New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
Conference call with New Orleans media
Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020
Defensively you guys played 92 snaps on Sunday. How do you feel like the defense held up? And is that somewhat of a concern on the short week?
"Yeah, I think our approach this week is important. And getting these guys in, getting them rested, recovered. Obviously, that's a high total. And fortunately, we're fairly healthy coming out of it. We begin that process today on Minnesota. So, I think the recovery element of what we do is important. And obviously Friday's a tick better than a Thursday game."
What did you think of Justin Jefferson when he was coming out of the NFL Draft this year?
"We had high grades on him. What couldn't you like about the offense? It's impressive (and credit) to Ed (Orgeron) and his staff and all of those guys. When you get scheme and talent together, you obviously have something. You're looking at the runner, you're looking at the queue, you're looking at the receivers. Now he played a lot of the slot in their one back system and you're seeing him, obviously, in pro personnel now, and they're in a lot of two receiver sets. But yeah, he's having a fantastic rookie year, and made the Pro Bowl in his first year. He's impressive to watch."
You guys have seen a lot of Dalvin Cook. Is he looking different this season or is he just healthy?
"Yeah, listen, I think it's a combination of his talent and their front. Those guys do a great job and that staff, again, they're very well coached and they are very talented. He's an explosive back. I feel like every weekend when you're watching the highlights, you're seeing explosive runs, this team is first in the NFL in explosive plays. So, when you combine passes of over x amount of yards, runs over X amount of yards, this is one of the more explosive offenses in the game. And so, that's going to be a key element to at least try to neutralize."
Are you at all concerned about this run defense after the last two weeks giving up 170 plus rushing yards to your opponent?
"They were two different, entirely two different type games and yet we're going to get tested again here. So, I think you're always concerned as a coach, you're always focused on, alright, what are the things that we need to improve on? And I felt like honestly, I felt like defensively, we battled and we hung in. We did not do them any favors offensively. When you go 1 of 11 and your defense is going to be on the field for 90 plays, and then you divide 90 by, then all of a sudden, those numbers are going to be increased. But look, this has got to be a bounce back week. But more importantly, on a short schedule. We have to get these guys ready for a physical running game, a team that knows how to run the football well, and then play action off of it. But yeah, coming off of the last two games, it certainly catches your attention and you want to work on it. Philly was a little different. But, that is something that we'll be focused on this week."
I know, every season and team plays out differently. Have you tried to put your finger, pinpoint on anything to try to, you know, peek at the end of the year in January after the first round exit last year?
"Just the first round exit last year, right. That is what you are referencing, because you are not referencing winning the first playoff game, and then the next one. And then the same the year before. So, you're really talking about last season. Right? Listen, Mike (Triplett), with all due respect, three years ago, (we) win a playoff game, and then (lose) the second game. Two years ago, (we had a) bye, win a playoff game, and then lose a tough one in the (NFC) championship game. Last year we were flat and didn't play well. We played poorly. But your question though, is how do we want to peak at the end of the season? That's a great question. I think two fold, we're hoping to get healthier as we've got a couple guys we've got to wait on. In the meantime, we've got some younger guys stepping up. We had a run going there, a bunch of games. And then obviously, we just played an excellent, an excellent team (Kansas City). And yeah, as a coach, you definitely want that opportunity to where, in a perfect world, you're healthy. And you're beginning to win to some degree, there are teams right now in our league that you would say, man, that is a hot team right now, or there are a few teams that have won and all of a sudden have sputtered a little bit, but we will turn it around. The key is the week of preparation."
With Michael Thomas, deciding to save him for the playoffs?
"Yeah, I just felt with Mike it was real clear, man, he was grinding and productive and catching eight balls, nine balls. But it wasn't going to get better until football stopped, just by the nature of the ankle sprain. And so, look if it was, win this one you get in or not, then I think our approach would have been much different. But, we have a pretty good feel that he can be closer to his 100%. And I don't know if it's exactly his 100%, but closer to full speed. And that's a tremendous asset for us. And in fairness to him right now. We have a little bit of that luxury."
People are saying why the Saints? Why are they going to make a run this year, given the last three years? Do you point to the resiliency, ability of this team to bounce back, ability of this team to win? Even as we talked about the Kansas (City) game, you guys only lost by three points when you started off 0-for-six (passing)? I mean, is this team resilient enough in your mind to the last three years and have the character, makeup and the physicality to make that run? And do you like where they're at because of what they've been able to do over the years?
"Yeah, absolutely. I think there's this term Super Bowl, or (bust) in other words, but I corrected Mike (Triplett) because I think there's a little laziness relative to research and saying, well, they get to the playoffs they are one and done, not really. And if you look at it, we have had some tough losses, (one) we had no control over and what do you do? But the point being is yes. I love the grit, the toughness of this team, they've come back, played their tails off the next year, got on a roll again this year, won nine or 10 games and now we have a chance to win our fourth (consecutive)NFC South title. Will it need to be the Super Bowl. Probably so. But you know what, that is a good measuring stick. And that gives you an indication of how organizationally the culture's changed and we embrace that."