New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton met with the media on Monday and talked about the dismal loss to the Houston Texans and the team's next opponent, the undefeated Carolina Panthers.
Opening statement: “Any questions? Obviously tough film to watch. One of the things that stood out that we talked about as a team and as a staff. You start looking at the third down numbers and the distance you’re operating in gives you a pretty good idea of your either efficiency or inefficiency on first and second down. Eight or nine offensive third downs were 10 or more and then conversely the down and distance that we were defending was a lot less. I thought particularly offensively we hurt our defense. They were on the field too long. We talked about that after the game. It was pretty obvious all of us have to look closely at ways to improve that, we really haven’t. I’d go back to the second half of the Titans game offensively in the second half of that game and in Washington and now this game really not playing good football. Not playing nearly as good as we are used to. That starts with me and us getting a good plan together and being able to operate and play a complimentary game.”
Going forward on offense how do you balance admonishment with encouragement?
“I think, look these guys are pros and we really try and look closely at the techniques and the specifics. Sometimes its outside or the offensive line, the quarterback and we really try and look at the exactness of what we are trying to do. The preparation and the want to and desire is there. Those guys have been outstanding. I’ve said this before this is a good locker room and we just have to be better at what we are doing and look closely at eliminating mistakes that are being repeated and evaluate those.”
Does it seem like a very simple fix? Is it more mental than physical?
“No, I mean I think it’s not just more mental. I think getting up with our tempo. There are some things when we play well we play with a real good tempo. Ball comes out and we have a balance that we look for and I think it’s important that the running game is a part of that and clearly in today’s NFL you see teams throwing it a lot more and yet we feel like with a lot of the things we want to do in the play action passing game part of that starts with having success with running the football and we had a few plays yesterday a couple big plays, but outside of that it wasn’t good enough overall.”
Was Drew Brees off yesterday throwing the ball?
“Well that is a team that forces a lot of quarterbacks to be off and early in the preparation we talked about why they are so good on third down. Number one in the last five weeks they are getting opponents into the longer situations and they rush the passer well and I think people are really good and you have to be that much more precise and I think it all gets magnified if you’re not having any success on first down. If you can’t get to third and three early in the game. Just a simple throw and catch. We are not able to make that play to Ben Watson and then pretty soon it’s third and long. I called a boneheaded play in the second half and then the next play is no gain. You have to be able to be better on the early downs especially against a team like that.”
What is the reaction to having November turn out like it did?
“Well it’s a month that we feel is important. We had a chance to get to 2-2 in November. We end up finishing 1-3. That is what it is so now for us as tough a pill it is to swallow yesterday and it’s tough for every one of us. By the time tomorrow comes around we have to get ourselves back up off the mat and prepare for a real good football team that is coming in here, but November is a month where often time division races, playoff ramifications all of those thing get a little bit more clear and we didn’t play as well as we would have liked to played in that month.”
The fourth down and two late in the game was that the call you wanted?
“Yeah it was the look we wanted they bracketed the coverage a little bit better. We had seen something earlier in the year. They defended it well. Drew was smart to still give it a chance to Brandin (Cooks) as a high point play and they covered it pretty well. It was kind of an unbalanced formation. A bit of a man (coverage) beater, but they were able to in and out the coverage and were able to effectively take it away.”
Do you give any thought of what you want this team to be after this season?
“It’s more in the moment and yet I think while that’s all taking place you’re always looking at a vision for these young players that are getting these snaps now and getting time on task. Whether it’s Kikaha or Andrus (Peat) or any of the young players and we have had a number of them play early this year. Which I think is encouraging to some degree because you know they will have that experience, but I think it’s more week to week focused on this team right now as opposed to never any point do you ever look at playing for next year. That doesn’t exist at all and that won’t as we play these next five weeks not one time.”
Is your enthusiasm for these young players still high?
Suppose you have to play games where playoffs aren’t at stake, don’t you have to evaluate who really wants to be here next year and who’s not?
“I think, right now, that is an easy evaluation for our staff. Our guys are playing hard and are doing their preparation. That would be the case though if you are in week 12, down the stretch, with the number one seed. You’d still be evaluating. I think we’ve got a pretty close group. That hasn’t been something that has been an issue at all.”
What else did you see out of the defense after watching the film?
“I thought after we settled in (after) those first two drives, we had some good stops. We had the turnover of course. We’ve got to eliminate a couple of those interference calls. One of the holding calls I thought was good (but) the other I struggled to see. I struggled to see the one on Brandon (Browner) after (Jairus) Byrd’s interception. I thought it was a pretty clean block. Our third down defense, we had a few opportunities early to get off of the field and we weren’t able to do so. I think we have to get that run number down a little bit. I think it was 4.7 (yards per rush). That gave them those second-and-fives and those third-and-threes. That’s something that stood out.”
What do you think is the problem with the run defense?
“You can point to fits, one specific thing (or) you can point to – generally when you watch a play, it would not be the same thing over and over again. It’s understanding formations though and where we’re fitting. I think half the battle, when you see good defenses, and we’re going to see one this week, is that they recognize the formation, they look at it for a second and then right away, in their mind, they know that it’s down to one of three plays. The key in diagnoses for a young player, such as Stephone Anthony or Hau’oli (Kikaha), or you talk about even a veteran player, per formation, backfield depth or indicators that lead you to a belief that it is going to be this play or this. If you’re just defending a whole playbook on every play, it becomes a lot harder.”
How good is Josh Norman?
“Real good. We’ve seen him grow and have seen him over the years. I would say this – there is not a corner having a better season than he is right now. He gets matched versus the best receiver each week and you break the huddle offensively and he is meeting that receiver before he gets aligned. He’s ready to go and is ready to compete. Certainly, there is a ton of respect on our part for what he has been able to do. He is productive with the ball in the air. He is physical. It is kind of infectious when you watch him. You can see his enthusiasm for the game and how he competes. You have to be spot on with him.”
What you did with (DeAndre) Hopkins this game with keeping your corners on each side, was that just a specific gameplan for Hopkins or that something that you’ll change and do more of?
“Each week it might vary. There have been weeks where we have shadowed (such as) Delvin Breaux on Julio (Jones). There will be other weeks where you might play safety help over the top. You have to mix it up and you can’t be just one (way). The corners staying right and left – some weeks you choose to do that and some weeks you choose to match it up. A lot of it depends on who the other people are in the equation.”
Any thoughts on Carolina and the level of play they’ve been able to maintain the whole year?
“They’re doing all of the things that great teams do. If you said, do they rush the ball well – yes, is the quarterback (Cam Newton) playing at a high level – yes, are they good in the red zone - yes. Defensively, they’re taking the ball away. Obviously, last week they had two touchdowns defensively. You start playing with that type of momentum and you see that competitiveness on both areas (as well) as in the kicking game. They have a ton of guys on defense that are playing really well. You can start looking at their Mike linebacker (Luke Kuechly), (Thomas) Davis, the weakside linebacker and Norman. You are going through the roster and you are going to see a lot of these guys playing in the Pro Bowl. They are having that type of season. Ron (Rivera) and his staff are doing a great job of putting together a real good football team and a team that believes in itself. There are not many times when you watch them play and you see them do things that hurt themselves. I think it is a challenge and one that we have to have a real good week of practice and the right mindset because they are playing well.”
Delvin Breaux said that you had backup defensive calls ready in this game, which you hadn’t done before; is that one of the things you did to increase the defensive communication a little bit?
“Typically, we might have a spontaneous call. If they go to the line with a call then we would have a call in the back of our mind. There would probably be four or five things that were different for us yesterday that Dennis (Allen) has implemented, and a handful of them were really good. I thought that the process of getting in and out and aligned defensively, and the communication was real smooth.”
Have you talked to Curtis Johnson about his future?
“I haven’t spoken to him. We have exchanged text messages. You know how I feel. I said this last week (but) I think the world of him. He’ll land on his feet rock solid. We just exchanged texts.”
How did Andrus Peat look when you reviewed his performance?
“I think there was some good and then there were some times where he struggled. He had a holding call and he had a false start. There are a handful of technique things that need to be cleaned up, and yet there are a few times on the film where you are looking at it and you’re like, wow, that is pretty good. Overall, I would say that it was mixed. There were some real good things and then some things that we have to improve on.”
Do you plan to keep him at that guard spot?
“We’ll see how the week goes.”