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Vilma Says Falcons Game Will Be "A Great Battle And A Lot of Fun"

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New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma

Press Conference

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You don't need much motivation for this game, do you?

"Yes, this is going to be a great game. Emotionally you don't have to get up for this game. You will probably have to calm your emotions, so we can play, function and do the things we need to do to win this game. It's a huge game for both sides. For us, we're trying to clinch the division. They're trying to clinch a playoff berth. The roles are reversed from last year. It's going to be a great battle and be a lot of fun."

How would you describe the team's personality at this point?

"I think we're jelling at the right time. I think that we're peaking at the right time as well, I'm talking jelling as  a team on offense, defense, special teams, the camaraderie within practice, the meetings, being out and about before the games, getting to know each other off the field, just not on the field. Also, being able to now start to peak at the right time. I think defensively we're playing well. Offensively it's always been lights-out, so has special teams. It's really good to know we are playing well, can play better. As long as we keep improving collectively as a group and try to work for that little bit to get better and we will be alright."

What accounts for your team's improvement against the run over the last couple of weeks, really since you've been back?

"It's all me (laughing)."

Seriously what has it been in managing people like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson?

"Seriously it's about paying attention to details. I'm talking about not just the defense itself and lining up. It's understanding your assignment, matchup, gap integrity. Once you have top guys like that, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, if you don't take care of your gap and control your assignment, they can hit one out of the gate. Adrian hit a nice one and it's really about everybody collectively wanting to get to the ball, wanting to do their job, now you have your gap, getting to make a play."

What have you seen of Julio Jones?

"I honestly haven't seen much of him. I saw him at Alabama. I thought he was an exceptional talent. I know when he played against us, he missed a little bit. He had a hamstring issue. I really couldn't tell you too much yet."

Can you talk about the accusations of the Saints being a dirty defense?

"Fair or unfair doesn't really bother me. We're an aggressive defense. We've always been an aggressive defense. I'd rather be labeled that than be labeled a finesse defense. I know we're not out there maliciously trying to hurt anybody. You see the way we play. You see our game. We go hard. That's really about it. We get a personal foul here and there. It's not intentional and I definitely know we're not intentionally trying to hurt people. We're going hard and playing tough defense. A guy like Adrian Peterson, he's tough  enough to tackle. He had a high ankle sprain, but this guys' so elusive, getting him around the ankles is a good thing. It's tough to get him down. It's unfortunate he thinks we're aiming for his ankles. He's that good of a talent."

Can you explain your defense's recent success on third down?

"Execution. That's about it. We get a good game plan from the coaches, watching film, not just the practice film, talking about the other team, the other opponent. We're executing. We'll keep doing that, understanding the benefits of getting off the field and more so getting our offense the ball. Everyone knows good things will happen (if they get the ball). For us, executing, getting off the field, it's huge for us, it keeps their defense on the field, (and) they get tired. We get points and we get victories."

Sean Payton is 9-2 against the Falcons. Is he in their head?

"It's probably a battle of the coaches. For me, I'm probably 50-50, so I always have respected them. I think they are a pretty good team. They are a very good talent. They always have a new wrinkle here or there when we play them, an effective wrinkle I should say. For me, I'm definitely not looking at the records."

How close are you watching San Francisco's results, based on wanting a bye?

"I was all for it (Pittsburgh), watching it closely until Ben (Roethlisberger) threw those two interceptions early in the game and then I realized I was bad luck. I went and watched Sherlock Holmes."

Teams like yourselves, New England and Green Bay have great records but are way down in the net yardage defensive rankings. Green Bay is making up for it in the turnover category. Is that something your defense is going to have to improve on as well if you war going to get to the Super Bowl?

"It's definitely something we should strive for. We also want to create more takeaways and we're always preaching to give our offense the ball, give them an extra possession, (and) create takeaways. Right now that's always going to be a point of emphasis, but we're not going to look solely at the turnovers, because we're going to do a lot of other things very well. At 11-3 you have to be doing something right. We understand for us, we're always striving for the best. Trying to get to the upper echelon as a team, as a defense and turnovers will be key."

What's the most important key to stopping Atlanta's offense?

"I would say job one is to stop the run. Michael Turner is a two-time Pro Bowler, a heck of a running back. Now you look at Julio Jones, who he has that big play ability. Roddy White has been a mainstay for them. Tony Gonzalez (is a) future Hall of Famer, not a lot to say about him. I really have to look at the film break it down and see what's winning for them and what's not. I still believe it's going to be to stop the run. They're getting back to their old ways, their winning ways, it started with the running back. For me on defense, I'm pretty sure it's going to be to stop the run and containing big play guys."

How is your health coming out of the last game?

"The best answer I can give you is good enough. This time of the year it's good enough."

Do you think you can continue to play every game from here on our, no problem?

"Yes, I have to do what I have to do."

It seemed like your defense had more margin for error last Sunday?

"Starting the game, we didn't have a real margin for error. They were in our territory in two of our three possessions. So, that easily could have gotten away from us before our eyes. There wasn't any room for error. We weren't looking back at St. Louis. We were improving from that. For us to go out there, it doesn't matter where you put us on the field. We have to hold our opponents. I thought we did a good job of that to start the game."

What does it say about the team when those things happen and you win by 22 points?

"We know we're a good team. We're past that. It's really about looking to be a better team. Looking to achieve all the goals that we set out with way back when, even at Tulane when no coaches were around. There are certain steps you get over. You get over the steps of being a good team. We're trying to get to bigger and better things."

Talk about Matt Ryan?

"Watching Matt Ryan, I think he's bringing a lot to the table as far as understanding and controlling that offense. You see him checking into and out of plays, getting into some good offensive plays. I think his maturity has really come along. This is his fourth year. You can tell his demeanor, body language. He's in complete control of that offense."

What is the challenge for you since they run so much no huddle offense?

"It will be a little bit of a mental challenge for me, but I don't want to get enamored with that mental part of the game, because no matter what they run you still have to stop it. It comes back to fundamentals of the gap integrity and tackling. I would rather live with a bad call early as Gregg (Williams) always says and try to get into a good call late and we'll play the game."

Did the offseason workouts at Tulane matter or pertain to what's going on now?

"Some of the things that we've done do pertain to right now and less X's and O's and more about finding out about your guys and teammates that were there with us, people that weren't there with us, so I think you get a good understanding of who you're working with, find out their commitment level, more than just a regular two coverage, a regular flat or something from the offensive side. I think this is what's carrying us over now, especially when we had some tough times where we could easily have broken up, pointed the finger and things of that nature. We've come together."

Can you talk about your success at home overall as well as your primetime success at home? Is there a difference?

"What we've done at home in primetime has been exceptional. I think that to a man, we've gone out there and performed very well. You can't put your finger on anything specific as to why we've turned it up a notch in primetime. We just get the extra day preparation. I say many times we don't get many days off. We're going to come in. We're going to watch film. We're going to work. The purpose is not just punch the clock, but to get better and get an extra day to watch more film, really study and break down our guys. I think it really carry's over."

Is there anything special for Christmas you want? What is Christmas like for the Vilmas?

"I don't really celebrate holidays (laughing). My family will come. That will be great. I have a game to play. I know it sounds real cliché, but I'm locked in right now. This is a fun time of year, not because of the holidays, but because I would say real football starts right now. These games are crucial and of course once you hit the dance, you can't lose."

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