Metairie, La. - Drew Brees hasn't passed for more than 300 yards in the Saints' last three games but number nine is plenty happy knowing the last two below average games were winning ones.
Brees and the Saints are getting ready to head to California for the first time since losing to the San Francisco 49ers in January. This time they face the 3-6 Oakland Raiders.
The following is a copy of Brees' media session, as transcribed by the New Orleans:
How much do you think Dennis Allen remembers how you play and the things you do considering he was here for five years as a member of the defensive coaching staff?
"I'm sure he's very familiar with us from a personnel standpoint. It's a lot of the same faces from two years ago when he was (last) here. Obviously, he was here for a long stretch. I would say there's probably a lot of familiarity (with us). That's just kind of even more reason why we need to make sure that we're very familiar with them by the end of the week."
Given that there are only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, did it concern you when you heard that four of them went down in one week?
"Yes, you never want to see that, especially a lot of head injuries and a lot of concussions. Unfortunately, it's part of the game to an extent. But when that many go down on one Sunday and it's a lot of pretty high-profile guys, you just hope that obviously all the necessary measures are being taken and make sure that they're definitely healed up before they come back."
How do you think you've been able to stay so healthy since you've been here in New Orleans?
"Some of it's luck. In a lot of cases as a quarterback, when you stand in the pocket you just trust the guys around you. You're throwing out of a mine field at times. Some of those things are out of your control to an extent. If a guy rolls up on you or hits you in the back or hits you while you're in a compromised position, so at times it's luck and at other times I think, for me, I've got a great workout routine, a maintenance routine, for my shoulder and for my entire body. Flexibility, all those things you try to do to make yourself as durable as possible and just thank your lucky stars when you can make it out of a game and make it out of a season pretty much unscathed. But you're going to have things from time to time and that's part of the game and you just have to deal with those when they do happen."
When was the last time you had a concussion?
"I had one in '05 when I was playing for the Chargers against the Jets. That was my last one."
How do guys on offense view Thomas Morstead? When the offense is backed up, is he the guy that gets you out of the hole?
"Yeah, he's "The Leg." He's the secret weapon. That's a guy who can just flip the field for you. There are games where you understand that you're going to have to play the field position battle a little bit. Both sides of the ball are going to be grinding it out and at times you know that offensively, if we can get one first down or two first downs, all of a sudden if we get stopped, we have a punter who can punt it inside their ten (yard line) and really put the opposing team in a tough position and put our defense in a good position. All of a sudden, we get a three-and-out and the ball gets punted back to us and we get it at the 40 or the 50. A punter like that can really be a big weapon for you."
Joe Vitt talked earlier about your quick release and how that keeps you protected, and yet you can still hold onto it and flip it to someone at the last second. Can you talk about having the ability to do both of those things?
"I think the biggest thing is, as a quarterback you're going to take hits at times and there's nothing you can do to prevent it or protect against it other than just you're going to have to stand in there and take a shot and we all understand that. There are also times where there's no need to take unnecessary hits. All quarterbacks are told if you get outside the pocket, know when your journey has come to an end and slide. There are times when you're going for a first down and you're in or around the goal line and you're diving head-first to go get a touchdown and you're not going to be able to coach that out of anybody. I'd say there are things you can do, little things, subtle things, to avoid hits or at least protect yourself to an extent so that you're not so exposed like we are a lot of times."
Do you mentally prepare yourself to get hit?
"I think it's just part of the game. I don't think about it. In fact, you go into every game saying you're ready to get hit. You're ready to get hit, get hit hard, and still have to deliver the ball accurately down the field and to get back up and do it again."
Now that you guys are creeping up at 4-5, how to you prevent yourselves from think about the playoffs?
"It's still very much head down, nose to the grind stone, focused on each week, one at a time. This is the most important game of the season because it's the next game and it's the game that could (get) us back to .500 after a 0-4 start."
I think this is your first time playing in Oakland against the Raiders in the regular season as a member of the Saints. What was it like playing against them when you were with the Chargers?
"We played there in the preseason a couple of times, but obviously that's not the same as the regular season. The Black Hole, that place can get crazy and it can get loud, especially in and around the end zones. I remember winning a big game in overtime there in 2002, the year they went to the Super Bowl, and having batteries, water bottles and everything else thrown at us. It's a fun place to play. It's a raucous crowd. Obviously, they provide a very good home field advantage."
Is it a place where you notice the crowd more than other places?
"Yeah, you think we have a lot of people who dress up in our crowd. The Who Dats, we have Whistle Man and we have all kinds of people that dress up. For them, they've got quite a few as well. It's the Raider Nation. They take a lot of pride in that, obviously. They do get rowdy."
What's the craziest thing you've seen playing in Oakland?
"My funniest experience playing in the Black Hole was – it was my first year and Doug Flutie was the starting quarterback. So it's 2001, and we go out on the field, my first time in the Raiders stadium, and I'm looking around and all the members of the Black Hole are sitting over there and they've hollering at Flutie, 'Flutie, you're short. You stink.' And Flutie says, 'Watch this.' He just starts walking towards them and they're hollering at him, and when he gets (ten feet away), they go, 'Hey, Doug. How you doing, man? Good to see you. Hey, I'm such a huge fan. Will you sign this for my daughter?' So he's just talking over there like they're old buddies and hasn't seen them in a while, patting him on the back. Then he's like, 'Alright, I have to go warm up guys.' And they say, 'Alright Doug, good luck.' Then he gets five yards away and they say, 'Flutie, you stink. You're short.' You just kind of chuckle because that's part of the whole persona, the aura there."
Have you guys talked about the stat that Joe Vitt told us about with teams that go on the road and get beat by 55 points that are 5-1 the next game they play?
"Oh yeah, so much of this league is not who you play, it's when you play them. It's the scenarios and the circumstances surrounding it. The way I look at it is you can't hardly turn on last week's film because they have a bunch of guys hurt and they have a bunch of tough circumstances that they're working through. Everything that could've gone wrong, went wrong. It was just one of those games. That's not the Raiders. That's not the team that we're going to face at all. You flip on the film against Atlanta and these guys obviously gave Atlanta all that they could handle and they really had a chance to win it at one point in that game. This is a team that beat Pittsburgh right there at the end of the game. They've played extremely well at times. The amazing stat for me was four times this year, so almost half their games, they've held an opposing offense to under 300 yards of total offense. They've got some extremely talented players defensively and they've played very well at times. So I don't even turn on last week's film. That's not the team we're going to face."
When Dennis Allen was here, could you tell he had head coaching capabilities?
"Yeah, you could tell he's very talented and he was on the fast track to becoming a coordinator and a head coach. Obviously, it happened very quickly. He goes from being a defensive backs coach here to a coordinator in Denver to head coach one year later. Well deserved, because I think we all saw that. His defensive backs loved him as a position coach. I think he's very well thought of around here."
How much does it help that you guys have had so much success, and now at 4-5 you don't have to look ahead?
"We can't afford to. A win against the Raiders is just as valuable as a win against anybody. It's as valuable as a win against a huge division rival in the Falcons or the Super Bowl Champion Giants. I think we respect the talent that this team has, the way that they've played at times, and we know to expect their absolute best performance."
The last couple of weeks, Jimmy Graham looks to be getting back into the form he was in last year. What has changed for him?
"I think he was battling through some little nicks and injuries early on. I think all of us just needed to find the mojo a little bit. It took four games to do it, but when you look at the last five games you'd say we've definitely had our moments where we feel like we're back to playing the type of football we know how to play and even starting to see some things that get us really excited about what's to come for us because I don't think we've played our best game yet and I definitely feel like that's in our near future."
Are you worried about Jimmy Graham's dropped passes?
"No, not at all. I know that happens at times. The thing I love about our guys is if there is a dropped ball, they're as mad about it as anybody. They're prideful. They don't want that to happen just like I don't want to miss a guy and that's happened at times, too. Guys know that I'm going to be as mad at myself as anybody else could be. We all hold each other accountable here, ourselves accountable, and I'm not worried about that one bit because I know when I need the big play, he's the guy that can make it."
What are some of the things that specifically impress you about their defense?
"First of all, just their size and stature and their physical nature. You flip open the scouting report and you turn on the film and they're a big, physical bunch. They've been able to make some plays in their secondary, turnovers and such, you'd say they have some pretty good ball skills. Really, with the exception of just some big plays they've given up at times, I'd say they've been a pretty well-rounded defense in the run and pass. People like to point to that Tampa game where they gave up really three big runs, but if you take away those three big runs, they were stifling in their rush defense. I think that's what you have to look at when you think about this team. They do a good job of mixing their fronts and their coverages and that kind of thing, and trying to keep an opposing offense off balance, so we're going to have to be ready for all that stuff."
Where does Carson Palmer rank in this era of quarterbacks?
"I think Carson is an elite quarterback. I think he's played very consistently for a long time. He did some impressive things in Cincinnati. He's doing some impressive things in Oakland. I know there was that period of time with the trade where all of a sudden he's gone and then all of a sudden he's back. I think you can see that he's in command of that team, that offense and that huddle. Playing the Falcons last week, we watched the Raiders game so that was really the first time I watched their offense and watched him. He's a big, strong guy who can make every throw and makes some great throws in critical situations, so I have a lot of respect for Carson."
When you were a free agent, did you have any contact with Al Davis and the Raiders?
"No, I never had any contact with them. I'm trying to think of what the situation even was back then. Kerry Collins I believe was the starter. No, I didn't talk to them at all."
Does Chris Ivory seem happier now than he was a couple of weeks ago when he said he was kind of frustrated?
"If that's the way he's going to run when he's frustrated, I hope he's really frustrated for the rest of the year. He just looked like a man on a mission. I think we have a good problem here and that is we have a lot of backs and guys you're trying to give opportunities to and get touches to. We just have to be very strategic about how we do that and make sure that we're kind of spreading it around the way we want to and the way that puts us in the best position to succeed as an offense and a team. I think by working him back in the mix here over the last two weeks, it's been great for him and great for us offensively. Obviously, you've seen him make some pretty big runs, some really physical runs, kind of violent and ferocious. We love to see that. I think as we go along here, we'll see how it all plays out, but I'm sure he's going to get more opportunities. I think we're starting to kind of find our own in the run games and hopefully we can continue to build on that."
The Falcons cut their starting defensive end that played across from Charles Brown. Can you talk about how you thought Charles played in the last game?
"I thought Charlie Brown played great. That's a testament to him. It's difficult at times to all of a sudden just kind of get thrown in the mix. Of course you try to prepare yourself as a starter, but when you're not it's just different. All of a sudden you're the starter, you're the guy, and you have to be ready. He's the swing tackle so he can play either side, but he's playing right(tackle) and just did a great job obviously in a big game when we were really counting on him."
How noticeable has the change in the running game been the last two games?