Metairie, La. - Saints coach Sean Payton and Patriots coach Bill Belichick hail from the Bill Parcells coaching tree making this week's matchup all the more interesting.
The following are Payton's comments to the media, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Opening Statement: "We have one roster transaction. We signed Keyunta Dawson and waived Jay Richardson. That happened earlier this week. We just finished our normal day one preparation, first and second down."
Can you talk about Drew Brees and Tom Brady?
"I think, obviously both are accomplished. The success that Tom has had there is well documented, noted and through his time and Bill's (Belichick) time there has been a lot of different pieces, no different than you would say to some degree, Drew has seen different players come and go. They are different in a lot of ways and yet they are competitive and guys that know how to win. They aren't playing against each other really, they are playing and working with their own teams. Look, it's a good team we are playing on the road after another road game we just played. They are coming off a tough loss and we are going to have to play one of our best football games. I think our players see that and they understand that."
Is it rare to see teams 5-0 and 4-1 be at the bottom of red zone offense?
"I think maybe to some degree, yet both teams play good defense, (have solid) time of possession, third down (conversion rate), those are some of the other statistics that we factor in. I would say certainly, both teams want to be better in that area offensively and that is why we are out here practicing."
Do you get a sense that New England's head coach and quarterback relationship is like you and Drew Brees'?
"I would really hesitate to make the comparison other than (that) for us we are much earlier in the process. I've said this before, when we started in 2006, we tried to look closely at the franchises that were having a lot of success and study closely what they were doing. New England was one of the main ones that we looked at. Of course we were fortunate to sign Drew (Brees) and then build on that and get the right players in place, but these guys have been to five Super Bowls and won three. That is pretty amazing."
Can you describe what it means to you to have Bill Belichick compliment you on your play-calling abilities?
"We are in different conferences and yet he has been someone that I first got to know at the Pro Bowl in 2006 when we both coached teams there. He has been someone certainly that I look up to. We've shared the opportunity to work for a Hall of Fame head coach and so there are probably some things that are similar and yet a lot of things that would be different. When you are young in this league, Bill talked about this all the time, when he had guys like (Tom) Landry, (Joe) Gibbs and (Chuck) Noll, older coaches that not necessarily took him under their wing, but that he could visit with periodically. We've had a chance to scrimmage in practice with New England and that opportunity for me to just spend some time with Bill has been always helpful and a positive experience."
Do you feel like this team has gotten to the consistency level of the New England Patriots?
"We just haven't had the same amount of years. These guys are now through 10 years and so that would be a goal to win the championships and win as many championship games as they had. You aspire to do that. You aspire to put yourselves in a position to play in the important games, but there are a lot of postseason wins and regular season wins we are behind."
Can you give us an idea where your instinct of a play-caller is rooted from?
"I think it just varies with your players. You try to just put them in the best position you can. I have been on teams where the personnel has been different and obviously then what you are trying to do is different. I think each week we try to look at each game and figure out the best way we feel it is possible to do that, it kind of stems from that."
What have you seen from Aqib Talib?
"They (New England's secondary) are doing a very good job. They get to the ball. They play a lot of man to man coverage. They are big inside. Aqib is someone who has excellent ball skills. He is long, so he gets his hands on a lot of passes. You really have to be on target with where you are throwing his way. He also has very good recovery speed and so he can make up a step. He is playing at an elite level right now. That is just looking at the film every game and watching him very consistently. He's also drawn some tough matchups and he is very competitive."
What is it about your process for road games has made you so successful?
"I think hopefully building a good team. I don't know if the schedule is anything or the process is anything uniquely different. It is just trying to prepare for the different elements and avoid some of the distractions. The first thing that you are challenged with is just noise that would be the first, very common challenge that you are faced with. Last week we left a day earlier than normal, we might do the same this week, but it starts with having a good team and that team having confidence that they can win not only at home. If you are going to be a good team, you are going to have to win on the road. It is kind of the thing we try to focus on."
Is it easier to focus when you don't have the distractions at home, things like tickets?
"Sometimes there are certain elements that are maybe easier to deal with when you travel. Certainly that is the case. You would prefer to play at home, but there is always the challenge of people coming in. Whether you are playing on the road or at home there are x amounts of distractions you try to take care of and eliminate as best as you can."
How does the possibility of Rob Gronkowski playing affect the way you prepare?
"I think you go through the process as if he is playing. You discuss jersey numbers and when you are running practice plays you try to prepare for what you have seen when he played and not be surprised if he is up. And also understand that if he is not each week we are faced with that now and the other team is as well. Sometimes if it is an interior lineman, certain positions aren't as maybe as noticeable where you are trying to match up certain personnel, but with a player like him it is pretty significant."
Would having good chemistry and communication on offense be one of the key factors on a road environment?
"I think that is one of them. I would agree, I think having that poise (is important). There is always a shift in momentum that takes place in a game, also at home it certainly can take place on the road and just having that poise to be able to shift the momentum back in your favor, not making the mistakes that sometimes can be magnified when you are playing on the road. Last week, the early part of the game, it felt like we had some success and the crowd noise wasn't as a big as an issue as it could have been had it started different."
What progress of development do you see in younger guys like Aaron Dobson or Kenbrell Thompkins for New England?
"They are working very hard at what they do. They have a very good system. As much as anything else, there is an expectation level and that is something that is not just with the quarterback, but everyone on one side of the ball focuses on the improvements and it really is the daily practice time."
Can you talk about how Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas having more production in the passing game than the run game?