New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, January 1, 2018

Do you eliminate the two prior results against Carolina at some level in your preparation for Sunday’s game?
“We start this time of the year and everyone is starting from scratch. The only thing that you pay attention to is obviously a division opponent, the personnel and the things that you didn’t do well in the early two games. Maybe, things you did well, but from a playoff standpoint you understand that now you are in a single elimination tournament.” 

How much was the first game in the series at Charlotte a turning point for you season as you went on an eight-game winning streak?
“I’ve said before, I thought that the two-game road stretch we took was important at Carolina and at London. We dug ourselves into an early hole and we needed to gain some confidence. Hopefully, (we would) come away from those two games with at least .500 if not better. Fortunately we were able to win both and kind of get back to even water and began to string some wins together.”

What goes into defensive holding on defensive linemen and why has that call cropped up on you guys?
“Well, it is a good question. There was a few years back the umpire sat right behind the linebacker and it was a call that was a lot easier made because their eyes were on the defensive tackles. Oftentimes as you are trying to get up on a double team, the offensive lineman are, at times the defensive lineman will tug a jersey or try to prevent that from happening. When they removed the umpire and put him behind the offense, it became harder to enforce that. I do think though in the last year and a half, there’s been an emphasis from behind to catch that, the official deep in the secondary to be able to catch it. There are certain things they look for, there might be a shoulder tug. Oftentimes you can see it with the offensive lineman and if he gets turned in a certain way. So it is something we will have to work on.”

So many coaching changes are happening around the National Football League. How much interest do you expect in some of your staff numbers?
“I think it happens every year. Generally there is more interest when you are winning and yet it is hard to predict. I have always said, that hopefully you are hiring a good staff and putting together the right guys, which I think we have done here. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if clubs reached out with permission. To date, I haven’t heard of any yet. But, part of the goes with success.” 

How surprised are you that Pete Carmichael doesn’t have a head coaching title next to his name?
“It’s all on the individual team. I know Pete interviewed up in Indianapolis. I think it just matters as to if they are looking for offense or defense. He has been a great coach for us and I am hopeful we are able to keep him. Yet, when you have success, one of the things that can happen is that coaches can move up and get promoted.”

Are you happy going into the playoffs overall offensively?
“No. I was honest yesterday. I think there are things we have to improve on if we are going to play well in the playoffs. Our third downs numbers need to be better. I thought our tempo yesterday was sluggish. Offensively we have to eliminate the pre-snap penalties where we are moving. I think there is a lot of work for us to do this week for preparation for this game.”

Can you put your finger on the third down issues, where it seems things should be built to be a successful third down offense with the production of Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the running backs?
“If you break up the third and longs, those hold up (and) the third and one. But that third down and two, three, four and five, we have been below average at and we have got to do a better job of emphasizing it at practice and putting the right plan together.”

Can you pinpoint a reason or reasons for the struggles on third down?
“When you look at the cutup of the whole season, it’ll be a number of reasons. It might be a route error, it might be protection, and it might be (a) throw. Whatever it is though, we have to look closely at it and look to get to the things that we think (are affecting it).  Each week you might get more man and one week you might get more zone coverage. So there are a handful of things a team will play in that down and distance. (One week) It might be more pressure. So being able to handle a plan that handles all the above and then executing it is the priority.”

With how much the defense has improved how much has that last drive by Tampa Bay left a sore feeling in your mouth?
“It left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and credit Tampa (Bay). They made a few plays. We had them on a fourth down. So we will get back to work on Wednesday and make the corrections and get ourselves ready for our opportunity if it does come again.”

What factor is the biggest difference in the defensive turnaround?
“The takeaways are ones that come to mind. I think our front’s playing better and we’re improved in the secondary. I think there are a couple combinations of all those things.”

When you have games with multiple takeaways and lose, does it make you look at struggles on offense?
“We will look at every element. The opportunities that we had, we had a turnover ourselves on a punt return. We didn’t have a lot of plays, 22 or 21 at the half. Our third down numbers got better in the second half. But if you are not converting a few of those third downs, then all of a sudden you’re not taking advantage of a turnover or takeaway. But nonetheless they’ll be important here. Obviously they’ll be important here in the postseason.”

What did you see out of Marcus Williams both yesterday with the two interceptions and for the season as a whole?
“He has played well. It was a real good selection. He is smart, he works at it and he has real good ball skills. Those turnovers are something that aren’t new for him. I believe he was tops in the college ranks with getting the interceptions. I think he has got real good hands and anticipation.”

Craig Robertson said he hasn’t played in a playoff game since his junior year in high school. Can you discuss how this squad probably doesn’t have as much playoff experience in the past?
“I’m sure there are number of guys that (this) will be there first exposure. Every one of these rookies that are playing. I think they’ll get up to speed with just the nature of the NFL playoffs. It is different and it is played differently. There is an intensity level to it that we will have to prepare for this week.”

Is running the football against Carolina and their front something you look at as a must to succeed in the game?
“I think it is something that we want to do to have balance. They do a real great job of rushing the quarterback and hopefully we will be able to have that balance. It also helps you when you get to third down and regarding your down and distance. They (Carolina) played the run real well yesterday from watching the game tape. So we are going to have to have a good week at practice.”

How has Jonathan Freeny quickly earned a role on defense?
“He’s come in and he’s smart. He’s someone that has played inside and outside at linebacker. We have a handful of these guys that are quickly thrown into the fire and it is not unusual and each week he learns a little bit more and understands a little bit more about what we are doing.”

 



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