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Transcript: Coach Sean Payton weekly media availability - December 6, 2019

Coach Sean Payton speaks to media prior to a Week 14 matchup against San Francisco

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Post Practice Media Availability
Friday, December 6, 2019

Offensively, are you guys kind of executing where you want the team to be right now on offense?
"Look, I think the answer would be no. I think our red zone numbers have to get better. That's something that we continue to work on. Our ball security's been fantastic. Our third down (conversion rate) gotten better, but the thing that would stand out, it's just the red zone efficiency. I think our numbers in the past have been better and I think we can be better."

We've asked you a couple times this week about the San Francisco rush offense, but how do you think that matches up with your rush defense?
"We're going to find out. Those guys do a great job. Kyle (Shanahan) comes from a system where there's at a lot of success and those guys are doing it at a high level. The runners are guys that can get to the edge and it kind of starts with that wide zone, but they're running as well as anyone in there. When you watch their film, you see it."

They don't run too much guard to guard do they? Do they really try to go off tackle?
"Some of those off tackles though, end up cut up. But look, it's not just that. You get some misdirection, you get some scissor schemes. They're going to attack you and they're going to make you move and then when they make you move, there's going to be misdirection off of that. There's going to be cuts off of it. Setting the proper edge and fitting this the right way is important."

Because they bring pressure with mainly four, is the screen game as effective because they can sit linebackers back?
"It depends. Look, to your point, there's a lot of four man rush there. They're affecting the quarterback with four so that's problematic because they can be in coverage and now you are having to throw quicker than you want into some tougher coverage looks. Whereas if a team is pressuring you then the ball can come out quicker sometimes. The ability for them to get pressure on the quarterback with a four man rush is a great trait for a defense. Those guys are doing it very well. When do you call screens and zones versus man, a lot of it's what you're wanting to accomplish and in your play design. But, certainly it starts with protection. It starts with your ability to help control that four man rush. This team from last year to this year has improved in a couple of areas more than I've seen the team in one year in a while because we have all the film this year, but we have all the film last year and it's a different defense almost when you're watching it just with how they're playing. The personnel is different. There's new guys in that are playing very well. They're well-coached and there's a reason they're the top ranked defense in our league."

What do you think has been behind some of the production that Marcus Williams has had?
"Look, there are probably a handful of things. Generally the (pressure of the) front and coverage go hand in hand and so he has gotten his hands on balls. Maybe we have had a quarterback either hurry a pass. It becomes a lot harder to play back there if the quarterback has four seconds. So fortunately we've been able to affect some passes and speed up the clock."

What do you expect to see from the crowd?
"It is a big game. It will be a great atmosphere. Our fans are smart. They're football people. They understand the importance of the game and the significance that they can have on an opposing team. It's different and one of the loudest venues in our league. That's a good plus for us."

Were you guys high on (George) Kittle when he was coming out of Iowa?
"I'm trying to think of the year. He's a player that didn't have that type of production in the passing game when he came out of Iowa and he's become, you'd say, a better pro maybe than a college player. It would be hard for me to look back on his production and relative to his grade. But man, he's doing a lot of things well and he's blocking the run game well."

How has Sheldon (Rankins) been progressing?
"He is doing well. He is getting healthy and it is good having him back in our lineup. That rotation has been good for us."

You've been doing this a long time so what do you kind of make of the fact that it feels like a lot of the teams that are like really good this year really running the football after all the talk about this being a passing league, just as a coach?
"I do not think that has ever changed though. I think that it is still about your ability to have balance. You are going to need to run it at times and playing good defense (is also important to success). Those really have not left us. If you look at the past Super Bowl or champion team(s), they have not left us."

In all your experience, how does the game change in January?
"Look, because you play 16 games, this last stretch is a little clearer picture relative to what the games mean. So that sense of urgency begins to change. I think the thing that's uniquely different in our league compared to any other sports is in the postseason. It's just one game, single elimination. It's not a best to seven, we'll come back for the next one. It is win and advance. I can't think of anything that would give you more of a sense of urgency than that. Listen, it's the exciting thing about playing for something this time of the year relative to all the work you've put in."

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