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Transcript of conference calls with Saints Coach Sean Payton, Austin Carr and A.J. Klein

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Conference Call With New Orleans Media

Friday, November 23, 2018

After looking at everything last night, including defensively, what stood out?

“It was two-fold. I thought we did a good job of pushing the pocket and taking the ball away. The effort to come up with the turnovers we were able to get and the run defense, it became a very one-dimensional game. If you watch the tape those were the things that stand out.”

Earlier in the season you wanted to see you wanted to see more forced fumbles and have been seeing it lately? What do you think of how that’s progressed?

“I think it’s a great question and I honestly believe it’s something you have to work on, preach, coach, practice. Some teams do a better job than others. I think it’s no coincidence. You don’t just get lucky breaks. Peanut (Charles) taught this league that for years. It’s technique, it’s work, it’s something that you work on and if you don’t work on it you don’t get as many and if you do, you get more.”

Looking at especially recently, your team’s done a good job minimizing penalties. Do you see that as sound football being played?

“All the time we talk penalties are on the player. There’s times where a player makes a mental error and I feel it’s on me. We didn’t cover it enough. We didn’t walk through it enough. There’s a reason why he busted a certain coverage or why he ran the wrong route, but just understanding the crew, the technique and what’s being called and what’s not, that’s something that hopefully continues to be an advantage for us.”

How game-changing are those red zone turnovers that took place last night?

“Those are significant. Those, doing the math, if you come up with a stop in the red zone, they kick a field goal, it’s a four-point swing. If you take the ball away, it’s a seven, or at worst a three-point swing.”

Cam Jordan had two sacks to tie Will Smith for fourth on the team. Are there similarities between the two?

“Yes, I would say number one is that Will is someone that played run and pass very well. He was a physical player, so you didn’t feel like he was just a situational player at all. I would think of Cam the same way. In that regard, they were every-down guys that gave you a presence in both the running and passing game. Now, they’re built differently and yet there would be some similarities that way.”

What about their presence in the locker room?

“They’re both vocal players, but I’m trying to make the comparison personality (terms). Will was from New York, Cam is from the west coast. Their personalities were different. Both are very respected. But they’re different types of players nonetheless, both captains, but different personalities.”

Having a three-game road swing, how difficult is that schedule-wise?

“I hadn’t looked at it until now. I didn’t realize we were playing three (straight) on the road. I appreciate you giving me that information. Now that I’m looking up here on the wall, at Dallas, at Tampa, at Carolina. At Dallas is what we’re focused on.”

What does Tommylee Lewis add to this team and add to the offense?

“He can run. There’s a grit factor to him. He can transition well. He’s experienced with what we’re doing. He’s sudden. He gives you some flexibility from a receiving standpoint. He did a good job of filling in for Tre (Tre’Quan Smith) last night and giving us some good downs, especially the touchdown early in the game. He’s well-respected in this locker room by his peers and there’s something about him that grows on you.”

Having Marcus Davenport back last night, how do you assess his play?

“Good. It was good to have him back. We felt he was going in the right direction before the injury. It’s good to have players like that back in the lineup.”

We know Max Unger is obviously a leader for the offensive line, but what are some of the things he does to help the team that maybe we don’t see?

“I think he’s great with the tempo from the minute we start practice. Him and Drew (Brees) can both create that tempo and do a good job of moving it and getting it going.”

New Orleans Saints Linebacker A.J. Klein

Conference Call With New Orleans Media

Friday, November 23, 2018

Is there a certain art to be able to force fumbles like the defense has lately?

“I think the last few games we have played complete team defense in all three aspects from the front lines, to the linebackers, to the defensive backfield. I think we are playing good football. I think we’re playing with really good effort. Even though some of those turnovers came off big plays, which obviously shows that we are finishing plays and we’re being opportunistic. Which is huge for our defense and like I said as long as you give effort in this game and you run to the football good things generally tend to happen. I think as long as we keep playing with great effort and continue to be opportunistic, I think we'll be just fine and we'll continue to force turnovers.”

When you see Marcus Williams’ strip in the red zone and Marshon Lattimore’s at the goal line, how much does that inspire a defense?

“It is huge because any time you can take points off the board you are helping yourself and helping your offense extend its lead. Obviously any turnovers in the red zone are huge for us and that’s something that we obviously try to work on and we don’t want to give up points and obviously it turns from a seven-point play to a three-point play if you hold them to a field goal. Getting those turnovers is a big swing in the game and is demoralizing for an opposing offense, obviously to turn the ball over in the red zone. The more we can do that the better and the games will continue to tilt in our favor. I know the offense is obviously reaping the benefits as well getting them back on the field.”

How was your Thanksgiving celebration last night after the game?

Actually (I) didn’t have the celebration last night. Didn’t get out of the stadium until late, but we’ll be having our Thanksgiving today with my family. Definitely looking forward to it, but just looking to watch some football today and tomorrow and get rested up and get ready to get back to work on the Cowboys on Sunday.”

What’s it like playing with a guy like Cam Jordan with his big personality and the way he plays?

“I think Cam is definitely a tone setter for our front four. He’s competitive, he works hard, obviously he plays with tremendous effort and great technique and obviously he's a guy that younger guys can look up to and see the example that he sets and obviously like you said he's a big-time play-maker. When a big play needs be made it seems like Cam always steps up to the challenge or he’s forcing the quarterback to roll out, getting pressures and getting those sacks in critical times and to be a great defense you need a great front four and Cam’s been an integral piece to that, obviously as long as he's been here for his eight years. We look up to Cam and as a leader of this defense and when he can make plays it obviously affects the game.”

Was there a notable turning point this season for the defense?

“I think it is just a process as you go throughout the season. I do not want to put a stamp on a particular time throughout the season where things start to turn around, but I think it is just continuous improvement week to week. Understanding where we need to improve and where we need to get better. But obviously I can point to the coaching staff as well. These last few weeks we've had really good gameplans. We've gotten pressure on the quarterbacks, forced turnovers and that's a winning makeup and I think as we continue to go through this season, this last stretch and hopefully a good run into the playoffs, it's just we need to stick to the fundamentals. We need to focus on the small things and the big things will take care of themselves, but I think the details I'm speaking of is, whether it was the pass game early in the season with the big plays. We've eliminated those in these past few weeks and obviously our run defense has been really good so that's a winning formula and that's just some we continue to try and repeat from week to week. But like I said, it starts with the coaches in detailing a great gameplan for us. Obviously, when it comes down to it we have to execute on game day and we've been doing that.”

What do you see from Ezekiel Elliott and his production since he’s came into the league even though you haven’t faced him in this defense on the field?

He has obviously been one of the top leading rushers in the league the past few years, he's a dynamic player, he runs the ball well and runs the ball hard. (I am) Definitely looking forward to the challenge. I know we are and just from the highlights I saw, obviously their offense was firing on all cylinders. (Dak) Prescott was rolling around, making plays with his feet and Amari Cooper had a huge game for them yesterday too. This offense has a lot of play-makers on it we have to account for and like I said I haven’t seen enough of them yet, but obviously they have some momentum after their win yesterday in their big division win. It should be a big road game for us and it is definitely an atmosphere, a tough atmosphere to go down to Texas and to roll into that stadium and play there. We're definitely going to have our hands full and looking forward to the challenge.”

How difficult is it with the schedule playing back to back Thursday games?

This is the first time I've been in a situation where I had to go Thursday (to) Thursday, but I caught myself earlier today saying I'll see you on Wednesday, but I'll see you on Sunday. (That will) actually be our first work day of the week. But I mean you just tend to roll with it. I think Sean's (Payton) done a great job for us. Obviously, taking care of our bodies, getting us off our feet, giving us time to recover and obviously take into account our sleep schedules and how this how this weird schedule affects our bodies and affects our preparation and Sean (Payton) is definitely keyed into that and I think that's obviously a big part of why we have been rested and ready to go on Sundays. I do not think that will change either. I think Sean will have a modified schedule probably for us this week again and obviously he'll have us ready by Thursday.”

What do you make of Matt Ryan’s 377 yards passing yesterday? Is that a deceiving figure given the rushing statistics?

“Stats don't necessarily tell the entire story of the game. I think on the reverse flip side look at the rushing total. I think it was 1.6 per carry and I think just by seeing the rushing total you can see why he had 377 through the air. There wasn't a balanced attack and most of the second half was obviously a passing attack. It was a passing game, so you have to take with a grain of salt and move on. Obviously, numbers aren't going to always be in your favor, but at the end of day points is the most important thing. As long as our offense scores more than we give up, that's all that matters at the end of the day and obviously we held them to 17. At the end of the day that's all that matters. The total yardage and the passing yards, obviously when you look at your stat line you want to see lower numbers, but like you said take it with a grain of salt and tell the entire story the game. That's just the way I look at them. I'm sure that's the way a lot of people look at it as well when it comes to defense.”

New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Austin Carr

Conference Call With New Orleans Media

Friday, November 23, 2018

What is it about this offense that it seems like whoever steps in, whether it’s you, Keith (Kirkwood), Dan Arnold and Tre’Quan (Smith) that you always find a way to be productive?

“Yeah, it’s an offense with a lot of moving parts and a lot of shifting pieces and it’s the kind of offense that if you can learn it and you can trust it with the gameplan. you will definitely see opportunity. I’m not saying every week you’re going to score, but in my own season this year I scored the past two weeks. But that’s after about nine weeks of not really getting a lot touches. But if you can trust in the gameplan and trust it with how many moving parts there are and where you fit in. If you can really grow into it and embrace your role, you’re going to see opportunity eventually and it is a load. I think last night we had 55 different personnel groups. It’s a mental load, just as much as it is physical, but if you can take it you can definitely help the team.”

How difficult is it to get the gameplan down with all the personnel groupings and moving parts?

“I would say we’ve really gotten into a groove with being able to take that load, I will say having that many on a short week was something that I definitely haven’t had to handle in my career as a football player period. Playing Sunday and then having a brand new 55 personnel group plan installed Tuesday and Wednesday and putting it to work on Thursday is a quick turnaround and you see guys studying, guys highlighting, guys helping each other and communicating well. I think we’re hitting a good stride right now.”

How much time do you have to spend at the facility just trying to learn and digest?

“I actually like to do my studying at the facility. There’s some nights where I will stay after practice till around 7 and just study and watch film, review the personnel grouping and the plays and so on. There’s different gaps during the day where you’re able to study as well, which helps a lot.”

Have you seen other teams try and throw a bunch of different stuff at you with Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara being doubled at times?

“Yeah, you have definitely seen teams try and neutralize Alvin and Mike. I think clearly that is not enough. When you have so many weapons you can go after those top weapons and the other ones open up and then that hopefully opens up Alvin and Mike back up again. It wasn’t a perfect game last night by any means. I think Atlanta made some good plays, but we also left some out there on the field. I think some third down plays and some other play actions could have hit, that just didn’t. But I mean it’s just a testament to the depth and development of the younger guys.”

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