Metairie, La. - The Saints broke their streak of allowing over 400 yards of offense Sunday in a losing effort. Now, they have just three days to prepare for the Atlanta Falcons.
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo addressed his unit's play today with the media. The following is a copy of that availability, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints.
Opening Statement: "I'm stating the obvious that it was a tough loss. I'll say that in one statement, but say in another that it's no time to linger over a loss. We have a divisional opponent coming up in three days. Today for us is really a Wednesday/Tuesday. We have to get going, so we've already dug deep into Atlanta, put this one to bed early this morning and moved on."
"I thought the defensive guys played with the right attitude and the right mindset early in the game. I thought we had a pretty good first half. I'm disappointed in the first drive of the second half. We tried to set a tempo there. We let them come down and score. I would say that what's exposed and looks like to you guys that Curtis (Lofton) had trouble covering that tight end, I'm taking the blame for that one. That was a third and two. I was expecting run. We pressured. I'll go in this direction too that we all think pressure is the answer to everything. Sometimes it bites you in the butt too. They blocked it up, we brought a lot of people, it's a long down. That's hard for anybody to cover that long so we suffered a little bit there. The other disappointing thing in the second half was that we had them on the six-yard line and this has happened to us a bunch, but we need to find a way to get them to punt the ball in that type of situation, get the ball back to Drew (Brees) and the offense in good field position and find a way to get some points. To me, those are the two things that stuck out. In that drive I'm talking about, there was a third-and-ten there, the one Isa (Abdul-Quddus) got hurt on. To me, that was key. We have to get off the field on the third-and-ten and maybe things would have been different. I thought our guys fought. It was key. We're still battling. In a two score game, I don't care if there's 20 seconds on the clock, you have a chance of winning, because if you score, onside kick, bang bang, you can win the football game. Our defense went out there and stopped them after we tried on fourth down. I thought that was big. We held them to a field goal and then blocked it. All those things, I thought we were pretty good at the end. You really want to play this football team from ahead, not behind. They know what they're doing. That's a good football team. The quarterback's a good player and (they have) a good offense. They do the right things with him. It was a pretty good challenge for us"
Were you surprised early on with Colin Kaepernick's foot speed?
"I wasn't surprised. I think we say that because we didn't know a lot about him, but he's a good athlete. I know that we respected him. You don't really know until you see him for real. That's probably what Joe (Vitt) was talking about. I tip my hat to him. We had some people on him that could have finished him and didn't, because he's a pretty good runner."
How do you think you patched together the situation at nickel cornerback this week?
"J.P. (Johnny Patrick) went in there and did an admirable job. There were some things we need to get better at. We'll see where Corey's (White) at and Elbert Mack. We're in a short week. I'd like to get Corey White back. He had a really good game in the game he got hurt if you go back. He (was) kind of coming on. When you're playing young guys, sometimes you have to be patient with them. I learned my lesson a few years back when I was very impatient at that position and nobody got good."
Do you know about Isa Abdul-Quddus' status yet?
"I don't know about that yet. I know we have to go through the whole concussion process, so we're early in that. I'm sure he comes back and takes some tests."
What did the violence of that collision look like to you?
"It looked like more of the ground in my opinion. I haven't asked Isa about it. I don't know if it was a hit on the player. It looked like his head struck ground pretty hard. I'd have to ask him and he might not remember."
What are some of the differences in facing the Atlanta offense as opposed to San Francisco?
"Both teams are pretty creative with their run schemes, different, but both very challenging. One thing about Atlanta, they'll find a weakness in a front and expose it with a particular run scheme. I've always had respect for how they run the football. We know what the quarterback's like."
What are the challenges of facing the Atlanta Falcons after facing them just two and a half weeks ago?
"They are a good football team. I take my hat off to them – they are resilient. They play the Arizona Cardinals, throw five interceptions and have another turnover for a total of six and they find a way to win the game. They are very resilient. They are talented. Their record speaks for itself in who they are and what they are."
How pleased are you with the progress of the run defense?
"We want to stop them for zero on every play. We did go out with the right mindset. I forget what the rushing was in the first half, but we felt pretty good there. Again, if you can find a way in a game against San Francisco to be ahead, I think it changes what they do and it works to your advantage. You saw the flip side of it when you get behind and what our offense has to deal with. When they have a great defense with their pass rushers (and) they know you have to throw. It's all different. Keeping the game in balance or being ahead would be more to our advantage, yet they're a challenge either way, that offense is pretty good. There's a reason why they lead the league in rushing, but I was pleased with a lot of things rush wise. There were really two run plays that I thought we didn't play as well as we could. Other than that, they did a nice job."
Do you think Atlanta will have a far different red zone package for you this time around?
"They have smart coaches and players. It will be something different and just because we did it one time doesn't mean anything. We may have another wrinkle or two for them too. I haven't gotten that far with the red zone. I'm on first or second down right now with Atlanta, but hopefully we can do the same thing we did last time."
Is there any advantage to the offense or defense in the second time that two teams play each other?
"We're both doing the same thing. They had us for a game and know our personnel and we have the same for them. It's kind of a continuation of the same game. It's like going in at halftime and making adjustments. This is halftime of two games. We'll make subtle adjustments. I'm sure they'll do the same. Yet, we have an appreciation for each other's personnel because we've gone against them."
In what ways does Atlanta use Tony Gonzalez most effectively?
"The way they always do. They get him downfield. They get him on a linebacker. They get him in situations where you have to single coverage him, because you can't just double one guy all the time with all the other skill they have out there. I'm sure that approach won't change for them. The quarterback looks for him because he has great trust in him and I would too. The guy's a great player."
Is it tougher playing on the road for a Thursday game rather than at home?
"Yes, because we're not practicing today. We go tomorrow and what should be a fairly heavy practice day is a travel day. We'll get that figured out. It's part of the league. It's what you do. What you have to do is win the game and have the two days off on the back end of it. That's what you have to try to do."
It seems like Atlanta has changed their run game since the last meeting. How do you deal with that?
"The first thing we did in our own minds was figure out what was different in the last two games since they played us and make sure we work on those things, yet knowing there was a certain approach that they took to our game that was different to previous. Dirk Koetter is a pretty good friend of mine. I have a lot of respect for him. We've talked a lot of football in the past. I'm trying to go through my notes to see if there's anything I can steal."
Would it help?
"I don't know if it does, but he's a good football coach and they'll have a wrinkle or two and they're at home. It's a great challenge. That's why this week is so much fun."
Yesterday San Francisco's offense got fewer than 400 yards. Was there any kind of good feeling to that?
"It's hard for me to feel that way because we lost. It's the nature of coaching that you look for the things you need to improve on. I get stuck on those and that's why it's good for me to have good coaches like Bill Johnson and Joe Vitt who will open up my eyes once in a while and say that here are some good things that we did, but I'm looking for the perfect game. The perfect defensive game is where there's no points on the board. The goal is always that. I feel that our offense does a lot of good things in helping us win. If they struggle in a game one day, then we have to find a way on defense to have less points scored on us than they score. I would have liked for us to find a way to only have 20 (yesterday). I understand the interceptions for touchdowns, but we need to find a way to keep them from scoring the other 17. That's just my nature."
The 49ers did a good job yesterday of yards after contact. Was that a product of their style?