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Transcript - Sean Payton Conference Call 12/28/20 | Week 17 at Panthers

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton talks about the Saints' preparations for their week 17 matchup against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, January 3, 2021.

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, December 28, 2020

I think maybe it's like an old adage in football, you need to be running the ball well around this time of year to have success in the playoffs…
"Do you believe that?"

I'm curious if you do, I don't think it matters whether I do or not.
"So you're asking me if I believe in old adages this morning?"

Sure.
"Yeah, I think if it suits your team, obviously, especially when you're playing on the road, but I do think what's most important is scoring and drive efficiency."

With that said, is that something that you really want to see from the team as you guys finish up the regular season?
"Yeah, absolutely. Whether it's balance, each game can take on a different approach. So I'm for scoring, and you're not, I think that this is an important game for us, this game this weekend. The first goal always is to win your division. The second goal was trying to get the best seed possible."

When you talk about run efficiency, how much more so does it open up an offense and what you're able to do when you're able to run it as effectively as you have been lately?
"I think most importantly, it allows you control of the game, which is a little different than when you're throwing it effectively. Even when you're throwing it, an incompletion stops the clock, there are elements that you don't control, but when you're running the football efficiently, it gives you that added control of how you want the game to unfold."

How has Malcolm Jenkins fit into your rush defense specifically, it seems like just as a safety he plays a pretty big role and can make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, rushing the passer even?
"I'd agree. He's a good tackler number one, always has been. He plays with good leverage. That's part of being a good tackler and good gap recognition or understanding. He has length, I think that serves him well. And he is extremely smart. So I think it's an important part of what he does."

Marquez Callaway made a few catches and maybe the biggest play he may have been breaking up that potential interception near the goal line. Is like his football intelligence part of what makes him kind of appealing as a player to you?
"There's a little unknown just because he's not had that experience, but you're starting to see some of that. The one thing I love seeing is you can see he enjoys playing. I thought the other day he did a great job not only in the passing game, but in the running game. I thought our receivers blocked the perimeter well, but it's great to see someone as young as he is relative to experience in our league growing right in front of your eyes and that was a pretty heads up play."

What is it about the offensive line's ability plug in two new starters at guard and have a performance like that, does that just speak to the depth and the backups themselves? Or is there something about the cohesive of that unit that they can keep switching out parts?
"It was important in that game. It's a credit to those players. We have played a lot of guys in that front and that combination between those two guards and even some at left tackle. The key will be to be finding that best group of five when the playoffs start."

We've heard you say about several players how much they love playing. Is that something you detect when you're scouting guys or is this something you have to find out when they're in the fire?
"Well, you hope you can find it while you're scouting them. Sometimes you can. A good scout will find that out. And yet, every year, pleasantly, you're surprised with someone and I think that's a little bit of lagniappe when you are because I think ultimately, it's a tough game to practice. It's a tough game mentally and physically to prepare to play each week. The guys that that love it, tend to do better."

You guys picked up Jake Kumerow off of waivers. What do you see in him?
"Well, we see an experienced player. He's got good size, versatility, someone who's played in the kicking game. He's someone that we feel like can come in and quickly learn what we're wanting to do receiver. He's got a good catching radius. And I think that's a real good start for us with the player like him."

Big picture on question on Alvin (Kamara), I don't want to say where would be the Saints be without Alvin because you always figure things out, but can you just talk about just his influence on the season and the way it's gone with guys like Michael Thomas having to miss nine games and so forth?
"Yeah, there's a number of things. First off, his versatility as a runner and a receiver. You're defending two different players that way. He loves playing the game. I think he's a fantastic teammate. He's one of those upbeat guys who enjoys the process and I think gives us a lot of versatility as an offensive and as a team in deciding how we want to use him each game. But his yards, whether they've been on the ground or in the air have been real important to the success we've had."

I remember you talking about Alvin's football intelligence even that first summer of his rookie year, is that something you found during the scouting process or something you found in those early mini camps and training camp about him?
"The day I worked him out? I could tell right away he was someone that was going to learn extremely quickly. You just felt that in the workout and that was very obvious. And it was very important to us, important to me, just relative to him being able to learn."

It was reported this weekend Kwon Alexander is done for the year. Are you able to confirm that at all and what he meant to this team as you picked him up?
"He's been outstanding for us. Today's Monday, I would hold on making any reports or confirmations or any of that other stuff. He's been contagious relative to the way he approaches each practice. I think he's one of those guys that enjoys the grind and he's great having around. He's a very good football player as well."

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