own and I thought we did a little bit of that."
Do you believe your defense plays better with an aggressive approach?
"I think any defense does. I can take you back to some plays this season when we've done that and it has gone the other way because of whoever we were playing against or whatever plays they had manufactured and exposed some things. You've got to pick your spots. We played well last night and that's comforting."
How do you deal with the uncertainty that still looms over Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith's status for the rest of the season?
"Until you said that, I hadn't really thought about that whole situation till you mentioned it. We have taken the approach, and I know Coach (Sean) Payton has been that way, that it's one week at a time and one game at a time. All we are addressing right now is the Atlanta Falcons. You should have a little bit of foresight should something happen. We have been under that thing all year long. We don't talk about it very often. Once we know how the week is set the way the week is we just move on and worry about the opponent we are playing."
What were your initial impressions of Curtis Lofton when he signed with the Saints?
"I've always been impressed with Curtis Lofton. When you are a defensive coach, you notice guys on film that really stand out just when you see crossover tape, certainly when he was playing in Atlanta. He was always one of those explosive playmakers. He always (making) two to four big plays in a game. I knew Curtis a little bit when he was coming out of college. Having the opportunity to get to know him, this man is a true pro. It's important to him. He as detailed and hard working as anybody in this building. He's been a part of our defense that's been solid in the middle. He takes a lot of pride in it and has done a nice job with it. I will say this as well – what has helped in that regard is that both him and Jonathan Vilma have worked terrifically together. If we continue to do that, I think it will help our defense."
It looks like has taken on a leadership role?
"I think it is natural with that position. When you come to a new team there is a feeling out process especially when it is an established team like the Saints are. I think know he has found the groove and the guys have a lot of respect for him because they see what he does on Sundays."
What does it say about Jonathan Vilma that he has playing pretty well considering he missed so much time?
"It's a credit to him and the guy he is. It's been up and down for him and he has been in a courtroom more than a football field. He's getting in a little bit of a groove. We would like to get him out there more often but we want to be careful. We did feel a couple of weeks ago that he played a lot of plays and it was unfair to him. You are talking about a guy that was really just in his third preseason game last night. Yet, he was out there and comes through with that sack and makes a big play. He got a tackle for a loss and almost another tackle for a loss. I know the guys, myself included, appreciate having Jonathan Vilma out there."
Both Cameron Jordan and Will Smith had good games last night. How you analyze how they did?
"Both him and Will played good games last night. We needed that on the edges with this speed-edge run game they had. What was really impressive was obviously the sacks. They're always going to stand out. We've still got a long way to go in a lot of areas. Before I walked over here I popped my head in the defensive line room and Will Smith was in there watching the game and the film. I am sure the other guys have done the same. As a group with Bill Johnson and Travis Jones, they've been working their butts off to continue to get better. We still have a long way to go on bunch of things. There's plays on there we're still not happy with to be honest with you."
What are your thoughts on Falcons WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones and facing two big receivers such as them?
"We have to find a way to not allow the explosive plays by them. They find a way to do it against everybody. I haven't dug deep enough into Atlanta. We just put this one (Eagles game) to bed now. We watched a little bit of their tape this morning when I get in here. I don't have a real good feel for them but I know this, they're undefeated, they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, they have a run game, the coordinator there is terrific, Dirk Koetter, and the two wideouts and tight ends certainly do present a lot of problems. As I am blurting all of that out, I'm getting a slight headache because this is one of those teams. Pick your poison. What do you take away. We'll figure it out. We'll put something together and get to work."
Have you been able to pick out why the secondary has struggled against big receivers this season?
"I don't know. Those games were a bunch of everything. We're going to play big wideouts in the NFL. We have Patrick (Robinson), Jabari (Greer) and Corey White and they understand that. We'll go out and be aggressive and defend them. We are not going to run away from them. Just because they're big, we're not going to run away from them."
Was Patrick Robinson just in the right place at the right time for his interception?
"Michael Vick, I think, was trying to get to his tight end. Jonathan Casillas had really tight coverage which forced the tight end a little wider and Roman Harper just jumping up and getting in the way of the flight of the ball, I think, caused it to just be off enough to tip the tight end's hand and Patrick Robinson was there to make the catch. Not everybody makes that play but P-Rob did. The most impressive thing was that he has the wherewithal to just take off and go. He can run, we all know that. Roman Harper made a key block on that, Michael Vick, so that was important. He was the one guy that could have made a play on Patrick and Roman got him blocked, that was impressive."
The Saints in 2009 were good and lucky. Is Atlanta like that this season where the ball just goes there way?
"You never know when you're year is and when it's the other way. I have been blessed enough to be on one of those teams and you look back at it and go 'whew, if on that one play if it had gone the other way, we might not have' done whatever. Some teams have those special seasons. Let's hope they don't have a special game this coming weekend. Don't take anything away from Atlanta, that's a good football team and a good coach. They have a lot of talent and it's going to be quite a challenge for us."
Roman Harper said your message last week was to relax and realize that everyone makes mistakes and they are going to happen. Did that relax the defensive players this past week?
"I hope this. This is not a black and white game. The way we draw it up on Wednesdays and Thursdays when we put it in, quite frankly, it only works out that way half the time. Players play and they react and they play off of each other. Part of the continuity on defense is learning each other play after play after play in the heat of the battle. You know what the guy in front of you is going to do, you know how to play off of him. There was a lot more of that going on last night. I just don't want anyone worried about making mistakes. Just go out and play because on defense if you do that, you are going to be stagnant and stiff and you're never going to be able to be successful in this league. I am glad they felt that way. Hopefully they'll continue to do that and we can have some decent results."
Did you get the impression that was one of the issues in the first couple of weeks? Were they afraid to make a mistake?
"I don't know that, you'd have to ask them. Each game is set on its own, played a little bit differently. I don't want to go back to the games now but it was a combination of a lot of things. Hopefully we're making strides and eliminating some of the things that caused us to have some bad plays. Hopefully."
How does Matt Ryan rank as far as what you have seen?
"I don't know, once you get in that top five those guys are all pretty good. He has won a lot of games in this league. Again, I think the system they run is a good one. The personnel people there, Thomas Dimitroff and the guys have put together a lot of good players for them. He operates that offense really, really well and efficient. This is a huge, huge challenge for our defense this week, in a short week, so I better go get to work."