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Steve Spagnuolo: "Your Best Game Should Be The Next Game"


New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Press Conference
Monday, December 17, 2012

"Obviously I loved the intent the guys came out (with) in the game, particularly the defensive line.  I thought they did a nice job early against the run game. I thought it was a direct result of the way those guys played.  In the past game, part of the reason the defensive line was able to do what they did, pressurewise was because I think the coverage was really really good. I credit Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush back there, when we are in our sub-packages and Roman Harper when we are in our base packages.  I though Jabari Greer played an excellent game, more than just the two interceptions, he had some other plays in there, (and) he was confident. The thing that goes a little bit unnoticed from a production standpoint is Patrick Robinson, who we matched on Vincent Jackson, I thought (he) played well all game.  It didn't show up because some of the balls didn't go over there and he was pressing him.  Jackson is an excellent wide receiver in the NFL.  I saw him at the end of the game and went and shook his hand.  He is a big man, he can run and is a productive player.  I thought Patrick Robinson did a nice job there. Obviously the turnovers helped us. We played a lot of plays, 75 plays.  Sometimes that happens by the nature of the score.  I would have liked us to get off the field a couple of plays sooner in the second half, but we did keep them out of the end zone.  I'm really proud of the coaches and players overall.  The result is a good one and you guys have heard me talk about before that the most important thing is keeping points off the board.  I don't want to lose sight that we had a rough go there in New York eight days ago.  To see those guys bounce back and play one of our better games was really good to see and I'm really proud of them."  

You talked about getting off the field sooner, do you think starting off where you got off the field when you had those early three-and-outs started the momentum early?

"Yes, when you can start out like that, obviously the first series was a three-and-out and Curtis Lofton knocked the ball down on third down.  I believe we already scored at that point, so it was 7-0.  If you can turn around and give your offense the ball right back without losing any field position, it's a field position game.  We got an offense that if you put them in good field position then they are going to find ways to do that and it was really helpful."  

Would be accurate to say that you guys did a great job of disguising coverage and different pressure packages?

"Yes a little bit early, I thought we could have done a little bit better with that stuff in the second half.  Your statement is a true one.  Curtis Lofton did a great job on a particular coverage where he actually changed it from one particular side to the other and that was in response to something that they were doing.  So when you can do that in (a) loud dome, it's a challenge for us when we are on defense at home from a communication standpoint.  We talked a lot about that last week, if you guys go back and watch the film, you are going to see Roman Harper communicating with signals and Curtis Lofton doing the same thing. I agree with what you are saying.  If you can do that and then get ahead, it makes for a better game for us anyway."

Are you happier with four interceptions or limiting Doug Martin to sixteen yards?

"Both, but you bring up a good point.  Doug Martin is a good running back, third in the league (yardage), I believe going into the game.  Again, I credit the people up front, but it is a combination of guys playing the coverage on the back end.  They ran a couple plays early to our right and I vividly remember Will Smith knocking their tight end back.  In a 4-3 defense if you can win the defensive end-tight end battle you have a good chance of playing good run defense, and I thought we did that."

What has impressed you most about Cameron Jordan?

"He plays a lot of different places for us too.  He move him inside sometimes, he's on the nose on third down.  He can go out there and play end.  He is just really really solid and gets better and better.  I know Bill Johnson and Travis Jones, who coach the defensive line, really saw a jump in his play throughout training camp.  I'll go all the way back to that and he has carried it all the way to the season.  It's good to see and we need that.  In a 4-3 defense your defensive ends have to be some of your better players and when they are you have an effective defense."

How would you describe Jordan personality wise?

"I can't say goofball or he will get all over me, but his teammates can get away with that.  It's a pleasure to work with him.  He's an easygoing guy, takes coaching great, he embraces it.  He takes hard coaching.  I think that it sinks in, he absorbs it and like I said I think he embraces what we are doing.  It's obvious in his play because he is effective."

Are you surprised it took this long to have that complete performance?

"Yeah, it's been a funny year.  We actually talked about it Saturday night.  We went back to our Saturday night meeting and said okay here is where we were and here is what happened.  Yet, we had a stretch there where I thought we were pretty solid.  The goal is to always shut a team out and that doesn't happen very often, but you try to get as close to it as you can.  We have been close in some games, and further away in others.  Again, I go back to the Giants game, which was not a good performance, and to be able to bounce back like that is as impressive as anything."

How big of a deal is to the young players to have the kind of success as they did?

"Yes, this game is a confidence game.  I don't think you can play in this league if you don't play it with confidence.  Every time you have success it builds confidence, its just human nature.  What you have to fight against is when you don't have success, you can't lose that confidence or get down, especially at the positions you mentioned, in the secondary.  You have to have a short memory when something bad happens, whether it's on a play within a game or if it's on one game to another, you just have to move on.  That's the nature of the game, we tell them that all the time.  We forget about what happened on the previous drive or play and go on to the next one. When you can get some confidence when you are playing well it can help the whole team."

What should be motivating the players right now?

I'm not going to go into the contract realm, but I can tell you this, it's a unit thing with us, and it has been, and that's what is great about this group.  Quite honestly, when I get a chance to talk to the guys on Wednesday, our challenge would be to make this game we played yesterday not to be our best game.  I think that should always be the challenge in anything you are in.  Your best game should be the next game.  We did well, we want to do it better and anything we didn't do well, we certainly want to improve on.  Our guys are motivated by the fact that they love playing defense and if you are going to help your football team win you are going to have to keep points off the board.  I think that will motivate them."

You've gone up against Tony Romo a lot. Probably no quarterback gets more praise for doing well and more criticism when they don't.  What are your impressions of him and how have you tried to go against him and take him out this game?

"It's a tough business being the quarterback in Dallas.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tony.  I actually know him pretty well.  You are right in the fact that fortunately, or unfortunately, I have had to go up against him a number of times certainly in Philadelphia and New York, we played them last year in St. Louis (also).  This guy, in my opinion, is one of the toughest quarterbacks to defend against and to gameplan against.  I watched a little bit of that game yesterday when I got home and I can see him doing it again.  He puts his team in good plays, takes them out of bad plays and puts them in good ones.  He is really smart and I think part of the fact that he has gone up against us enough he might have an upper hand.  Plus, he is a good golfer.  Have you guys ever seen him play?  I think it's in Lake Tahoe, I saw him on television this year.  He almost won the thing. I think he is a tremendous athlete and good person. I am one of his fans, but we are going to try and beat him this weekend.  He's a good football player too."

How much of the comfort factor with the defense has been helpful?

"Yes, when you get off to the rocky start that we did, it's human nature, and I don't blame the guys one bit, to have a little bit of doubt and not be sure.  But the way things that worked out in the season and because of the makeup of the guys in our particular locker room and meeting room, these guys have never given up and continue to fight.  They have embraced it, even through some down times because certainly in this business, it is all about winning and I don't think anyone here has thought that we won enough.  After yesterday, I would hope there is a lot more comfort and confidence."

With Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush being young safeties, what has that progression been like?

"I tell you what, the coaches have done a great job, Ken Flajole and Marcus Ungaro works with them a little bit.  Everyday they are back there, grinding away and feeding them information to them and I thought Isa-- it's not easy to be a backup for months and then all of a sudden go in there.  The guys that can do it and do it effectively are the guys that can do it in tune all the time and both Rafael and Isa have done that.  Johnny Patrick went in there and did a good job for us, and Elbert Mack, who was inactive for a bunch of games.  You talk about some quality guys, good character guys and good coaches.  Ken has done a great job of keeping those guys in tune and we come up with a perfect game."

There are some guys when they are young who are labeled as special team guys, do you see them like that?

"We see all of our guys as defensive players.  Greg McMahon gets them on special teams and they play a certain role, but everyone one of those guys, I think we have nine of them, in tune and they know they are just an ankle turn away from being in there and trying to help this football team win.  In this league, when you aren't the guy getting 90% of the reps during practice to get ready for an opponent, you have to do it mentally.  And hey when the gun sounds and they have to go out there, they have to perform and both of those guys went out there and did that yesterday."

How do you view the shutout in context of how the year started?

"It's a confidence booster, again we are all human.  I like the way you said it; it's tangible.  If there's x number of points scored and we sit in here and talk together saying we did good in this and good in that.  The bottom line is when it when all (was) said and done, there were no points on the board.  There is a lot that goes into that and I mentioned yesterday that the special teams played well and they are didn't have great field position.  Another thing is when the offense gets going early like they did, all that helps when we all work together.  I know that Joe Vitt probably mentioned that I thought yesterday was a great team win.  I think that it can do nothing but boost the confidence of the defensive players, it should.  They should be proud of what they did, I am proud of them.  Hopefully we can build on it and I will go back to what I said, when it is all said and done, I hope that this is not our best performance of the year.  That would be the goal. To me, it is a unit accomplishment.  Players play the game and they went out and executed.  I think the assistant coaches put together a good plan.  We put together a good plan as a coaching staff, they fed it to the players and it got executed on Sunday. We all should feel good about that.  Personally I feel proud and they should feel the same about each other."

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