Metairie, La. - Less than 24 hours after the Saints beat the Miami Dolphins thoroughly on Monday Night Football, coach Sean Payton preached the need to turn the page and begin preparing for the Bears.
The following are the coach's comments Tuesday at the team's practice facility, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
"Real quick, the schedule is a little different this week, coming off of a night game. The players are kind of in on their own, getting treatment, lifting weights. Tomorrow we'll push things back an hour in regards to when we start with our team meeting, (and) when we start with practice. We'll have to be smart with what we do tomorrow, (and) what we do on Thursday. We might go out of pads and try to maybe push the bulk of the work back a little bit. We will deal with the short week and then a road game."
When you talk about complementary football, was last night how you would chart it beforehand if that's what you are looking for?
"Well, the time of possession is important with regards to that. We did a good job. We were about 10 or 11 minutes in favor in that game. I think it's just understanding how the game is being played. I thought the three and out we got defensively to start the second half was important, and then protecting field position and coming up with a score was significant. It could be something as simple as, they're backed up punting, we get two decent jams on both gunners, and Darren (Sproles) on a little middle return just gets eight yards. When you look at the field position, all of the sudden we're starting with the ball on their side of the 50 (yard line). Those are the little things."
Pierre Thomas said that although the team is struggling to run the football, you guys are not going to give up on it. How are you approaching it now with the dump-off passes? Is this a roundabout way of saying that you are not giving up on the run?
"Each game is a little different. The thing about looking at the tape after last night is that we're close in a number of situations, so by no means do we look at it like, ‘Hey, we're going in this direction.' Each week we're looking to establish a certain type of run, whether it's in the nickel or base, and that being an important part of the game plan. It's something that still we're working on and you want to avoid, more than anything, the minus plays. It's still a work in progress and we'll continue. It's important to what we're doing and we'll continue to make the corrections and get to those looks."
We've gotten kind of used to seeing these types of games from Drew Brees. Is it fair to take for granted that he's going to produce this kind of way?
"There are a lot of moving parts to it in that, number one, it's certainly fair to say that he's going to prepare and he's going to put himself mentally, physically in a position to excel. When you have guys up front giving him protection, guys getting to where they need to be in the passing game with regards to route distribution, he's proven time and time again that number one, the ball an come to not just the primary, it can come to a number of receivers. There are plays that we have put in the plan that might be designed from a certain player. (Jimmy) Graham's first touchdown that he catches was a red zone fringe play designed for him, but Darren Sproles's reception for a touchdown, you know, he's third in the progression. Drew did a good job of kind of seeing how that play was being defensed and threw it wide and outside to Darren. So, from a spacing standpoint, he's really good at seeing how the defense is deployed, and very consistent at doing that."
Can his accuracy be taken for granted sometimes?
"We don't take it for granted. It's something that he works on location-wise. It's something that gets back to everyone painting the right picture for a play that's called and being where they need to be in regards to location of the route. I think the players understand that this ball, based on what we're getting defensively, can come to any one of the eligible receivers."
What has improved from week one to week four?
"I thought we had a couple of explosive plays given up last night defensively, but in the kicking game last night we were improved. I thought our third downs, again we thought that was going to be a significant statistic. There are a handful of little things and yet the day after you put the tape on, I've said this before, it's never quite as good as you might think after a game, and then there are some tough games maybe, (that) could be coming after a loss, (where) it's not as bad as you think. (It) Kind of brings you back to the middle. There's a number of things we've got to work on. I think we're getting a better idea of who we are from a personnel standpoint in all three phases. Those are a couple of things."
A couple of players mentioned the atmosphere last night in the dome. How much did you guys feed off of that?
"I think, number one, we've got a passionate fan base. When you have a sellout crowd before the season starts, large demand with tickets on the waiting list (you have great support). You put on top of that a night game, Monday night. They take pride in being a part of and being able to help, and it does help. That noise factor makes it difficult to operate offensively. There are a handful of things that become problematic when the communication is not as clean. We don't take it for granted, but we think that it's a big advantage to play at home, especially at night."
What are the few things that really challenge you guys and maybe all teams when you go on the road, even disregarding the weather elements?
"I think you'd start with communication and crowd noise. In other words, that edge goes to the home team. Some weeks you have to use a silent snap count. When that happens, that little bit of advantage you have of a verbal snap count and maybe being able to get a jump on the snap and get-off gets neutralized. I think there's a travel element involved for away teams. More than anything, we try to avoid as best we can, distractions. Sometimes going on the road, there's less distractions from a demands standpoint…ticket demand, people coming into town. Some of those things can come up when you're playing home games. The footing can be something that you've got to be prepared for. We've got to be prepared for a grass surface probably a little different from the grass surface we played on in Tampa. All of those things can factor in."
Do you feel a sense of satisfaction, especially over the last two weeks, that things look like they're coming together from a play-calling standpoint?
"We all try to be, as coaches, very critical of ourselves, just like we would be of our players. I don't know that there's ever any complete satisfaction. It's not like a Snickers bar. I think you're always looking to improve. You're looking at plays, situations that come up in a game where you feel like maybe you would've handled differently. We start with that premise, just like we would our players. When a game goes pretty well, you convert some third downs, you're receiving the protection that you need, and the quarterback is making an accurate throw, all of the sudden it was a good play call. I think the key is what's happening in here Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in preparation. I think that makes for a smoother operation for gameday. I think it's the preparation by players, coaches, everyone being on the same page and operating efficiently."
Is it easier to coach an undefeated team when the players realize that there's more they can do better?
"We've always tried to take the approach where we're going to be very, not just candid, but we're going to look closely at what we need to improve. We're going to look at any defense we call or any coverage we call in the kicking game or run or pass play and see if all the elements are in place. We just try to go about it that way. Now, is that easier to do coming off of a win than coming off of a loss? It probably is. I think we have a pretty mature team: veterans who understand we're not just staying even; you're getting better or you're regressing. That's kind of the approach that we try to take each week. We have periods in practice where we're really going back to some of the fundamentals that may need to be addressed. I was pleased with the turnovers last night; that was very significant in the game, and yet we still work on creating those and we still work on ball security and protecting the football offensively. We're playing a team this week that is very good at taking the ball away. Historically, in the past however many years you want to go back, they've taken the ball away better than anyone. That's something that we try to work on each week. As it pertains to corrections, I think that our players understand that by no means are we a finished product. We've got a lot of work to do, especially after looking at that tape. There's a handful of things that we've have to get cleaned up."
Is there any rhyme or reason that these takeaways have carried over for the Bears?
"It's kind of one of those things that becomes somewhat tradition or somewhat expected of a group. That's a credit to the players and that's a credit to Marc (Trestman) and his staff, those guys on defense. They feed off of that and it's been a formula for them and they've been exceptional. You get guys like (Charles) Tillman who have an unusual or a very high amount of forced fumbles. There's a skillset involved in that, and there's also just a simple effort involved in that- kind of a want to. It's something that doesn't happen by accident. To have the numbers that they have is something that is obviously emphasized and worked on."
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