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Transcript - Sean Payton Conference Call 1/15/21 | NFC Divisional Round 2020

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks about the Saints defensive unit improving throughout the season and the game plan for the Saints divisional playoff matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, January 17, 2021.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Friday, January 15, 2021

What do you like most specifically about Marshon Lattimore and maybe the attitude he's brought into these matchups primarily going against Mike Evans?
"It's a division team. So obviously, we see him twice a year, but it's not just Tampa Bay. When you have a corner like Marshon who week in and week out was given certain assignments, that's obviously a plus. He's competitive. He's driven. I mean, you've got two really good football players, extremely good athletes, that obviously both are competitive. And that's why it's always a battle."

When you're in these a one game seasons like this, does it give you more flexibility as a defense to have someone who's had so much success against Mike Evans in this matchup?
"Well, I don't, I think the common sense answer, it has nothing to do with the playoffs. It's you want good players, that's part of the reason why you're in the playoffs. And part of the reason Tampa's in the playoffs is because of a talented player like Mike Evans, and part of the reason we're in the postseason is because of someone like Marshon and so they're part of the reason we're in this type of game. And so I think that when you look at the remaining team teams right now, you find throughout the roster, guys that are impactful and I think that each time those guys compete that there's always a back and forth to it. And I'm sure a great deal of respect by one another."

Are there different ways you can measure the success of your running game? Obviously, first downs, touchdowns, yards per carry, are there different ways you can say, alright, we had a successful day?
"Yeah, I think the one number that can sometimes be deceiving, sometimes, is when you have a high rush total and you have a lead in the second half, and you get into your four minute (offense). And so you can have 32 runs, but your yards per carry might not be what you want it. So, your run efficiency measurables would be those first and second down numbers. What do they look like yards per carry? What do they look like, an efficient third and one run is one or more yards. There's an objective and no different than a goal line situation. But I think that it's easy to say, 'Hey, get 30 rushing attempts.' And well, the important equation to getting to 30 rushing attempts is converting on third down and having those opportunities. I'll give you a real good example would be Kansas City, in which we really struggled to stay on the field offensively and when the game ended, I think we defended 90 some plays defensively. Offensively, probably around half of that and our third down numbers weren't good enough. And so your play count drops dramatically. So there's an efficiency overall in first and second down that I think is extremely important."

Defensively, do you feel like you guys have done a better job getting pressures during the second half of the season than the first? It seems like the rate there's went up a little bit and what's the impact of that been just having that?
"Yeah, that's a good question. Look, I think, clearly, not just in pass rush, but I think we've improved throughout the course of the season defensively. And that's served us extremely well. Because I would say that in a number of games, man, we've leaned on how we're playing defensively. As a play caller, there's a feel for what we're doing defensively that obviously impacts how I call or how we call a game. And yes, from a hurries, pressures, production standpoint. We talk about that tying in with the coverage. Those things go together. And do I think, as the seasons progressed, we've seen those numbers increase, I would say yes. And I think we've seen fewer deep balls, some of those early challenges we had that, we always talk about this race to improve. Because there's little time if you're only talking about 16 games, you don't have seven weeks to get better. It's quickly, that sense of urgency and what we've been able to do."

When you're getting that feel from the defense, you mentioned it changes how you might do things, what are some of the ways it impacts how you call things?
"Well, it's happened a number of times this year, your risk ratio might change a little bit. We've had games where we've had some injuries in certain positions. In Chicago for instance, we might punt the football when we played at Chicago and getting a feel for how we're playing defensively on that side of the ball. In Carolina, with everything that happened with the running backs, we were going to be a little bit smarter relative to, it's all risk driven relative to turnovers, relative to all of those things, and trying to play the game on their side of the field and understanding field position. And the best example to its extreme, would be the unique situation at Denver, in that all of a sudden, they're playing a game without a quarterback. And prior to the game, you start thinking about, alright, here are the things that we can't do. We're going to be in punt safe. Every time they punt the ball, we're going to expect a fake, every time they kick off, we're going to expect an onside kick. Every time they kick a field goal, or PAT we are going to expect (fake) and then offensively, we're going to be smart about what we do third down wise. And so there was a game where I don't know how many times we threw it, but that would be the extreme example and understanding how to win that game."

It was announced that you'll have 3,500 fans in the stands for Sunday's game. Cam Jordan said the other day that those 3,000 fans, that was probably the loudest, most energy he'd probably heard from the fans there. Did you notice any of that? The impact of the fans in that first playoff game against the Bears?
"That's a good question. I don't know if I noticed it. There certainly seemed to have, there was an ambient noise that was a little different. What was the World Cup soccer tournament, where was that held where they had the longhorns?"

That was in South Africa in 2010.
"Yeah, maybe we give those out as playoff gifts, and try to use those during the third down situations. If you're old enough, you'll remember that World Cup, I think it was all you heard."

Just having played the Bucs in week one and then in week nine in the game that you guys kind of took control pretty quickly, do you spend much time looking at the film in those games just relative to how much maybe the Bucs have changed throughout the season? Or do you spend more time maybe looking at more the last four to five weeks, if that makes sense.
"This is going to give you an example of not just this game because it's playoffs, but all of those games, all of those games last year, and in Todd's (Bowles) case, defensively all of the Jet games three years ago. So there is, defensively looking at their defense, every one of their games and the cut ups from New York, Tampa last year, Tampa this year, obviously, that would include four Saints games. So that's a lot of snaps. I think following along the lines of that question a little differently, offensively, in that you're studying, I don't want to use the word hybrid. Bruce (Arians) and Byron (Leftwich) and Tom (Brady) and those guys there have done a great job of combining and putting together what represent their offense this season. And that's been impressive. And you've seen that operate more and more efficiently and more explosively than ever in these last six weeks. And so you don't necessarily have that same three year, if you will, pattern of offense because of the changes they've made. But that's a little bit of how we would study. I know that we're studying every one of their games this year, offensively. And it's not like you can, and you can reference to some degree, maybe some things that either Bruce or Tom have done when they weren't together, but I think in that case, it's a lot of this year."

How big is it to have Deonte Harris back healthy and just playing at the level he is and how difficult do you think it is for teams to game plan for a guy like him?
"I think he is electric. You just start in the return game. And we know the field position battle's important, especially in the playoffs, but it's not just a cliché. It's yards equal points. And so we're defending and playing for every yard. And I think that the things he provides for us offensively as well give us some good opportunities."

You've talked plenty this week about the aging gracefully of (Tom) Brady and (Drew) Brees. I'm just curious, I mean, how did you feel when you were 43 or 42. And I mean, how crazy it is just maybe relative to how you felt?
"Look, it's a great testament to their, look, their work ethic, their attention to detail, and it's rare. I saw, I don't know where I saw this, but I want you to just picture a current photo of Drew and Tom and then George Blanda. And I think it's traumatic. And obviously, if any one of us looked at our grandparents, or if my dad or mom if they were alive would be in their late 90s. When I've seen pictures of my parents in their 20s, they looked older. But I think with what those two guys are accomplishing, and what they have accomplished is a better way to say it. And at the age they're at, we talk constantly about the physical and what's hard to appreciate is the emotional stress and challenge week in and week out, because they know what has to go into a good week of preparation, and they know that and the attention to detail, the amount of film, the amount of after practice snaps with players, the amount of corrections, along with all the things relative to taking care of their bodies in the offseason, in season, sleep, nutrition. Those are Olympic type training methods that you normally would get during a period of call it eight to 10 years and obviously, these two are different."

It'd be a lot more impressive if they were playing at 42, 43 if they're smoking Marlboro reds in the locker room at halftime and downing a Coke and going back out there on the field.
"Len Dawson. Absolutely."

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