Metairie, La. - The Saints and Cowboys are set to face off for the fourth time in five years and Sean Payton is eager to get his team back in the win column after a week nine loss to the Jets.
The following are Payton's comments to the media Wednesday, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Do you even go back and look at last year's game and what Dez Bryant did or didn't do or do you just look at the tape from games this year of what he and Tony Romo have been able to do?
"I think offensively you would look at scheme and play design from a year ago. In other words, it would be part of the process where defensively you might not look at it as much because of the change with coordinators. He's an explosive player who does a great job of making plays above his head. He's very good – as good as anyone – at run after the catch. He's a hard guy to bring down, so I think that's one of the things that you see in each game. His ability to take the ball and get yards after a reception is exceptional.
How has your defense improved against the pass this year?
"I think we've generated a little better pass rush when we're not pressuring, in other words out of your three-man or four-man rush schemes, so the clock in the quarterback's head we've been a little better with (affecting. I think when you look at Tony, he's someone who's got a very quick release. The ball comes out quick, so he's difficult to get to from a pressure standpoint yet, you have to against a good quarterback and a good team like this who throws the ball well (and) mixes things up. I think the tempo and the timing and really the situation, all of that factors in."
How do you as a coach handle something like what's going on with the Miami Dolphins right now? How do you keep control over how players react to one another with hazing and all of that?
"Look, I can only speak for our own team. I think we play close attention to just the incoming or the infusion of new players. I think we've got, to a credit of our leadership, we've got a real good culture in regards to developing young players. It's something that is important in today's football because these young players are playing much quicker than maybe twenty years ago. Getting them into rookie camp and getting them into OTAs and into our program and our expectations is something that we pay a lot of attention to and the veteran players on this team do a great job with that."
How do you balance that? Sometimes rookies carry helmets…
"Yeah, but our balance is pretty clear. It's pretty simple."
In these situations do you think teams kind of stay true to who they are? Last week the Jets were a running team. This year the stats say now that Dallas is a passing team and yet, they might decide to try and run more.
"Yeah I think philosophically there's a personality to a team that you game plan on and yet it's important that we fit the run the right way this week. It's important that we are efficient running the football ourselves offensively. Now during the course of a game, often times there's some adjustments or flexibility with your game plan, but I think each team is different. Clearly this is a different type team than we just played."
What is your policy when it comes to hazing and that sort of thing?
"We just use our common sense. Like I said, our veterans do a great job. We don't have any of that take place. The closest thing would be a player buying chicken. We don't even do that because it's not good to eat the day before games."
The offense has been pretty explosive and ranks seventh in the league. Usually you are first or second. Do you feel like you need to be that high to be satisfied?
"We're at the halfway point in the season and there's a lot of things we're working to get better at, clean up. How we statistically rank is not of any importance, but how we play and complement what we're doing defensively and (if we can) win and do the things necessary to win (are what's important). I think that's most important. Are we scoring? After a game like this past Sunday (at New York), coaches as well as players are anxious to get on to the next game. There's always change. There's nothing given because of the year prior or the year prior to that. We're looking to improve each week to be efficient and understand the strengths of this team and what this team does well. That's something that you're out here Wednesdays working on. I think fundamentally one of the key emphasis points today was really working those fundamentals that we felt maybe were lacking in the game we just played."
Do you sometimes have to force yourself to call runs?
"I need to…absolutely. It's not even force yourself. It's just paying attention. The efficiency level we operated at last week when we ran it was pretty good, so that's something you look closely at and (also you look at) how the game is unfolding. I thought that when it came to running the ball, we blocked that front pretty well. Certainly that takes a little bit of pressure off of the offensive linemen. I know I said this earlier in the week, when you're throwing it that many times, that formula is often times not good. Especially on the road against a good rush team like that."
Is it harder to see that from the sideline?
"No. If you just watch, I think it's easy to see some of the obvious and that's just being smart enough to see it. You can see a no gain and a six-yard gain, so I think that's really being fair to the evaluation process. We talked about this in the team meeting, that we can't play that one again, and we've got to learn from that one and "we" meaning all of us, myself included."
How long have you known Tony Romo?
"His first year in the league was my first year in Dallas. So 2003 we signed him as a free agent from Eastern (Illinois), where I went to school. He had a lot of attention. Many people thought he would be drafted. You're on the phone after the draft and you're recruiting a player and selling him on the prospects on playing at your organization. I think, to his credit, he looked closely at the depth charts. We were just getting started there. It was Bill's (Parcells) first year there and his first draft. From that point – I met him at the combine – but from that point forward, 2003 would've been our first year there. I was there three years, '03, '04, '05 working with him and he has improved each year. He's got a very quick delivery. He's very accurate and studies hard. He's a student of the game and likes playing a lot."
What about the way he and Dez Bryant kind of click together? It seems like if Romo is looking for someone, it's like what Drew Brees has with Jimmy Graham.
"Yes. I think when you're playing that position and you're getting pressured for instance or blitzed, you're mindful of where a player like that is and you know you have a good matchup. If you get in the red zone, you know you have a size matchup. Third down, all those things. Tony is good with placing the ball in the right spot for a big receiver and those become challenges and you see the big plays that take place because of it. We're going to have to be very, very sharp with regards to our coverage, our rush, and where he's at. He plays most of the time at the X. Sometimes if it's trips he'll be the one receiver. If it's two by two, he'll be to the slot. They will move him around some, but paying attention to a player like that – no different than you might Jimmy Graham – might be very important."
Is this one of the reasons you brought in a cornerback like Keenan Lewis, a tall guy who can run?
"Size certainly helps in a matchup like this. I would agree."
Did you ever get a chance to tell Tony that he is the third best quarterback from Eastern Illinois now?
"No. They've got this – I shouldn't say young – but they've got a really good quarterback who is a senior coming out that shattered every one of the records we had left. We rank two and three, and that's arguable as far as who's two and who's three."
Knowing what a great player Drew Brees is, is run/pass balance really that important? Do you think you would ever be too careful by taking the ball out of your best player's hands?
"I think there's a fine line. I think it's game-related. I'll take Arizona for instance. There were certain things that we wanted to do with regards to the running game, and yet we got an entirely different look or a different front. With a five-man rush, a lot more single-man than maybe we had seen from them. That midstream adjustment was to throw it a little bit more against some of those heavy run looks. Conversely, there's going to be times where all of the sudden you're having a little bit more success in one area, so paying attention to that is important."
Drew hasn't absorbed too many big hits, but he has been getting hit more frequently than in years past. Are you concerned about that at all?
"Yes. we've been real good with keeping him clean. Certainly when you throw the ball 51 times it becomes a lot more challenging to protect (the quarterback). We worked and spent a lot of time on our (blitz) pickups. I know that that's something that is very important with regards to throwing the football. He's good to get it out fast, and that's something in the second half of the season that we're working to improve on. Part of that is that balance though and having the ability to run it where you're not just one-dimensional."
Does the Aaron Rodgers injury remind you how lucky you are to have a healthy Drew Brees the last eight years?