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Transcript of New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton's final press conference before playoff game vs. Minnesota Vikings

Vikings play-action offense 'presents challenges'

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Post-Practice Media Availability

Friday, January 3, 2020

Do you think you've had to adapt your offense the last two or three years than ever before?

"Year to year there's been change, uniquely different in the last two years. Some of the things that we do with Taysom (Hill). But outside of that, when we drafted Reggie Bush and Deuce (McAllister) was here, you began to put an offensive package together in the spring before your players are even here. That quickly began to change before minicamp and you learn a little bit about your personnel and as some of these pieces have evolved, whether it's been Darren Sproles, the tight end position (Jeremy) Shockey, Jimmy Graham, receivers. I think there has been a constant, what are the players strong suits and let's try to do those things. I think it's been an evolving change, that's been predicated on our personnel really and so I think the more dramatic part of the change would be just some of the things you can do with a guy like Taysom (Hill)."

Do you look at not getting the first round bye as keeping the momentum of how the team's been playing of late?

"It's one of those things that's out of your control. Of course, you pay attention to those other games. A few of them were close and then here we go. Doing this long enough, you learn to focus on the things you can control and we have to focus on the preparation this week, which we've done. We're playing a real good team we're familiar with, the head coach I'm real familiar with and you're in a single elimination tournament. That is kind of where the focus has really been and you go from there. We've been the two seed before with 10 wins in 2006 and we sat starters in week 16 that year, which is unusual and then twice we've been this seed with 13 and it's just the way our league is."

You have two first-team undrafted All-Pros on special teams, how unique is that?

"I'd say this, when I read that list, which was probably after you guys received it, I was happy for a handful of players that obviously I felt probably should have been on the Pro Bowl roster and yet this is a little bit more elite team. All those guys we are happy for, we read the players before practice and they're guys that are deserving and played well for us. To have two guys undrafted is, that's like gold, I'm glad they're on our team."

What are your thoughts on Demario Davis making the All-Pro team?

"He has been a great free agent acquisition for us. He is a real good teammate, (a) good football player and I think he's gotten better and better even since he's been here. His leadership, as a captain is important. He's one of those players, Ryan Ramczyk, (is another) one of those players that you're just excited to see those guys recognized for the season they've had."

Are these the best special teams overall that you've ever had?

"Our return game has been really good and part of that's the returner. I think Darren (Rizzi) and Phil (Galiano) and those guys have done a really good job. I felt like that tide switched for us a little bit, a year and a half ago when Mike (Westhoff) came in and then you add the returner (Deonte Harris) to it. That's been encouraging. There's certain games where that's the difference. That's the difference in Seattle to start the game, on the road in a tough environment up 7-0 and not having played an offensive snap. Hopefully we continue that. I know Darren (Rizzi) and those guys have worked hard each week with the specific plan. Our penalties are down now and we're playing a real good special teams unit. We're playing a good punter (Britton Colquitt), much like Thomas (Morstead), (is a) good location punter, they do a very good job. (In)The return game we'll have to deal with the new returner obviously with (Mike) Hughes's injury. And generally when you're looking at these final teams they're all probably pretty good statistically, if you look at the kicking game because I think it's important."

What is it that the Vikings do particularly well on play action or is it how good Dalvin Cook is?

"It starts with that. Obviously, it starts with the authenticity of a run and take last week's game (Week 16) for example, where they lost to Green Bay and maybe the runs (are) three yards or four yards, but that bite to it when you have a guy like Cook who's exceptional, just adds that much more stress to your defense. I think they've done a really good job with that and (Gary) Kubiak and that group that came there (this offseason) and I know (Mike) Zimmer really felt good about in the offseason when we played him them in preseason, he really felt like they were doing a lot of good things and that's followed Gary, wherever he's been, he's been outstanding. I think that presents challenges."

How does the evolution of Jared Cook help this offense?

"It starts with the player usually opposite Mike (Thomas) and Mike Zimmer (and the Vikings defensive staff), these guys are sharp, he's going to find ways to try to take Mike Thomas out of the game and so who's opposite the X? We went a stretch where Jared (Cook) wasn't healthy, but shoot all the things that we saw and you guys were at training camp (he can do a lot). He's been playing exceptionally well. He gives you a great catch radius for the quarterback. Mike (Thomas) gives you a great catch (radius). These are big players that I think help you in contested coverages."

Drew Brees gets the ball out second-fastest in the league, what are the factors that go into that process?

"Well No. 1, one of his strengths would be processing. It's the hardest thing sometimes for us to evaluate when we're evaluating a college quarterback is, how quickly are they processing the information relative to their progression. It happens very fast for him. I think our offensive line, there's a concert here between protection, route and a veteran quarterback who has that strength relative to boom, boom and has that vision, he can see it and then set his feet and throw an accurate ball. I think he's a tremendous foot athlete and that also plays into it. There's several things, but certainly his ability to process the information, see it, understand what the defense is trying to do and then in his mind, solve it with the scheme that we have."

What does Terron (Armstead) bring to the team outside of his skills on the field?
"He's a fantastic leader and teammate. I can remember the first game he ever started. He had a tough matchup at Carolina and then shortly thereafter we're back in Seattle. You could tell right away it wasn't going to be too big for him. There's an old saying, if they don't bite when they're puppies, they're probably never going to bite. Well, he did. You could see it with him and he has a ton of respect here in the locker room."

When you talk about not worrying about things that are out of your control, it's kind of easier said than done. How long did it take you to learn that, to maybe let some things go?
"It took a while. It certainly wasn't a strength of mine in 06, 07 or 08. I think over time you begin to really focus on your energy, your battery life for instance. And so I think that's come from experience."

*Does that come from experience or just having your team be good?
"No, listen, because I guarantee you in '09 I spent wasted time on stuff you just begin to understand, hey, there are certain things that you are not going to be able to control. Here's where the landmines are, here's where they are. All right. And now go win because no one else really cares where they are. I just think that, for me, it's come through the years, but I definitely think it wasn't a strength early on."

Is LSU's offense so much fun to watch for you because it's so reminiscent of what you've done here?

"It is hard for me to TV copy it always, but we see certain things that we are doing. The one thing that's changed in five years in our league, your coaches tape is in a system that was available for the other 31 teams. If I wanted to right now, I could go look at any team in the league and pull up third down, red zone, game tape if I wanted to. So when you were coaching at the college level, which I was, then you'd make these campus visits to the pro teams and get in the room and watch these teams or the way you want to watch pro tape, but it's available now. In other words, it's available and I'm sure almost every college then pays the subscription and then has that so they can look at defense, offense, all of that is available. And then look, when Joe (Brady) went there, he had the experience being here and I'm not sure of the whole dynamic relative to how they install, but I know when I watch them on TV and that's what I've seen, they just have such good balance. They're running the ball well, there's a lot of talented players on the field. The quarterback has been outstanding. It is impressive. We are their biggest fans. We're excited for them. It's a good time to be a football fan in Louisiana."

Do you take some pride in your offense being emulated?
"I don't know the whole dynamic there. And so I get sometimes, even for Joe (Brady), I'm like the last thing I told Joe was he was making a mistake. So much for what I know. But look, I'm excited certainly for Ed (Orgeron) and their staff and that team. It's been really impressive."

Cam Jordan was talking about the maturation of your secondary. These guys were rookies in 2016 and 2017 and playing in big games and now three years later they're just so different. From your perspective, what do you see in the growth from so many of those guys?

"It started with that draft class a few years ago. When you're adding players like (Marshon) Lattimore, we've been able to draft both at the safety and corner position, Vonn (Bell) and Mike (Thomas) and those guys have all been important acquisitions for us. I would say even recently as we have had to sign players. Kiko Alonso who's not in the secondary, but at that time Alex Anzalone was healthy. A week or two later, all of a sudden there's an injury. That same thing happened with us at corner. I think Aaron Glenn and those guys on defense have done a good job. There's been, like every team, there's some moving pieces. When guys get hurt, we have a few different guys playing nickel. A guy like Patrick Robinson comes back off the injury and has really played some solid downs for us. P.J. (Williams), the same way. We draft C.J. (Gardner-Johnson) who I think's had an outstanding rookie season. We've done a good job bringing in the right players and especially through the draft, but also with some free agent signings."

What do you waste time on in the past?

"Gosh, countless things. The Christmas tree in the cafeteria during the holidays, it wasn't big enough or something like that. We try to pay close attention to every detail. Even in this building where those banners sit were thought out. Sometimes I can be a little bit obsessive that way, but I think the small things are important things and all of it. As soon as those begin to erode, I think then that's not good. I don't know that that's wasting time, but there are certain things though."

When you look at the last six Super Bowls being all bye teams, how big of a factor really is the bye? Just the better teams tend to have them, but not always?
"It's a great question. When I was in New York in 2000, we went to the Super Bowl and played a Ravens team that I think, I don't know if they won a home game. I felt like they were on the road though. I know they beat Oakland in the AFC Championship. They beat Tennessee in a tough game. Pittsburgh's done it. Look, here's the deal, this is the path. In other words, now go do it. I'd say more than the week off and the rest, it's generally because a real good team's put themselves at one or two. Now it just so happened three teams won the same amount of games and I don't know what the best record in the AFC was. What was Baltimore (14-2)? I think that it is what it is. It's, let's get ready to play. Let's get ready to play."

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