WEEK 12: SAINTS CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Sean Payton
On his thoughts on what he has seen from the Ravens this season, especially against teams in the NFC South: "Well, I think that anytime … We've seen some film prior to this game, a lot of crossover with the games being played against Cincinnati and Cleveland. Any time you're seeing a Baltimore team, you know, No. 1, you're going to get a real well-coached team. Defensively, they're playing outstanding. The front and their ability to pressure the quarterback is a huge challenge. Offensively, their commitment and their ability to run the football, and then with Joe [Flacco] and the receivers, [there are] the big plays down the field. You're also getting a great return team in the kicking game."
On his specific thoughts about the Ravens' run defense: "They've got a strong front, and it's based out of a 3-4 defense. When you start looking at the personnel and the way those guys play, the tradition there over the years has always been at such a high standard. You always get the feel when you're watching them, each season, that defense is trying to set the standard or play to that same level if not better. You can see it in this group."
On his thoughts on WR Steve Smith Sr. and if he feels his play has declined this season: "No. The first time, when we got here in , our staff coached the Pro Bowl. That's the first time we really got to meet and know him. The thing you really appreciate is how competitive he is as a player. He brings a juice and intensity to the offense. The other thing is, it's very apparent he loves playing. And that comes off when you watch him play on tape. He's very confident. The good news is, this year when I read where he left Carolina and left our division, that was positive, but the bad news was that he's in Baltimore and we play the Ravens this year. But he's been a fantastic player for consistently a long period of time, so that complement, when you've got him on one side and Torrey Smith on the other, becomes very challenging in regards to how you're going to roll or play your coverages. I think when you watch the tape, you still see all the things that have made him special."
On what the Saints have to do to get back on track and what has bothered him most about the last two home performances: "Well, I think they were two totally different games. Two weeks prior, we started off … We started off slow in both games. I would start with that. We were able to fight back in the San Francisco game and get the lead late and not be able to hold on to it. Last week, it was tough and disappointing because there was never that point where we were in that game. I think we've got to do a better job on first and second down. We've got to do a better job with the give-away/take-away stats. That's one thing that specifically hurt us. We've had four losses this year in the final possession. We've got to find a way to finish better."
On how the Saints play better for primetime games, judging by their record for them: "Listen, you hope that any team, when you start the season, you hope that you can play well in your home venue. It's a loud environment. The good news is, when you're getting in these primetime games, that means you're somewhat relevant. We play quite a bit of them, home and away. I think, most importantly though, is when you have a good football team, those numbers start sliding in your favor. You start playing better on the road, you start playing better in the primetime spots. If you don't have a good team, you don't fare as well. We're going to have to play a lot better than we have, regardless of when and where it's played."
On the changes in the Ravens' secondary, specifically on the play of CB Anthony Levine: "When you're watching the tape, you go back and forth through the cut-ups and the different games, you see different pieces back there, different players at safety and corner. It's not uncommon in our league, where you have turnover, where you have injury, and we're faced with it a little bit right now with Rafael Bush's injury and certainly Jairus Byrd's injury early in the year. So, the next man up has got to be ready to compete. I think the one thing you see is they've got a great understanding of their scheme, and it has been consistent, and I think it has allowed them to play fast."
On how problematic injuries have been on the back end for them: "I said just a second ago … It's the nature of our game and you always hope that you're healthy as the season goes on, and sometimes those injuries will come at a certain position group. But, I think that it forces you to pay close attention to not only your base defense, but also your nickel defense."
On how he sees teams try to cover TE Jimmy Graham in different ways when trying to play matchup defense:"The first thing it starts with is [depending on if it] is a zone or man coverage. In zone, it's just a matter of where you align him – whether it's a corner, if he's outside or if he's inside as a tight end, [it's] a linebacker or safety. When you get into the man-to-man looks is where it can vary. Each week, depending on the other team's personnel, they'll have someone assigned to him. So, it's really more specific to man as to how the matchup is going to look and who is it."
QB Drew Brees
On what the Cincinnati Bengals did defensively last week to attack the Saints' offense:"They did everything we thought they'd do, for the most part. I felt like we had a good plan. I felt like we, for the most part, we executed it pretty well. We just weren't really efficient in the red zone. We got down there three times and only got 10 points. And at the end of the game we ended up turning the ball over. So really, I thought we had four opportunities for points and we only got seven drives. So, four opportunities for points out of seven drives, you've got to make the most of it, and unfortunately, we didn't."
On if he is aware that the Ravens are the only team he has never beaten in his NFL career:"Yes, I am aware. I played them in '03, '06 and '10 – thanks for reminding me." (laughter)
On if he looks at that as something he'd like to get on his resume:"It doesn't matter who we're playing. Every time we step on the field, I want to win. But certainly, you want to say that you've beaten every team."
On what he sees from the Ravens' current secondary, and specifically from CB Anthony Levine:"Obviously, he's only been up for a short time, so as you're studying film, there are a lot of different guys that are in there at a lot of different times. So, I think that all in all, this defense plays extremely well together. And I know that there have been some moving parts in the secondary due to injuries and such, but I feel like those guys have done a good job when called upon. And I think there are a lot of guys up front that I've played against before that have been kind of mainstays there, and I know there's been some turnover in the secondary. But the fact of the matter is I think the defense as a whole is playing extremely well right now."
On if he views the Ravens as one of the NFL's top pass rushing teams:"Yeah, I do. I do view them that way, because they're built that way. [They are] one of the few defenses that is as good against defending the run as they are against rushing the passer. Most teams, they kind of sacrifice one or the other, and these guys are really good at both. I'd say that's a pretty rare combination."
On how big of a game this is for his football team:"It's a huge game. Obviously, this season has not gone the way that we all planned, and yet, if you look at our division, your No. 1 goal is winning the division, and right now, we've got pretty much everybody in the division is just caulked together with four wins or less. So, the opportunity is out there for us to take. It's really a six-game season. You kind of wipe the slate clean and say, 'Obviously, things have not gone the way we wanted to up to this point, but it's all out in front of us, and we've got to take care of our business with the things we can control.'"
On what he admires about QB Joe Flacco:"His ability to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball down the field is … He is absolutely one of the best in that regard. I've been around Joe a few times – not a whole lot – but I think his demeanor just lends to, he's kind of got that calm, cool presence to him – kind of like nothing fazes him. He's got no problem standing in the pocket and making tough throws. So, yeah, I've got a lot of respect for Joe."
On which is a bigger advantage for a QB – to be taller or on the shorter side:"I have no idea – I don't know what it's like to be tall. *(laughter) *I don't know what it's like to see over people; I've got to see around them."
On why he thinks the Saints' home record on Monday Night Football is so good:"Well, they're always big games on Monday night, or else they wouldn't be putting you on Monday night. The matchups are always tough and there's always a lot at stake. I like to think that brings out the best in us, and hopefully, it will again on Monday."
On how much it pumps him up personally:"Yeah, again, every game is important. I feel like I prepare the same way for every game. Whether it's at home or on the road, or on primetime or not, they're all important. I always feel like I've got something to prove, and I always want to put my best forward."