Metairie, La. - Less than 24 hours after the Saints lost their seventh straight, Joe Vitt reflected on his team's performance and the tough road ahead for them to make the playoffs.
The following is his conversation with the media, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Opening Statement: "I echo the comments I made last night. I take full responsibility for this loss. I have to do a better job of coaching and getting our guys in position to make plays. We lost the game. We're heartbroken about that, as is our organization. We did do some good things. I think we continue to be a little bit more solid against the run. Yesterday on both sides of the ball our third down (conversion rate) was better. Our coverage teams continue to get better. The big play for defense came down on us last night, which was encouraging to see. We protected our quarterback better and I thought we had their quarterback Matt Ryan under some duress. We'll try to accentuate the positive and build on that. Like I said, I have to do a better job."
You said that it was bleak last night in regards to the playoff picture. Do you feel the same way after a night of reflection?
"I said it to our team today that I've been in the playoffs with the Seattle Seahawks in 1982, getting in with a 9-7 record and going to the AFC Championship game. I went to the playoffs with the Rams in '04. We got there with an 8-8 record and won a playoff game in Seattle. I also did not get to the playoffs in 1986, when we were 10-6. The most important thing that we have to do as a football team now is to look forward to Monday when we reconvene and have a great practice and install. Let's work hard to get better, correct our mistakes and do the ordinary things extraordinary, which we can control and move on from there."
Drew Brees took a lot of responsibility for the last two weeks. What have been his problems?
"When you have a great quarterback on your team, great quarterbacks don't have a conscience. They're going to stick tight throws (in there), make great plays and those great plays that great quarterbacks make take great courage and that's just the truth. When you're on a little bit of a dry spell and wish you had a throw back or two, potentially bad things happen. When Drew Brees lines up to play, he's playing to win. He's playing to make plays. He's playing to win. We're all in this situation now and I'm talking about the success we've had over the last six years because of guys like Drew Brees, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma. I wouldn't except Drew to do anything else but take responsibility, but really the responsibility falls on me to put our players in a different position and maybe work on some two-minute drills a little bit more. I have to do a better job at that"
What is more stunning in your opinion? Drew throwing a touchdown in 54 consecutive games or the way that it ended last night?
"54 games. Last night was last night. Drew Brees' body of work over his life and his time in the NFL is not going to be judged on one night, a Thursday night in Atlanta. I put the breaking of Johnny Unitas' record up there with Cal Ripken's consecutive games (streak), Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points in a game. The body of work in Drew Brees in that record is something he'll have forever. It's really guaranteed his enshrinement as a first ballot hall of famer"
Did the five picks and the way it ended dim it?
"In order to be a great quarterback like Drew Brees you need to have amnesia. When you leave the stadium, you think about the next game and the next opportunity to go in and put this behind you. I'll be perfectly honest with you, at the end of the night, I didn't realize walking off the field in Atlanta that we had not thrown a touchdown pass, because Drew's main objective in every game he plays in is to win the game and that's our main objective. So, we're not calling plays so he continues on with the record. We're calling plays so we can score and somehow win a game."
Do you buy the notion that he's pressing at all?
"No, I think that Drew is well-prepared. He's prepared the last couple of weeks the same way as when I first knew him in '06 and again, sometimes you go on a little bit of a cool streak and you get balls tipped. You got the ball potentially on the wrong shoulder of a receiver and something catastrophic happens. This is a great quarterback with great intent. His best days are ahead of him. It was a bad night for our football team, not just Drew Brees."
Did you feel the defense had their best performance of the year?
"Yes, I think after the first drive, Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) did a great job of making some adjustments, as did our defensive players. We tackled better and maintained gap integrity better, but you take a look at the big plays they were averaging almost nine a game and we limited them to five. They're 48 percent (conversion rate) on third down. We held them to 1-for-11. The total number of plays was down, which was good for our defense. This defense is getting better every week. I think it's a credit to our coaches. I think it's an unbelievable credit to our players staying the course, not pointing fingers, working as hard as they can to get better. Curtis Lofton's gotten better all year long. Jonathan Vilma's getting better and he's getting his legs underneath him. David Hawthorne is healthy. Our corners were magnificent last night. They did a good job. We pressured the quarterback with a four-man front. We got some pressure with Sedrick (Ellis) and (Brodrick) Bunkley and Cam (Jordan) had some good rushes. That game is now behind us. We're putting it behind us and we're going on to the next challenge, which is New York. We know they're the defending champions and we have to continue to get better in that game too."
Did any injuries come out of the game?
"I don't know that. We met with our team this morning and I'll meet with the doctors and trainers at 4 o'clock this afternoon."
How did Zach Strief come out?
"He's fine. He just cramped up at the end. That was from the wrapping. He did a heck of a job last night."
Looking back at the goal line offense misstep before halftime, would you have liked to hold one more timeout before the two-minute warning?
"Yes, it's something you talk about all the time. All of a sudden they have a timeout and the two minute warning. You have the two minute warning and you have the timeout, as opposed potentially two plays. We go back and forth about that all the time. Before the series started, there's communication between myself, Pete (Carmichael), Kromes (Aaron Kromer) and Drew (Brees). Let's take the timeout and get as much time as we can because we have the two minute warning, which is like a timeout. Let's see where that takes us. When it doesn't work, it's my responsibility. I'm always going to second guess myself. I'm better off having the two minute warning, stopping the clock, having the timeout in my pocket, because really on the sideline we were talking about what we call a mayday situation, where we get the field goal team on. That scenario needs to be 16 seconds to go to get them on the field without a timeout. That timeout is a good thing to have."
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