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Transcript - Sean Payton Conference Call 10/5/20 | Week 4 vs. Lions

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton discusses his thoughts on how the first quarter of the Saints season played out during his weekly conference call.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, October 5, 2020

After the first quarter of the season, what are you most pleased with and on the flip side what is something you think needs to improve?
"Well, let me start with the second one. First, I think situationally, I'd like to see us both offensively and defensively playing better football relative to third down and red zone. Our numbers yesterday, on third down weren't bad, but I think situationally, we have to get better at red zone defense. That has to be fixed or (we'll) continue to struggle. I think the consistency in our pass protection, I thought we ran the ball pretty well yesterday, but situational football (needs to improve). And then to the first part of the question, I think we've handled some of the early, early adversity pretty well. Yesterday was a good win for us. We'll leave it at that."

When you look at the stretch yesterday of scoring touchdowns on five consecutive drives and not giving up a score in four straight drives in the same period, does it show the team's capabilities if they are consistent?
"You point to stretches of good play. And, look, here's the thing early on we got them to a third and 10. We got them to a third and nine. We got them into those favorable third down situations and for whatever reason, couldn't get off the field and then offensively, look, the first play of the game is a tip pass interception. We just didn't start as fast as we'd hoped. But, but the response was good. Definitely, we would point to a stretch like that and examine it." 

Yesterday, Tre'Quan Smith told us he was that main read on that big third down catch on your final drive. How confident are you in him right now. It looks like he's starting to find his groove?
"Yeah, one thing about Tre'Quan, he is the primary. The play was called with him on a spear. There's a secondary in that route, Emmanuel (Sanders) is coming in on a deep in and Taysom's underneath on a shallow cross. There's a few options, Drew's (Brees) confident in the play. But I would say this guy's impressive relative to traffic and noise. He's sturdy. He's tough. And I think that's a great asset as a receiver."

Is that something you kind of discern from him over the past couple years?
"I think you'd like to think you know, when you're drafting and selecting and signing, and yet you really never know, until they come here. But there's a there's a toughness to his play. He blocks extremely well. I think he's doing well."

What you said to the team before the team about handling the COVID situation, injuries, is that a conscious effort on your part to not allow a team to make excuses and feel down on itself?
"I think you have to, at some point, address it that way. An old coach (Bill Parcells) used to tell me and please (don't) take this the wrong way. Or take this the right way. But they never really asked about the labor pain, they just want to see the baby. And I think we're (like that) to some degree, especially this season in the entertainment business, and I don't think there's an ear for 'well, you had to stay up later than normal.' That's going to be the case this season. And people aren't interested in your injury depth. They're not interested. Certainly, those play a part in games. But at the end, they want to see you play well and win and the more we can fine tune ourselves, myself included, fine tune ourselves in our in our preparation for winning that week each week, regardless of what built-in excuse you might have because human nature will allow you to build in these things. And (then it becomes for example), it's the player that's got kind of a sore hamstring that decides he's going to play in the game. Well. If he doesn't do well, that hamstring is going to be the reason and we can do that as coaches. We can do that as organizations if we're not careful. It's human nature. So trying to fight against that or address that, I think does need to be something you think about."

Do you think some teams are build better to deal with some of these things than others are?
"Absolutely and experience is not necessarily a perquisite, but I would say some teams are built better for it than others The experience might be a negative one, might be a bad one, might be a team with veteran players (that might look at it negatively). It's not discriminate on age or years in the league."

Is it something you talk to your staff about or even the team leaders?
"Absolutely. This is what we have. The players deserve a chance to win."

Last year with the whole draft process how deep a dive did you do with Justin Herbert and what did you think of him?
"I remember him very well. I remember the interview process. I remember the combine the evaluation, the tape all of it. He was an impressive prospect, extremely smart with the live arm. I know for from our standpoint, but we felt like we had a great exposure based on all the postseason opportunities we had to look at (him). So I do remember him and it's good to see that he's doing well."

Do you like the way the schedule has been so far, not being a consistent preparation for 12 p.m. Sunday games yet until this week? Do you like it that way?
"Either one, if you're just being consistent at 12 noon, it probably means you lost a lot of games last year, so I guess I like the fact that we're all over a place."

Is the concern about facing a young quarterback like Justin Herbert that you don't have a big file of film on him or can you lean a lot on what they did in college?
"I think it's not the file so much as the team, the scheme and how he's fitting immediately into it. I think you have to look at what the strengths (are), what he did well in college, was he a guy that turned it over, was he a guy that protected the ball. But I think you're going to study more closely the system. Obviously, it'll be a little bit uniquely different than when Tyrod's (Taylor) in there and you cover all those things. But you really have to defend what you're seeing on tape."

The fourth down decision and play where you went for it and hit Alvin Kamara down the sideline? Was that a play you had ready for that specific down situation, that you guys meet about the night before a game?
"Yeah, it was one of those (where) you're hoping to get man to man. And the feeling is if you can put a lot of other big people on the field, maybe a tight end, a fullback, maybe then the guy left to cover Alvin is obviously not a corner, maybe he's a bigger player that that we like to match up on. So it was a short yardage third down, fourth down call. We talked before the game about being very aggressive in this approach this week, just based on everything, based on the depth at corner, based on a lot of factors that anything that crossed the 50, fourth down, plan on us being in four down territory, just talking to the offense that this was going to be an approach that we took (that) may be very different than some weeks and so it's much different if you're calling an offense with the idea that you're going to use fourth down as a play. Now you can pretty much indiscriminately on second or third down run or pass and it just changes…Now you have to be confident that you're going to be able to convert, but it was a perfect look coverage wise Alvin did a great job with the release and obviously it was well-thrown and well-executed."

Would you have gone for it there if it was a longer 4th down?
"Yes. It would have been a cut off (decision) Jeff (Duncan), honestly. Where do the percentages drop? I mean, probably south of five, north of five, somewhere in there. And then, at that stage of the game, you've got your full litany of plays. And a lot of it depends on if you feel like you have something. But, we were going to take an approach though, very aggressively that way in those decisions." 

Have you been dialing up any more for Alvin Kamara because you see him back in the zone he's been in, or maybe even a play like that? Does that increase your confidence in a play like, or is it like you expected?
"Certainly on third down, when you get into that meeting, it always starts with, who are the guys that separate and have strong hands? Emmanuel (Sanders), Tre' (Tre'Quan Smith), whoever, the tight end, (is), you kind of discuss (how) each play has got a target primary, doesn't mean it goes to him. But yeah, Alvin's (Kamara) one of those, one of those guys that is going to probably draw coverage from someone other than a linebacker. There's a couple teams that will play him with a linebacker, but he is probably going to draw that dime or that DB, that hybrid. So how do we take advantage of a matchup? How do we formationally, maybe? Again, back to what I was saying to Jeff earlier. If we throw a bunch of big bodies on the field and can get the defense to be in their base, now it's hard for a hybrid to end up on him, in man. We can get the corners over to one side, with the receivers and then maybe, find a way. We are always looking for a way maybe to get him on someone they're uncomfortable with. But formationally that can be challenging sometimes." 

And then on the flip side, it does not look like his touches or snaps have really gone up, just his production this year. Are you guys really conscious about keeping him, you know, keeping that snap count where you always like it, so he doesn't wear down as the season goes on?
"There's a great medium there or a great goal, obviously there. Latavius (Murray) is playing well, he had a good game yesterday. The two of them complement each other. Here is one of the great things I can say about Alvin. He is very unselfish relative to if he scores, or if someone else scores, you are going to see that big smile. He is going to be running over there. And that is something that in today's football is refreshing. And certainly as a coach, is appreciated."

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