Metairie, La. - While the Saints have dominated the Falcons under Sean Payton, they have not been so successful against the Buccaneers, particularly on the road.
The following are Drew Brees' comments about the challenge in week two, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
How different is this Tampa Bay secondary this year?
"They got a little bit of a facelift there. Mark Barron being kind of the one guy that's left from last year, I guess the left one, number 29 (Leonard Johnson), although he didn't play much against us, so he is kind of a new face for us too. But Barron is a talented strong safety and when you bring in (Darrelle) Revis, obviously we know his reputation and of course, Dashon Goldson, we played against him quite a bit for being at San Francisco the last five years, so we know what kind of free safety he is. They have a young draft pick in (Johnthan) Banks too and he is playing well. They have a lot of talented players back there and you can see that on film. They play with a lot of confidence. They have great skill. It's something for us to obviously be aware of when we game plan and just force us to be even more efficient and aware of what we are doing."
What does Revis bring to Tampa's secondary?
"I think a confidence, just kind of knowing that you have a type of player out there that you can rely on for one side of the field to match up against a team's best guy, you can see him do that at times. It seems, obviously, there is no preseason film on him. From this last game against the Jets, he was moving around quite a bit. At times he was off the field, so I am sure they were just trying to get him back into it. I'm sure they have a plan for him depending on who they are playing, the type of offense, receivers. For us, it's really, we know he's going to be out there, not sure exactly where, but just be aware of where he is at all times and understand the type of playmaker that he is."
How often do quarterbacks avoid cornerbacks?
"Yeah, it's more…obviously in a game plan you have certain matchups that you are trying to exploit, you have certain coverages or looks you are trying to get and that kind of thing. But, I would say there are times where hey there's a corner and you just know he defends this certain route or this certain concept or this play very well. So, all things equal, let's go away from him. We definitely say there is a 'Revis Rule' as it pertains to some of those things where you just want to avoid those to give him the opportunities as much as you can. Then again, we are going to execute our offense and there are going to be times where we are going to his side, throwing at him, but it is what it is. We are going to be careful about it and smart about it."
What do you feel like needs to be done before Sunday after looking at last week's film?
"A lot of that is just execution. I think we were running the favorable looks. We were getting things dialed up the way we wanted them to; we just weren't quite getting the production we wanted. I think they (Falcons) did some things within their coverages and fronts that we weren't anticipating and we didn't make some adjustments like we should have, like we will. It was a good lesson learned, so as you go into this game you are able to anticipate maybe more things, work on them in practice, so if they happen again you are ready to make the adjustment."
Has Darrelle Revis ever intercepted a pass from you?
"No, I really haven't played against him much. I think I played him just one time and that was back in 2009, here, when the Jets came here. I really haven't played against him that much. Yeah, Pro Bowls, I guess that's right. I played against him in a couple Pro Bowls. That's a little different attitude."
Do you have any concern about the running game?
"No, not at all. We've got the running backs to be very effective there. We've got the offensive line to be very effective. We have the scheme to be very effective there. We've got the receivers that block down field that gives us the opportunity to have big runs, we have that in place. We have all the pieces in place to have a very effective run game. We have been a team that has been a top five rushing team before, there's no reason why we can't get back to that point. It is a matter of opportunity if you want to be bounced throughout a game, certainly, if you drew it up perfectly you would have a lead going in the fourth quarter and then you just ground and pound and wear a team down and stay on the field in a four minute situation and the game ends that way. We should have been able to do that last week but obviously the first game is gone. We make the corrections we need to, but understand that that is going to be an important part of our game moving forward.
The Saints averaged 2.7 yards a carry; you would like to see that higher right?
"Absolutely, yeah, we want to be 4.5, 5 (ypg.) easy."
Did running it 29 times make sense?
"Yes, I think that makes a point that we are committed to that and we are not going to abandon it. Like I said, we have no excuse to why we shouldn't be a good run team. We are going to make that commitment in the framework of a game and what's happening; obviously we like to be very complimentary, more so in just we are going to beat our heads against a wall and run, run, run. We are going to be complimentary; it's just even more reason why I want the passing game as efficient as possible, so that run game can be at its best."
What about Kenny Stills allowed him to be so productive in the first game?
"I think he had a couple opportunities to kind of hit the seams and make some big plays. He is a very talented guy who works hard at it and understands what we are trying to accomplish within the scheme. He is a good route runner. He is a competitive guy and it's a matter of opportunities, so slowly incorporate him in and give him the opportunities and watch him make plays. It just allows another element moving forward. I didn't know much about him coming out of the draft, but I know he left school early, and from what everybody told me, he kind of had this reputation, maybe people steered clear of him for that reason, but he has been great. He fits in perfectly and I'm glad we got him."
How much did you appreciate Sean Payton staying on the sideline coaching after he got injured two years ago against Tampa Bay?
"I haven't even thought about that to be honest with you, the fact that we are going back to Tampa, the scene of the crime. We kind of chuckle about that now because he goes down and he can't stand up obviously, and he is in extreme pain and he goes over where the offensive linemen sit and he's sitting with his leg propped up and he's calling the plays from the Jumbotron. And then all of a sudden the field flips and we are no longer going the way he was looking, we were going the opposite way so as he is looking at the hashes, everything is flipped around. He had to get that adjustment going in his head and there were times where he would start a play and it was the wrong hash and I'll flip it. Obviously he had to get to a hospital because his leg was in bad shape. None of us wanted that to happen. He hung in there as long as he could to stay with us. I'm glad he is healthy. We have Crossfit Sean Payton now and he is ready to roll."
If the coach to quarterback communication device went out in your helmet, would you be prepared to call the game on your own?
"I would need some help with personnel groups and that kind of thing just because we have a lot of them. You are always ready for that scenario even if it is for a short period of time. There have been many occasions and you guys and fans would never know about it, nobody would know about it. It cuts out and I can look over and they can signal something, or give me the formation that you want and I can come up with a couple different plays that we have a game plan off of that. That's why we study the game plan like we do in order to memorize formations, personnel groups, how they match up with plays, what situations we want to call in. So as long as you have the personnel group and you know the situation, you pretty much know the type of play that we want to run and piece it together."
You don't wear a wristband, but what type of advantage do you think it gives quarterbacks?
"I think it makes it to where you don't have to memorize plays. They can give you a number and you look on your wristband and the play is right there. I like to have the play memorized because number one, I can visualize it much better that way, and because in many cases, the headset cuts out and I do not want that to be an excuse to why we had to waste a timeout or we were not able to call the right play at the right opportunity when we had them on their heels because I didn't know the play. I want to know the play even if he just yells a formation at me, I'll put it together and we will go make a big play and it could be the difference in the game."
Can you talk about playing two divisional games in a row?
"It's a big premium going on the road period, but going on the road in the division (NFC South) and winning is huge. It's huge. You can make sense of it by saying hey, it's like it's worth two, because not only did you win in the division, but you forced them to a loss. It's like you picked up one plus one and the fact that it was on the road. All of those things are important. It's a great feeling when you go on the road in the division and win, those are hard to come by."
Are you guys preparing for an extra hydration schedule this week?
"We talk about it a lot, going to Tampa, especially of all places, Tampa, Miami, some of these down south teams this time of year in September when it can be really hot and humid. You have to really focus on being hydrated with electrolytes, and all those things. You are going to sweat a lot and we don't want to be the team cramping."
Is there something on Sunday in particular that hit you and were glad that Sean Payton was back?
"Yes, there was a fiery moment where we had a couple miscues and he called everybody over and said basically I am trying to close the game out here by calling the stuff that we know and we are supposed to be good at and we keep making these mental errors and he was talking to everybody. So, clean it up and let's go win this game. The timing was perfect and obviously here we are on a drive, not trying to kick a field goal, we are trying to score a touchdown and make this a two possession game and put this out of reach. We ended up converted a big first down and going down and ended up kicking a field goal, but that was definitely one of those moments where, hey needed to be put in line and we were."
I thought it fit that same personality when you guys were going to end zone with Marques Colston, was that the play that was drawn up?
"It was a play where we kind of have multiple plays at the line. According to the look we felt like we had an opportunity to hit a seam. At the end of the day you are trying to convert but you also have to understand that, hey man if you get an opportunity to score from the 25 or wherever we were, then that's huge and so you like the matchup with Marques running up the seam with the linebacker and he ended up making a great play."
Were you lobbying to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter?
"The smart thing is to kick a field goal and make them have to, you know we have seen their field goal kicker make a lot of big kicks and so you want to force them to have to go down and score too."
Can you empathize some of the struggles Josh Freeman is going through right now?
"I think he is a very good quarterback. I think he has made a lot of big plays in a lot of big games. He let them down last week to win the game and it was unfortunate that they had really just two plays and a penalty that got them (Jets) a (game-winning) field goal. I have a lot of respect for Josh Freeman. I know him a little bit. We have worked out together before (in San Diego). I have seen him make a lot of plays against us. It's tough when they are a divisional opponent. I want to beat them, but I certainly have a lot of respect for him."
Is it hard for you to work out with a guy like Josh Freeman when you know you're going to play him?
"I'll never deny the opportunity to help a young quarterback. I was a young quarterback at one point and I was seeking the advice and tutelage and mentorship of Doug Flutie and other veteran quarterbacks, guys that I would go on to play against. I'm also not going to tell them any secrets about our offense. I actually consider it the ultimate form of flattery, when you have a young quarterback that seeks you out and wants to know something about your offseason workout routine or your in-season preparation, whatever it might be. I am certainly always willing to help those guys. Always have, always will. I just know that was given to me and I'm willing to give that to others."
Why has it always been a struggle down in Tampa Bay?
"Divisional game on the road. I can't think of many easy games we've had going to Carolina or going to Atlanta or going to Tampa. Regardless of what anybody's record is, it has just always been that way. I think we have a very talented division. I think there is a lot of familiarity because you play against each other twice. They are a prideful bunch. For whatever reason it seems like we always play them pretty early in the year. I can't remember ever going down there late in the year. I think November, maybe, is the latest we've gone down there. It seems like we always get them early when everybody still has that newness to the season. Everybody is healthy and everybody is fired up, and you just get these tough competitive football games."
What do you think you did well this past Sunday against Atlanta and what do you think you could improve on?
"I think we hit some big plays at some critical times. I think there was definitely some opportunity for more. I think there were a couple of plays we could have made in the red zone that might have gotten us a touchdown instead of a field goal. We have to make sure we can get those (touchdowns). (There were) a couple of completions here and there that I feel like I could've had. At the end of the day, you want to have a chance to win. If anything, I think all the sins of the game are flipped if you can go down and score a touchdown on the last drive instead of a field goal. At the end of the day we still got points and we still made it a touchdown game instead of a field goal to tie the game. Always just strive for better efficiency."
There was an NFL record for number of touchdown passes and passing yards this past weekend. Does that surprise you and/or put a lot of weight on your position's shoulders?