Metairie, La. - The Saints' loss to the 49ers in 2011 ended their season and in 2012, it sparked a three game losing streak which all but ended the season.
Sean Payton's squad will get a chance to improve their position in the playoff picture and put San Francisco in jeopardy of missing out on the postseason altogether this week. The following are coach's comments to the media, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
How has Cameron Jordan been doing with his ankle injury?
"I think it felt like he made progress this past week without playing x number of snaps and setting it back. We just kind of monitored how many snaps he was on. It helped that we were only 40 some plays defensively to begin with. I think he felt afterwards a lot further along and I think it is getting real close to where it is not going to impact how he plays. And I think he felt pretty good coming off this game with the snap count.'
Did you kind of see that after watching tape with him? He looked more like himself.
"The prior week we were on the field a lot more defensively, almost, not twice as many (snaps), but close to it. Then it becomes more challenging, but I think this past week we made progress (with it). I know he felt the same way."
Can you reflect on the acquisition of Parys Haralson in the preseason and how he has evolved in your system?
"He is a veteran player. He is a physical player. There was a good fit, not only physically as a football player, but also as one who has had experience and been a part of a winning program. There's a confidence level about him that he brings and it really worked out well for us, just with his level of expertise of playing outside linebacker. He is versatile in that he can give you rush snaps and I think he is an outstanding teammate."
Is Marques Colston pretty close to 100 percent?
"Yet, I thought the other night, the week prior not playing him, I thought he responded very well and moved around very well. He made a number of big plays for us."
What are some of your thoughts on the read option offense?
"I think it just depends on who you are looking at. I think it starts with a talented quarterback like San Francisco has. He (Colin Kaepernick) is very athletic and we've seen plenty of evidence where he can create the long run. It is one thing if that position can run it just to keep you honest, it's another thing when he's the ball carrier and he becomes the running back. I think he's got that skillset, but equally impressive is his arm strength off of play action. He's right at the top of the league with big plays both in the running game and the passing game and it kind of sets one up from the other. There are certain things they want to do defensively to stop it and you might give up some things in the coverage end and that is when he is able to take advantage of the looks he is seeing. It is challenging to simulate in practice to give the defense a realistic look of how it is on game day so it presents a ton of challenges."
How much has (Colin) Kaepernick grown as a passer?
"I would say show me the team that is getting beat and I'll show you some of the things that are happening with the quarterback. Typically if at the end of the game you are behind, you are probably throwing it more than you would like, then it becomes a little more challenging to play that position. He clearly has evolved to someone who understands not only the running game, and they do a lot with him at the line of scrimmage. He's involved in getting them in the right scheme at the line of scrimmage. You'll see some shifts and you will see him directing traffic at the line and getting the best look that they want to run against. But from a passer, I thought he made a ton of strides last year and you saw game after game the confidence he had going all the way to the Super Bowl and you see that carry over this year."
How better do you think you are at home than you are on the road?
"Tell me who we are playing. I think it is more opponent-based. I think that there is an element that every team has to playing at home starting with the crowd noise. I think that is significant in our case because of the indoor stadium, but I think if you are going to be a good team you have to play well on the road and it is something that we have been able to do especially seasons that we have been a playoff team. Our record has been pretty good, so a lot of it depends on the team you are playing. Is there an advantage to playing at home? I think there is."
How seriously were you considering making a change at the kicker position with the guys that came in yesterday?
"I think we will do this, we had safeties in as well. We will have other positions in next week (for workouts). We typically will bring in players maybe that are on our short list who validate a grade and make sure we feel the same when they leave. Often times you will have one of those workouts and you will see teams do this and they will bring in 15 or 20 players. It gives them a chance to update their short list. That was just one position and granted I know there is speculation on the kicking position, but I think Garrett (Hartley) and I've said this not too long ago the other day, he's done it in so many big spots. I've got a ton of confidence in his ability and I'm glad we did back in 2009 and I think the same applies this year."
Did you talk with him? Is it rhythm? Is it the snap?
"No, I think it's probably a lot like a golf swing and he is smart enough and understand when he hits the ball cleanly. I think the other night he just didn't have a clean hit, with power though he has tremendous leg strength. When you're starting to kick field goals that are further out, if they go right or left, you live with those, but I think that he's someone in big moments, again, you hate to go into a critical game and not know with a player, but fortunately for us we have been in some of those games and had a chance to evaluate him in those moments. He's been outstanding."
Pass protection was a huge problem for the Saints last year against San Francisco. What kind of challenges do you expect this year?
"I think it became more problematic in the second half, but this is a very good defensive front. It is a very good defense, the best defense we've played to date so far. They are physical. They have guys on the back end that are exceptional in coverage. The corners do a great job within their team. They are well coached and you see (Donte) Whitner who may line up at a certain depth making plays at the line of scrimmage. He's a tremendous tackler. He has great instincts. That combined with their ability to get to the passer, their ability to stop the running game, they create a lot of challenges. Being able to stay ahead of your down and distance and not get behind the chains and those long yardage situations can help you in that regard."
With Mark's (Ingram) performance last weekend, does that change anything going forward in terms of the running back rotation?
"I think you build on games. Players are no different than teams in that regard. I think, yes does it help a player when he has a big game and I would say yes. I think that he ran extremely hard, did a good job with his pad levels and ball security was very good. It's something you build on. He's accomplished a lot at a young age. I'm quite sure that he felt that pressure to perform especially with the toe being hurt for a good portion of the start of the season. I was pleased for him and pleased to see him have that success. I think it also does something for your offensive line."
What do you think about that penalty?
"I said it the other day, I know the type of player he is. I know the type of, I'm not going to say kid his is, but I think clearly there was a lot that had built up. That's not like him and I was probably as understanding as any penalty after a play was over as that one."
When Benjamin Watson went down last week, how frightening was that?
"I think there were a couple of snaps in that game where Dallas had a player (Dwayne Harris) on our sideline and then in Benjamin's case, you go out and initially you never know what the initial diagnosis is. On our sideline they felt it was a neck (injury with Harris) and he ended up returning and being okay. Until you are over there with the trainers and doctors then you realize what the injury is, anytime that happens there is always a level of concern."
Do you ever worry about coaches' health?
"Yeah I think the challenge always with long hours and travel is it is hard enough to begin with to eat right and exercise when you travel in your line of work or anytime you are on the move or flying. It is just hard to get into a routine. I think the same thing would apply to someone who is coaching, working long hours, the exercise at times and I have been the worst in years past, falls by the wayside and then what you are eating, the same thing begins to happen. I think from an exercise standpoint, it can help you with your focus and when you are working longer, help you a little bit more with your energy level and then the diet or what you are eating is something that we try to pay more attention to overall as a team hiring a nutritionist who can come in. There are times where every one of us goes off and there is something whether it is on the plane ride home, whether it is sitting here in the cafeteria, it is hard to walk by that cookie machine. Just forcing yourself to and I think that, and I have had a chance to communicate a little with John (Fox), not Gary (Kubiak), but there can be something really good to come out of that with regards to a little bit more of a focus on all of our parts."
Is there anything you guys can do consistently to do health-wise to help yourselves?
"I think the challenge because it has been brought up in regards to hours of coming up with some guidelines (for the hours of coaches). I think the challenge is the Thursday night game, the Monday night game, the staffs. Every game is not played on Sunday at 12 noon. If it were, it would be a little bit easier to look at hours in and hours out. I think that generally, and look there is more attention to it because there is more attention to our game, but this is something that isn't unique to coaching football. You can take any line of work, I think there is just a little bit more attention to it in the fact that in one instance it happened during a game with Gary (Kubiak) and the other with John (Fox) during a bye week. It is just kind of paying attention to that and taking a little bit of personal responsibility trying to keep yourself in a little better shape."
How many hours do you put in in a given week?
"Oh it would be hard. I think the earlier portions of the week are generally longer then Friday and Saturday backs off a little bit. It would be the earlier portions of the week, the specific number I wouldn't know off hand. You really just try to get x number of hours of sleep and then try to make time for a workout. It is something that I have been able to do."
Is it hard to cut out pizza since you have a Chicago background?